Discarded DNA Links Utah Teen to Attack on Church Organist

Five months following an attack on an elderly organist at a church in Centerville, Utah, a 17 year old teen has been arrested after his discarded DNA was linked to the crime scene.

Late night practice

On November 17, 2018 a 71 year old woman was practicing the organ at church late one night when someone broke into the building, came up behind her, and choked her repeatedly. The woman survived but the person responsible for attempting to strangle her was not apprehended until five months later.

Evidence at the scene

The person who choked the woman also broke a window into the church, leaving behind their DNA on the broken glass as well as other objects in the building. Police collected the DNA but did not arrest anyone immediately. The 17 year old teen was apparently a suspect in the case, however it took five months before he was apprehended. This could be because the teen did not have a criminal record yet and was not in the National DNA Index.

DNA Database

When DNA of a suspect is collected at a crime scene, the National DNA Index is accessed to see if the suspect is already in the system, making it easy to find and prosecute them. According to FBI.gov, “The DNA Identification Act of 1994 (42 U.S.C. §14132) authorized the establishment of this National DNA Index. The DNA Act specifies the categories of data that may be maintained in NDIS (convicted offenders, arrestees, legal, detainees, forensic [casework], unidentified human remains, missing persons, and relatives of missing persons) as well as requirements for participating laboratories relating to quality assurance, privacy, and expungement.” If the person is not in the system, investigators have to find other ways of lawfully obtaining a DNA sample.

Collecting DNA

After the teen was apprehended for the 5 month-old crime, Centerville Police stated that “Detectives were able to collect DNA evidence left behind on discarded objects by the person of interest.” Discarded objects that have DNA on them may consist of cigarettes, cups, gum, tissue, bandaids, and anything else that came in contact with a person’s bodily fluids. Touch DNA may have been used as well to collect samples of skin cells left on handled objects, although that method has a higher rate of false positives.

Publicly discarded DNA

When it comes to collecting DNA or any items seized in a search, law enforcement must obtain a warrant before searching items on a person or their personal property. If a person discards items with their DNA on them in a public area such as a trash can on a sidewalk, those items can be picked up by anyone passing by, including law enforcement.For more information on criminal charges following the collection of DNA, contact a defense attorney to ensure all search and seizures were done within the protective boundaries set in place by the Fourth Amendment.

Teenage Girl Charged With Arson and Damage Of Utah Churches

An 18 year old teenage girl has been charged with arson for arson and damage to multiple churches in Orem, Utah.

Arson and damage to churches

Photo by: Joe Lodge

Two churches in Orem, Utah were damaged by an individual who broke doors and wrote satanic messages in permanent marker. Additionally, someone had poured gasoline in or near both of the churches yet only one had been set on fire. Police were able to quickly extinguish the small fires found within the single church. While attempting to locate the individual responsible, police located 18 year old Jillian Robinson of Lindon, Utah who was in possession of a permanent marker, burglary tools, gasoline, and a lighter. Police determined Robinson to be the one responsible after her possessions matched those possibly used to damage and commit arson to the churches. While originally denying her involvement, Robinson later admitted to police that she was angry and did not target the church specifically.

Arson and other charges

Robinson was booked into the Utah County jail on charges of arson, burglary, possessing burglary tools as well as criminal mischief. Utah Code 76-6-102 states “A person is guilty of arson if, under the circumstances not amounting to aggravated arson, the person by means of fire or explosives unlawfully and intentionally damages . . . the property of another.” Arson is a second degree felony if the damages of the event exceeds $5,000 in value. The damage caused by Robinson is said to be estimated around $600,000. Beyond the second degree arson charge, the 18 year old Robinson is also facing a third degree felony burglary charge as well as additional charges for possessing the burglary tools and criminal mischief.

Dealing with police

Photo by: Scott Davidson

Robinson has already admitted to her crimes and will need a good criminal defense lawyer as she prepares to have her case heard before a judge. Teens and young adults such as Robinson should be educated of their options prior to and following an arrest to avoid unnecessarily incriminating themselves. A couple things to keep in mind:

  • The released information about Robinson’s case does not include whether she consented to a search of her backpack containing the incriminating items or if officers claimed there was reasonable suspicion to suspect her of a crime. Teens should know when they are dealing with police that they have the right to state their lack of consent to a search without getting in the way of police who will search anyway.
  • Records indicated that Robinson agreed to make an incriminating statement to police about her involvement in the arson. It doesn’t state whether or not she agreed to the statement on her own or while accompanied by an attorney. Many young adults and especially teens do not realize that they have the right to request an attorney before they talk to police. Being represented by an attorney will help teens ensure they are being treated fairly and not admitting to more than they should.

Parents of teens and young adults are encouraged to educate their youth on their rights when dealing with police. Being prepared with this knowledge could help teens if they ever should face charges.

15 Year old Utah Teen Playing With Shotgun Arrested For Felony Manslaughter of Brother

A 15 year old Kearns, Utah teen was arrested for felony manslaughter after the boy was playing with a shotgun and fired a deadly shot at his step-brother.

Dangerous play

16 year old Jerrad Jacobsen and his 15 year old step-brother were in Jacobsen’s bedroom with a loaded weapon before school when Jacobsen was fatally shot in the head. The original statement from the step-brother stated Jacobsen accidentally shot himself while the step-brother was turned around but the story was later revised to affirm the 15 year old was the one with the gun. The mother of the deceased claims the shooting to be non-accidental, yet intent to kill has not been proven. Police have arrested and charged the step-brother with second degree manslaughter as well as obstruction of justice.

