Defendants enter pleas on attempted murder charges
On Tuesday, the 7th District Court sentenced the subjects of last October's manhunt in Carbon County to serve indeterminate one- to 15-year terms in the Utah State Prison.
The defendants appeared via video camera before Judge Bruce K. Halliday at continued proceedings in the felony level criminal complaints on April 23.
Acting on behalf of the state at the hearing, Carbon County Attorney Gene Strate informed the court that the prosecution and defense counsels had negotiated a disposition agreement in the felony level criminal complaints filed against Michael and Lewis Heffelfinger.
Pursuant to the settlement arrangement, the state prosecutor agreed to amend the two first degree felony attempted aggravated murder counts filed against the father and son duo to lesser included second degree attempted murder charges.
The third degree failure to respond to a law enforcement officer's command to stop offense contained in the felony cases filed against the defendants remained unchanged in the amended information.
In exchange for the prosecution's proposal to amend the first degree counts, Strate indicated the defendants agreed to waive the right to an April 25 preliminary hearing and enter pleas in the felony level cases.
Michael Harrison represented Lewis Heffelfinger and David Allred served as defense counsel for Michael Heffelfinger at the April 23 criminal proceedings.
After Harrison and Allred submitted signed statements of the defendant to the court, the district judge accepted pleas from the father and son. Lewis Heffelfinger entered a no contest plea on one second degree attempted murder count and pleaded guilty to the third degree evasion charge. Michael Heffelfinger pleaded guilty to two second degree attempted murder offenses. The district judge granted a joint motion and dismissed all remaining criminal counts filed against the defendants.
Pronouncing judgment in Michael Hef-felfinger's second degree felony attempted murder convictions, the court sentenced the defendant to two concurrent one- to 15-year terms in the state prison. The court sentenced Lewis Heffelfinger to concurrent one- to 15- and zero- to five-year prison terms, then credited the defendants with any jail time already completed in connection with the felony level criminal matters.
In conclusion, the district judge remanded the father and son co-defendants back into the custody of the Carbon County Sheriff's Office for transport to the state prison for immediate execution of indeterminate incarceration periods.
In addition to the 7th District Court cases, Daggett County Attorney Dennis Judd previously identified the Heffelfingers as the suspects in double homicide incident near Dutch John on Oct. 21, 2001. But to date, no formal complaints have been filed.
"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," explained Judd.
The felony level criminal cases filed in 7th District Court against the Heffelfingers stem from a purported high speed chase following the double homicide incident on Oct. 21, 2001.
After responding to the murder report, Daggett investigators determined that two suspects had apparently fled the scene in a vehicle belonging to one of the victims and issued a statewide attempt to locate on the pickup truck.
At approximately 9:21 p.m. on Oct. 21, Police Officer Kent Allred spotted a vehicle matching the pickup's description on U.S. Highway 6. The Helper officer attempted to stop the vehicle near Martin, but the occupants allegedly ignored the command and Allred radioed for backup assistance.
Carbon Deputy Tom Stefanoff responded and the two patrol cars trailed the pickup toward Price. Shortly before reaching the west Price exit, the suspect vehicle picked up speed and a pursuit ensued.
When the pickup hit spikes placed across the highway by Price police, the suspects reportedly fired shots at the pursuing patrol cars. The vehicle continued along U.S. 6, then slid off the roadway near Creekview Elementary. The careening truck created a cloud of dust, concealing the suspects while the pair exited the pickup and fled east into field.
Local law enforcement agencies cordoned off the area while authorities searched for the murder suspects. The manhunt culminated when authorities apprehended the father and son at an irrigation pump house near the east Price interchange.
On Oct. 26, the Heffelfingers appeared before Judge Lyle R. Anderson at the first phase in processing the felony level cases through the criminal justice system. Judge Anderson fixed bail for Lewis and Michael Heffelfinger at $250,000.
The pair have been detained at the county jail since October 2001.