Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill is seeking the death penalty for the man accused of killing 15-year-old Baleigh Bagshaw.
The prosecutor this month filed a notice to seek the death penalty if Shaun Patrick French is found guilty in the May 2018 case.
French, 24, is charged with aggravated murder and sex crimes against Bagshaw; French lived in Bagshaw’s Salt Lake City home for several months in 2017.
In charging documents, police wrote that French admitted to a friend that he killed Bagshaw, saying he “damn near cut her head off" when he went to discuss sex crime allegations she’d made against him.
Five days before she was killed, Bagshaw had told her mother that French had been having sex with her, starting when she was 14. According to court documents, French called Bagshaw 13 times that day. Her mother then received explicit photos of Bagshaw from a newly created social media account that Bagshaw and her mother believed French had created.
The day after Bagshaw told her mom about French, he called his brother, saying he was going to be charged with rape and wanted to cut his own throat, the charges state.
Instead, prosecutors wrote, French told a friend a few days later that he was going to Bagshaw’s home to talk to her; when he returned, he had blood on his face and hands and said he’d cut the girl’s throat, according to the court documents.
Bagshaw was on the phone with her mother when she died.
After Bagshaw’s death, French returned to his friend and told him they had to leave town, setting off to Evanston, Wyo., to flee police and dump evidence, according to court documents. French reportedly tossed a backpack full of bloody clothing in a convenience store trash can. Salt Lake City investigators searched the Uintah County landfill, where they found a backpack full of bloody clothing, a balaclava, duct tape, rubber gloves, latex gloves and a knife, according to court documents.
French then went to southeast Colorado, where he called his brother again. This time he admitted he “cut a girl’s throat,” according to court documents. Police arrested French that day in Colorado.
According to another friend, French was “obsessed” with Bagshaw and said he wanted to marry her. That friend told police that he had created the social media account French used to send messages to Bagshaw’s mother.
French is charged with aggravated murder and aggravated burglary, both first-degree felonies; sexual exploitation of a minor and obstructing justice, both second-degree felonies; and three counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor and two counts of witness tampering, all third-degree felonies.
This is the second death penalty case that Gill's office is currently pursuing.
Salt Lake County prosecutors are also seeking the execution of Ramon Rivera, who is accused of stabbing a rival gang member to death in the Draper prison in 2016. The victim, Jeffrey Vigil, had been in Rivera’s housing unit for only a few hours before the fight broke out.
Prosecutors allege Rivera stabbed 24-year-old Vigil by a flight of stairs, before kicking and stomping him more than 70 times during the eight-minute fight.
Rivera is scheduled to go to trial in February 2020.
Nearly 50 Utahns are currently facing charges that carry the possibility of the death penalty, but prosecutors have declared their intent to seek it in only five cases, including French’s.
There are seven men now on Utah’s death row, after convicted killer Ron Lafferty died this week from a long illness 34 years after he was ordered to be executed.
Utah lawmakers last debated whether to keep the death penalty in 2018, and they’re expected to discuss it again during the next legislative session.
Reporter Jessica Miller contributed to this article.