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Man sentenced to prison for 1970 murder of Utah woman

Courts • The victim’s daughter said she is “ecstatic” over the killer’s sentence.

Courtesy | Heidi Asay Loretta Jones.

Price • Heidi Jones Asay always knew the name and the face of the man who killed her mother nearly half a century ago.

Even as the case languished with no arrests for years, Asay said Tuesday that she knew it was Thomas Edward Egley who stabbed her mother, Loretta Jones, to death inside her Price home.

Asay was 4 years old when she walked from her bedroom and found her lifeless mother lying in a pool of blood.

It was Thomas Edward Egley who did it, she said. She always knew it.

And on Tuesday — 46 years after the murder, and the day that Egley was sentenced to spend at least 10 years and up to life in prison for the crime — Asay said she was "ecstatic."

For years, she told 7th District Judge George Hammond, she went to her mother's grave in Elmo, Emery County, and left a flower and shed a tear.

"From this day forward," Asay said, "That tear will be a happy tear for getting justice for my mom."

Egley, now a frail 76-year-old man who had lived in Colorado before his arrest in August, had pleaded guilty last month to murder in the second degree, admitting that he stabbed 23-year-old Jones to death on July 30, 1970. A count of first-degree felony rape was dismissed as part of a plea deal.

In court on Tuesday, Egley spoke very little. His attorney, David Allred, read from a statement Egley made to officials who drafted a pre-sentence report.

"I didn't know that the daughter was there," the statement said. "I'm sorry she had to find her mother like that. I'm terribly sorry."

Allred added that his client said he now doesn't remember many of the details of the crime.

Asay said she had hoped the Egley would turn to her in court and give the apology that she had waited for all these decades, but the elderly man never did.

"I was really hoping he would have turned and told me he's sorry for killing my mommy," she told reporters after the sentencing. "That's what I was really hoping for."

The woman credited her mother as a hero, saying she didn't scream or make any noises that would have awoken her small child. Asay said she believes her mother closed her bedroom door to protect her, and so that she wouldn't come out with Egley still there.

Asay also thanked Carbon County sheriff's Sgt. David Brewer for reopening her mother's case in 2009 and pursuing it, despite lost evidence and long odds.

Brewer said Tuesday that he was just "doing his job," adding that he spent half of his 14-year career with the county sheriff's office focused on this case. It wasn't until Tuesday's sentencing that it finally sunk in that he had solved Jones' murder.

"I had to keep pinching myself in the back of the courtroom," he said. "I choked up a little bit."

Court papers say that when Jones' body was exhumed earlier this year at Brewer's request, Egley asked one of his neighbors in Colorado "how long DNA evidence and semen lasted."

The neighbor convinced Egley to confess to police.

Investigators have said that Egley, who had dated Jones, told his neighbor he had stabbed her because he was angry at her for refusing sex.

Egley said that after he stabbed Jones, she fell on the living room floor, where he had sex with her and then slit her throat, court papers say.

Investigators say Egley tossed the knife used in the slaying in the river behind a Price hotel and burned the clothes he was wearing.

Egley had been arrested and charged with Jones' death in 1970, but the case was tossed out by a judge for lack of evidence.

Asay said she is not angry at authorities for letting Egley get away all those years ago. And after spending nearly her entire life fighting for justice for her mother, she said she'll keep connecting with others involved in cold cases to give them hope.

"I'm going to keep preaching [to] never give up," she said. "Never give up. You always have hope as long as you are breathing air, you always have hope. … Maybe justice for Loretta Jones will help people in other ways."

jmiller@sltrib.com

Courtesy | Heidi Asay Loretta Jones and her daughter Heidi.

Courtesy | Heidi Asay Loretta Jones, on the left, stands with her family for a photo.

Courtesy | Heidi Asay Loretta Jones as a young girl.

Courtesy | Heidi Asay Loretta Jones, in the back row's center right, poses for a family portrait with her parents and siblings.

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