Utah man pleads guilty to killing 15-year-old girl, sparing him the death penalty

(Photo courtesy of the Salt Lake County jail) Shaun Patrick French

A Utah man pleaded guilty Wednesday to killing a 15-year-old girl after she threatened to tell police that he had been having sex with her.

Shaun Patrick French pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, a first-degree felony that carries the potential of a life sentence.

French had originally been facing the death penalty in the case, but the plea deal spares him execution. Prosecutors also agreed to drop charges of aggravated burglary, sexual exploitation of a minor and witness tampering charges in exchange for his plea.

The 26-year-old man is accused in charging documents of admitting to a friend that he killed 15-year-old Baleigh 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.

(Courtesy photo) 15-year-old Baleigh Bagshaw was killed in her Salt Lake City home in 2018.

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.