A 26-year-old Utah man will spend the rest of his life in prison for brutally killing a 15-year-old girl after she said she was going to tell the police he had been having sex with her.
The sentence was not a surprise — Shaun Patrick French agreed to the punishment when he pleaded guilty last month to killing Baleigh Bagshaw in May 2018. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors agreed to drop the death penalty and several other charges.
French showed little emotion Tuesday and declined to speak when given the chance.
Baleigh’s family tearfully told 3rd District Judge Paul Parker how French had begun manipulating the young teenager in order to gratify himself.
Baleigh’s mother, Shawna Bagshaw, said French could have turned himself in for sexually abusing her daughter, and served a lighter sentence than what he received Tuesday.
Now, she’s a grieving mom who longs to hold her teenage daughter.
“Shaun was way too manipulative to a young girl,” she said. “I never want him to be able to do that again.”
Deputy Salt Lake County District Attorney Richard Pehrson said Tuesday that Baleigh had broken off their relationship, and was forced to tell her mother about it after French sent the woman explicit photos of her daughter.
Pehrson said French threatened to kill himself and harm Baleigh and her family — an act of desperation, the prosecutor said, after the teen girl rejected him.
“Baleigh is not here today because she was a strong woman, who at the age of 15, said no,” Pehrson said. “And for it, the defendant cut her down.”
Nichole Cannon, Baleigh’s sister-in-law, cried Tuesday as she recalled going shopping for prom dresses with the teen just before her death, noting the girl seemed so much more free and was starting to blossom after getting out from under French’s control.
French had started having sex with the girl after he had been allowed to stay at the Bagshaw’s family home, according to Pehrson, who noted that the then-14-year-old girl was much too young to consent to a sexual relationship.
Pehrson said in the days before French killed Baleigh, he drove from Ohio to Utah, then snuck into her home on May 7, 2018, when he knew she would be at school and the rest of the family would be gone.
She had been talking to her mother on the phone when Baleigh came home, Pehrson told the judge, and didn’t have a chance to react before French grabbed her and began slashing her throat with such force that he nearly decapitated her.
“Her mother was left on the open line,” Pehrson said, “listening to her daughter die.”
French fled Utah after killing the girl, dumping evidence along the way in Utah and Wyoming. He was eventually arrested in Colorado.
Prosecutors pointed out to the judge that French seemed to enjoy the notoriety, playing a jailhouse call with his brother in the courtroom Tuesday.
In the call, French tells his brother that he was more well-known that other people accused of murder at the jail, and that he believed officials thought his crime was “one of the most important cases to come through Utah in 60 years.”