Man suspected of killing University of Utah student says his wife is innocent, ‘please let her go’

The accused killer asks judge to punish only him, but a trial is a long way off.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) A photo of University of Utah student ChenWei Guo, 23, hangs on the fence above Red Butte Garden on Friday, Nov. 3, 2017, near where he was killed during an attempted car jacking Monday night.

As a perfunctory scheduling hearing in the murder case against Austin Boutain wrapped up, he asked 3rd District Judge Vernice Trease if he could speak.

“My wife is innocent,” he professed. “Please let her go.”

Boutain, who was shackled and dressed in yellow jail garb, left most of the talking up to his attorneys, David Mack and Tawni Hanseen Bugden. But then he broke his silence.

It was difficult to hear in the courtroom and Boutain did not speak into the microphone on the podium in the center of the room, but the defendant appeared to say something to the effect of: “I will give my life for her life.”

(Photo courtesy of Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office) Austin Jeffrey Boutain

The two are implicated in the slaying of ChenWei Guo, an exchange student at the University of Utah. The 24-year-old allegedly shot and killed Guo after he and his wife, Kathleen Boutain, planned to kidnap someone with a car, hold that person hostage while driving the Boutains to Tennessee, and then kill the victim.

The couple were arrested Oct. 31 after Austin Boutain was spotted at downtown Salt Lake City’s main library.

Both were in court Friday for a scheduling conference. Mack and Hanseen Bugden asked for some additional time before a preliminary hearing is scheduled. The attorneys said DNA evidence was being tested, and they wanted to retain an expert to testify on the evidence during the hearing.

Mack and Hanseen Bugden declined to comment on the case after the hearing.

Austin Boutain waived his right to a speedy trial and a new scheduling conference will take place Feb. 26. Trease will preside over the hearing, which will include Kathleen Boutain.

Kathleen Boutain, who was called into court shortly after her husband’s hearing ended, was less willing to waive her right to a speedy trial. Her attorneys, Skye Lazaro and Kim Cordova, asked Trease to help explain why having time to go through evidence, talk to witnesses and get testing results back from labs can be helpful to a defendant.

“It’s a good thing to get all of that information so you know what you’re up against,” Trease told Kathleen Boutain, who then agreed to waive her right.

Kathleen Boutain

Kathleen Boutain, shackled and wearing dark blue jail clothes, was then ushered out of the courtroom.

Cordova and Lazaro declined to comment on the case this early in the proceedings, including whether Austin Boutain’s statements could have an impact on plea negotiations for their client.