FARMINGTON, Utah — A Utah teenager pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts of murder, acknowledging that he intentionally and knowingly stabbed his two younger brothers to death last year.
The 16-year-old agreed to the first half of the plea deal Wednesday in a juvenile court in Farmington, Utah, as his parents sat in the front row. His father wiped tears from his eyes while his mother sat in silence.
The teen, whose name The Associated Press is not revealing because of his age, remained serious throughout the proceeding. He did not cry as he repeatedly told the judge he understood the parameters of the deal.
The agreement calls for him to serve time for one count of murder in juvenile detention until he turns 21. At that time, he’ll be transferred into the adult court system and serve a sentence of 15 years to life in adult jail. He’ll be in adult court later Wednesday to formally accept that part of the deal.
The teen did not say anything about what happened, but his attorney, Todd Utzinger, said the boy is sorry for what he did. The teen decided to take the deal in part to avoid putting his parents through a trial, Utzinger said.
The agreement brings resolution to a case that sent shockwaves through the middle-class subdivision where the family lives in West Point, a city of 9,800 about 25 miles north of Salt Lake City.
The teen’s younger brothers, 4 and 10, were found dead in May 2013 when his mother returned home from taking another sibling to a dance recital. At first, the older brother was thought to be a third victim because he was missing from the crime scene, but police found him hours later with traces of blood on him.
Authorities said they believed stabbings were an unplanned attack.
In signing off on the deal, juvenile court Judge Janice Frost said the agreement adequately balances public safety needs while giving the teen access to treatment and rehabilitation services in juvenile court that he needs.
Frost implored the teen to take advantage of treatment he’ll receive in juvenile detention and the opportunity to finish his high school degree. She said it’s clear he needs guidance and direction he would not receive in adult prison.
Frost told him multiple times that how he behaves in juvenile detention will impact how long he spends in state adult prison.
“You can’t make up for what happened. But you can commit to doing better and being better,” Frost said. “It’s a sad thing that happened, but you can move forward from this. I hope you can take advantage of your opportunity.”
Outside court, Utzinger said sending the teen first to juvenile detention gives him a real chance at rehabbing. He did not discuss what issues he’s dealing with or the motive of the killings.
“It would be inhumane for any 16-year-old child to go straight to the prison without first having an opportunity for treatment and rehabilitation,” Utzinger said. “That’s what we’re trying to accomplish.”
© The Canadian Press, 2014