Logan • A judge ruled Monday that there is cause for a Cache County woman — who allegedly tried three times to help a friend commit suicide — to stand trial on four of the five criminal counts filed against her.
First District Judge Thomas Willmore ruled at the conclusion of a preliminary hearing in which prosecutors presented evidence against 36-year-old Teresa Renae Clark.
Clark, of Millville, is charged with three counts of first-degree felony attempted aggravated murder after allegedly trying to help 55-year-old Karma Saltern kill herself earlier this year.
Clark faces a potential punishment of up to life in prison if convicted of attempted murder.
Willmore also ordered Clark to stand trial on two counts of class A misdemeanor cruelty to an animal in connection with the death of Saltern’s two dogs during one alleged suicide attempt. The judge will hear additional evidence Nov. 6 in connection with the third count of attempted aggravated murder.
The evidence presented at Monday’s hearing included a recorded phone call in which Saltern asks why Clark killed her dogs before making sure she was dead. Clark denies killing the dogs and complains about hospital personnel reviving Saltern.
The motive for the crimes, prosecutors allege, was financial gain. Prosecutor Tony Baird said the two women had entered into a suicide pact, and he said that Clark was to get all of Saltern’s assets in return for providing the drugs that would end her life.
Those assets included a large amount of cash, furniture, clothes and two storage units full of items, according to police.
Defense attorney Michael McGinnis asked Willmore to decline to send the case to trial, saying that the charges allege Clark provided medications and pills to Saltern, but that it was Saltern who attempted to take her own life. He pointed out that Saltern had tried to commit suicide other times.
Under cross-examination by McGinnis, Logan Police Department Detective Kendall Olsen testified that Saltern had tried to kill herself before the alleged attempts involving Clark — and had succeeded a few weeks later.
The preliminary hearing had been scheduled for last month but was delayed because of the suicide. Saltern was found dead Sept. 11 in Provo, according to police there, and left a suicide note.
McGinnis at an earlier hearing said he wanted the record to show that Clark had nothing to do with Saltern’s death. A docket entry in the case says that “there is no causal connection between the defendant’s actions and the death of the alleged victim.”
Prosecutors say the dates of the alleged murder attempts were June 17, June 24 and July 6.
Clark tried to buy a gun on June 17 to be used by Saltern to kill herself, according to court records and testimony, but she was denied after failing a background check, presumably because she has a criminal history. Olsen testified that Clark told him she wanted a gun to protect herself from an ex-boyfriend.
The women had three legal documents notarized that same day, prosecutors say — a will leaving all of Saltern’s property to Clark, a power-of-attorney declaration giving Clark control over Saltern’s finances if she became incapacitated and a power-of-attorney directive allowing Clark to make medical decisions for Saltern.
The second alleged attempt, on June 24, took place when Saltern took pills and was found unconscious in a hotel room. Her two dogs also were found deceased.
Clark had made the 911 call for help and said she had come to the hotel to check on her friend, according to Baird. Saltern was taken to a hospital, where she was revived.
According to a search warrant affidavit, officers and paramedics found empty prescription containers for a sedative used to treat insomnia and a medication used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. There were also empty syringes without the needles, crushed white powder, canine medications, liquid containers and a pill crusher, the affidavit says.
In addition, a suicide note, a living will, a power-of-attorney document and a letter addressed to two people also were found in the room, Olsen said.
After that attempt, Saltern wanted to get her vehicle and other property back from Clark, Olsen said. On July 6, she made a call from the Logan Police Department, which was recorded, and told Clark she was sorry she hadn’t died, he said.
During the conversation, Saltern said she wanted to do it right this time and talked about how many pills she should take to kill herself. She also asked Clark to make a hotel reservation for her that night.
At one point in the conversation, Clark asked Saltern whether she was with police. Saltern replied, “Why would I be at the cops?” She also said it was depressing to be without her dogs.
Olsen said Saltern picked up her vehicle and more pills from Clark later that day. Police advised against her going to Clark’s home, he said, but she was determined to go, so officers followed her and monitored the situation from a distance.
If you or someone you know may be experiencing suicidal thoughts please call: 24-Hour National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Also, Utah has crisis lines statewide, https://dsamh.utah.gov/crisis-hotlines-2/.