Judge slates hearing in Heffelfinger cases
The 7th District Court has scheduled a preliminary hearing date in the attempted aggravated murder complaints filed against the subjects of October 2001's massive manhunt in Carbon County.
Last Tuesday, the defendants appeared via video camera before Judge Bryce K. Bryner at continued proceedings in the first degree felony level criminal cases.
Carbon County Attorney Gene Strate acted as the state prosecutor, while Michael Harrison represented Lewis Heffelfinger and David Allred served as defense counsel for Michael Heffelfinger at the Feb. 21 hearing.
After determining that the prosecution and defense were prepared to move forward with the complaints, the court set a March 28 preliminary hearing date and specified that the proceedings commence at 9 a.m. before remanding the father and son duo back into continued custody at the Carbon County Jail.
The court has granted several continuances in the first degree attempted aggravated murder cases, the latest involving Heffelfingers' intent to defend against the local charges on insanity grounds. However, the defense later withdrew the insanity defense motion and requested that the court order confidential mental competency evaluations of Michael and Lewis Heffelfinger. Judge Bruce K. Halliday granted the motion prior to the Feb. 19 hearing.
In addition to the postponements in the 7th District Court case, Daggett County Attorney Dennis Judd previously announced that the prosecution had decided to delay filing formal charges against the Heffelfingers in connection with an Oct. 21, 2001 double homicide incident near Dutch John.
"The investigation into the homicides in Daggett County is continuing and all leads are being actively pursued," indicated Judd. "The delay in filing charges facilitates the collection and thorough evaluation of all evidence and provides the opportunity to pursue various leads. Families of the victims, Brad Gross and Kelly Carter, have been consulted and advised concerning the decision."
On Oct. 25, the Carbon County Attorney's Office filed a formal criminal information in the 7th District Court charging the father and son duo with two separate attempted aggravated murder offenses. Along with the first degree counts, the complaint charges the father and son duo with two additional felony level charges, one second degree theft and one third degree failure to respond to a law enforcement officer's signal to stop (evasion) offense.
The local felony level charges stem from a purported high speed chase incident following the alleged double homicide in Daggett County.
At approximately 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 21, 2001, criminal investigators from the Daggett County Sheriff's Office responded to a double murder report at a remote site near Dutch John. The authorities determined that two suspects had apparently fled the scene in a vehicle belonging to one of the homicide victims, identified as hunters from Uintah County.
Daggett County investigators immediately issued a statewide attempt to locate on the missing pickup truck.
At approximately 9:21 p.m. on Oct. 21, Police Officer Kent Allred spotted a suspicious vehicle matching the missing pickup's description traveling on U.S. Highway 6.
The Helper officer attempted to stop the vehicle at 10th North near Martin, but the occupants allegedly refused to comply with the command and Allred radioed for backup assistance.
Deputy Tom Stefanoff from the Carbon County Sheriff's Office responded and the two patrol cars trailed the pickup toward Price. Shortly before arriving at the west Price exit, the suspect vehicle picked up speed and a pursuit ensued.
When the fleeing pickup hit the spikes placed across the highway by Price police, the suspects reportedly fired shots at the pursuing patrol cars.
One bullet struck the Helper patrol vehicle in the front hood area, but no officers incurred injuries in connection with the armed incident.
The spike-disabled pickup reportedly continued along U.S. 6 for almost a mile, then slid off the roadway into a field near Creekview Elementary and the Price city domes.
The careening pickup truck created a cloud of dust, concealing the suspects while the pair exited the pickup and fled east into field.
Carbon County law enforcement agencies cordoned off U.S. 6, the city streets in south Price and State Road 10 while authorities searched the surrounding neighborhoods on foot for the murder suspects.
The manhunt culminated when law enforcement personnel apprehended the Heffelfingers at an irrigation pump house near the east Price interchange.
The formal felony level criminal information filed in the 7th District Court charges the defendants with the two first degree attempted aggravated murder counts for allegedly firing at Officer Allred and Deputy Stefanoff.
The felony level complaint contends that the father and son duo committed the second degree count by exercising unauthorized control of the pickup purportedly obtained from the double homicide scene in the remote area of Daggett County.
In conclusion, the felony level criminal case contends that the defendants' refusal to comply with law enforcement's command to stop and the pair's attempt to evade capture constitutes legal grounds for the third degree offense.
On Oct. 26, 2001, the father and son duo appeared via video camera before Judge Lyle R. Anderson at the first phase in processing the local felony level cases through the criminal justice system. Judge Anderson fixed bail for Lewis and Michael Heffelfinger at $250,000.
The defendants have remained in custody at the county jail from the time law enforcement authorities apprehended the pair.