A man has been charged with aggravated murder — and could face the death penalty — for allegedly killing a 26-year-old woman and leaving her body in a remote desert of southern Utah.
Joseph Edward Fought, 30, faces four felony counts in connection with the homicide. One of those, the murder charge, was amended Wednesday to a capital offense. That means, if convicted, Fought would spend a minimum of 25 years in prison, but prosecutors could also choose to seek his death.
He has been charged, too, with kidnapping, possessing a dangerous weapon when he was restricted to do so, and using a stolen car.
Fought was initially arrested earlier this month in California, along with Brittany Elizabeth Phillips, 27, who faces a separate felony charge for the stolen car. Both were extradited to Utah and booked in the Iron County jail late last week.
Charging documents say the two were driving a rental car stolen out of Arkansas around southern Utah in early August, stopping at motels, restaurants and pawn shops. Police say they reviewed video surveillance to confirm that.
On Aug. 9, officers say Fought and Phillips drove from St. George in Washington County to Kanarraville in Iron County. There were two women in the car at the time. One of those was Stevie Shay Wilkerson, 26.
Fought and Phillips told police that they dropped Wilkerson off in one of the towns they passed through. But her body was later found in the desert near where they said they left her two weeks later, after her family reported her missing.
When police discovered her body Aug. 23, they determined that she had been killed; they have not released how.
The other woman who was in the car, according to a probable cause statement, confirmed to police that Wilkerson was riding with them and has given information to investigators that led them to Fought and Phillips. Police do not believe at this point that the other woman had anything to do with Wilkerson’s death. She has told them she wasn’t sure what happened to Wilkerson other than she disappeared near Enterprise.
Both Fought and Phillips, investigators say, have “extensive” criminal histories, mostly in the eastern United States. Fought has multiple convictions for robbery with a dangerous weapon, and Phillips has warrants for her arrest in Arkansas.
They are being held in jail on bail.