Heber • After two days of testimony, a judge ordered a man accused of killing a teenage girl nearly 20 years ago near Heber to stand trial on homicide charges.
Joseph Michael Simpson, 47, is charged in Wasatch County’s 4th District Court with aggravated murder, a first-degree felony.
Prosecutors have opted not to seek the death penalty against the man, according to court records.
After hearing evidence from several law enforcement officials about Krystal Lynn Beslanowitch’s December 1995 death, Judge Lynn Davis ruled that there was probable cause that Simpson committed the crime.
Last Monday, Utah Chief Medical Examiner Todd Grey testified that during Beslanowitch’s 1995 autopsy, he found at least a dozen injuries on the teen’s body — most to her head.
"[The number of injuries] were probably almost too numerous to count," Grey said, adding that the injuries appeared to be "very severe blunt force injuries."
According to an affidavit for an arrest warrant, Wasatch County sheriff’s deputies were dispatched on Dec. 16, 1995, to a spot along the Provo River bank, about five miles north of Heber, after a citizen found Beslanowitch’s bludgeoned body lying on the east bank.
The 17-year-old girl was found naked and bleeding from her head and shoulders. Nearby, several large granite rocks — believed to be the murder weapons — were found covered in fresh blood, according to court documents.
Grey testified that he believed the teen girl was likely alive when she sustained the injuries.
"These injuries certainly could produce death in a number of minutes," he testified.
Grey said toxicology reports indicated that Beslanowitch had recently ingested cocaine before her death.
After the teen’s death, the case went cold until 2008 when a better DNA test became available.
Last May, the rocks found near her body — which initially only yielded a partial DNA profile — were re-tested with new, better technology, and a "major DNA profile" was returned, and matched to Simpson, according to court records.
To corroborate the evidence, Wasatch County investigators flew to Florida last August to get a new DNA sample from their suspect without his knowledge. They followed Simpson to a smoke shop, where he smoked and discarded a cigarette, according to the sheriff’s office.
The test on the cigarette proved another match.
Simpson used to live in Clearfield, but for about 13 years has been living with his mother and step-father in Sarasota County, Fla., according to a police news release. He was arrested at his Florida home without incident.
This is the second time Simpson has been charged with a homicide. He was charged with second-degree felony murder in August 1987 and pleaded guilty two months later, according to Utah court documents.
Simpson had stabbed a man named Paul J. Helminger 13 times. Police arrested Simpson on Aug. 9, 1987, after Helminger, a 26-year-old police informant, was found face-down on the lawn in front of his apartment at 103 E. Center St. in Clearfield with a butcher knife in his right shoulder.
Simpson claims he killed the man in self-defense, but neighbors saw Simpson chasing the victim and swinging the butcher knife as Helminger cried for help, according to trial testimony.
Simpson was paroled from the Utah State Prison in April 1995, and was free at the time of Beslanowitch’s slaying, according to Utah Board of Pardons and Parole records. He was returned to prison briefly in 1997 for a parole violation and was on supervised parole until June 2003.
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