Manslaughter

After police again questioned the teen about the fatal incident, the step-brother admitted he was the one with shotgun. He told police he pointed the gun at Jacobsen and pulled the trigger. The teen claims it was an accident as he was unaware the gun was loaded. Even if the death was an accident, it was something that could have been avoided had the teen not been behaving in a careless manner. The 15 year old is charged with “. . . recklessly caus[ing] the death of another”, which Utah Code 76-5-205 defines as manslaughter, a second degree felony. At this time, investigators have not found evidence to support the claim that Jacobsen’s death was done on purpose. If the step-brother’s actions are found to be intentional, he could face first-degree homicide charges.

Obstruction of justice

The 15 year old step-brother is also facing a third degree felony for obstruction of justice since he initially lied to police about who had the gun when it went off. Utah Code 76-8-306 states: “An actor commits obstruction of justice if the actor, with intent to hinder, delay, or prevent the investigation, apprehension, prosecution, conviction, or punishment of any person regarding conduct that constitutes a criminal offense:. . . provides false information regarding a suspect, a witness, the conduct constituting an offense, or any other material aspect of the investigation.”

Gun safety and education

This fatal incident is a reminder to all parents to teach their children about gun safety and to ensure that any firearms in the home are unloaded and out of children’s reach. Teens who may be in regular control of a firearm under a parent’s guidance should participate in a gun education course to help ensure they practice responsible behavior around firearms and know how to safely handle and unload a weapon. Any teens facing legal trouble should consult with an attorney who can help guide  them to be honest during questioning  without further incriminating themselves of a crime .

Felony Distribution and Negligent Homicide Charges for Utah Teen Who Arranged Fatal Drug Deal

A teen has been charged with felony distribution as well as negligent homicide after arranging a drug deal that led to the overdose of a southern Utah woman.

Heroin overdose

Photo by: Tony Webster

A southern Utah woman was found dead of a heroin overdose and police were able to track down the individual who helped her obtain the drugs that led to her death. 19 year old Gadge Christensen admitted to police that he helped obtain the drugs for the woman and was aware of her death. He then self-confessed that prior to helping the woman obtain the heroin, he knew it was dangerous- a fact that anyone with common sense would know. He was booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility on negligent homicide and felony distribution charges.

Negligent Homicide

The heroin that Christensen helped obtain for the woman has not been reported as being laced with anything that would increase the chances of an overdose, but any heroin use carries an overdose risk. Since Christensen knew that basic drug fact prior to the user’s death, he is also facing charges of negligent homicide. Negligent homicide is defined by Utah Code 76-5-206 as when “. . . the actor, acting with criminal negligence, causes the death of another. Negligent homicide is a class A misdemeanor.

Felony distribution

Photo by: Find Rehab Center

Utah Code 58-37-8 states regarding felony distribution of heroin that “ . . . it is unlawful for any person to knowingly and intentionally . . . distribute a controlled or counterfeit substance, or to agree, consent, offer, or arrange to distribute a controlled or counterfeit substance”. Setting up a heroin deal can result in “. . . a second degree felony, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 15 years”.

 

Exercising Miranda Rights

With the information that is provided so far, Christensen doesn’t appear to be a regular time heroin dealer. He very well could have been a middle man who was fulfilling a request of a user. However since Christensen openly admitted to law enforcement that he had played a part in finding and distributing the heroin to the now deceased woman, he is now facing serious charges with the potential to land him behind bars for several years. Many older teens and young adults do not fully understand their rights when being faced with an arrest. They may not listen closely to all the protections that their Miranda Rights offer, and instead choose to be openly affable. This mindset could result in them portraying themselves out to have more of a criminal intent that they actually did. Anyone who has been read the Miranda Warning is highly encouraged to be honest with law enforcement, but to also exercise their “right to an attorney” prior to speaking to police to ensure they do not admit to crimes in the spirit of being agreeable.

Reckless Driving Charges Possible for Utah Teen Who Crashed Vehicle While Blindfolded

A Utah teen who took a new challenge to dangerous levels could face charges of reckless driving after she crashed her vehicle while blindfolded.

New thriller

Photo by: Ginny

Netflix recently released a new thriller titled Bird Box which was viewed over 45 million times within a week of its release date. In the horror/thriller film “Bird Box”, the main character and her two children must navigate through a forest and down a river. The clincher however is they must remain blindfolded or they will die from their own suicide attempts. The movie uses monsters that prey on sight, leaving blindfolds to be the only saving grace of the characters.

The Challenge

While the film itself has received high ratings from viewers and critics alike, one of the fads that has followed is being openly opposed by law enforcement and Netflix. Following the millions of movie views, several people have taken it upon themselves to do what is known as the “Bird Box Challenge”. This challenge involves a person blindfolding themselves and then trying to navigate or perform tasks without the ability to see. Although some may do the challenge in a controlled environment such as navigating safely across their bedroom, others are taking the challenge too far, putting themselves and others in danger.

Bird Box vs driving

Photo by: Keirsten Marie

One teen in Utah decided to take the challenge to the road. The 17 year old girl was driving down Layton Parkway with her 16 year old male friend pulled her beanie down over her eyes, and continued down the road. Not surprisingly, she eventually crossed into oncoming traffic and hit another vehicle before crashing into a light pole. Fortunately for her and the other driver, no injuries were reported. Now that law enforcement knows the reason behind the wreck, the teen will likely face charges which could include reckless driving.

Reckless Driving

Utah Code 41-6a-528 states “A person is guilty of reckless driving who operates a vehicle: In willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. . . “. Reckless driving is punishable as a class B misdemeanor. Anyone who wants to join a like fad or challenge is encouraged to think about the physical as well as criminal repercussions that could occur. Parents are encouraged to speak to their teens about dangerous challenges that are currently making the rounds to ensure their teen are using common sense before joining in with the crowd.