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2 Utahns charged with killing woman’s boyfriend

(Photos courtesy of the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office) Sarah Elaine Lobato and Jayton Trevor Merrill have been charged with aggravated murder and aggravated robbery.

A 20-year-old woman and 18-year-old man have been charged with killing the woman’s boyfriend and stealing 50 pounds of marijuana from him. And, the woman reportedly told police, it was not the first time she had tried to kill the victim.

Sarah Elaine Lobato of Kearns and Jayton Trevor Merrill of Grantsville were both charged in 3rd District Court with aggravated murder and aggravated robbery, both first-degree felonies; and obstructing justice, a second-degree felony. Merrill was also charged with possession of a firearm by a restricted person, a third-degree felony.

On Nov. 19, Raymond E. Ortiz, 39, of Santa Rosa, Calif., parked his van near the intersection of Sparrowtail Road and Ticklegrass Road in West Jordan at about 2 a.m. When West Jordan police arrived, Ortiz was lying on the ground next to the van — he had a “faint pulse and agonal breathing.” He had been shot once in the arm and twice in the head. Attempts to save him were unsuccessful and he died at the scene.

Security camera footage from a nearby house showed Ortiz drive up and park his van, according to charging documents. Shortly thereafter, a silver Cadillac pulled up next to the van and “three shots were immediately fired from the Cadillac into the van.” The car then parked in front of the van and two people got out — and the van then lurched forward and hit the car.

One of the two people (later identified by police as Merrill) fired two more shots into the side of the van. The other person (later identified by police as Lobato) dragged two large black bags out of the van and put them in the car. The two suspects then got back in the car, and the van once again crashed into the back of their vehicle as they drove off.

After a tip, police found the Cadillac — the back bumper covered in a tarp — at Lobato’s home in Kearns. As police were preparing a search warrant, Merrill and Lobato drove up in a BMW, which officers stopped and searched. They found what appeared to be a ledger and bag used for drug distribution, several gun magazines, ammunition and a rifle buttstock.

According to charging documents, Lobato told police she was in a “bad” relationship with Ortiz that she had tried to end “several times.” She said that on a trip to California, she had tried to kill Ortiz with a poisonous plant “but was unsuccessful because she used the wrong plant.”

Lobato said she “set the entire thing up” with her new boyfriend, Merrill. She located the spot in West Jordan; told Ortiz to meet her there; and drove Merrill’s Cadillac. When she pulled up next to the van, Merrill, who was in the passenger seat, shot Ortiz.

Lobato then pulled in front of the van “and I was, like, ‘[Expletive] this. I’m going to make this worth my while.’” She then ran to the back of the van and grabbed the bags of marijuana.

According to police, they found the bags when they searched Lobato’s home.

When interviewed by police, Merrill denied he was involved in the shooting. He said he had been home the night of the shooting; that he had not driven the Cadillac since Christmas 2019; and that he had no idea how it ended up Lobato’s house.

Both Lobato and Merrill are being held without bail in the Salt Lake County jail.

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