SALT LAKE CITY — A man accused in a two-state crime spree that left two people dead and a third running for her life made his initial court appearance in Utah on Tuesday.
Austin "AJ" Boutain, 24, drooped his head as he appeared on a small video screen from the Salt Lake County Jail, a sheriff's deputy positioned over his shoulder. He responded with a soft, "Yes ma'am," as 3rd District Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills confirmed that he could hear and explained when his next hearing will be.
Boutain is charged with aggravated murder, a first-degree felony and a potential capital offense, in the death of University of Utah student ChenWei Guo, 23. He is also charged with attempted aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, for allegedly shooting at another U. student.
His wife, Kathleen Elizabeth Rose Boutain, 23, also made an initial court appearance from the jail. Seated before the camera, she, too, responded to each of the judge's questions with a quiet, "Yes ma'am."
A scheduling hearing for the couple is set for Dec. 8, when attorneys will set a preliminary hearing for the two of them. Prosecutor Mathew Janzen confirmed that that hearing, where evidence will be presented to support the charges filed against the Boutains, will be held jointly.
Janzen declined to comment on whether prosecutors will consider a plea deal in the case or whether they will pursue a possible death penalty for Austin Boutain. A declaration regarding capital punishment in Utah cannot be filed until after a preliminary hearing and an arraignment.
Charging documents allege Boutain and his wife had been staking out a road near Red Butte Garden waiting for someone to kidnap, kill or carjack when a physical argument broke out between the two of them.
Kathleen Boutain, who had allegedly been pistol-whipped, stormed off and told police her husband had assaulted her, was in possession of two guns, had already killed someone and was looking to kill another person in order to get that person's vehicle, the charges state.
About 30 minutes later, Austin Boutain went after Guo, charges state, shooting him in the driver's seat of his car. While Boutain left to reload, a woman who was with Guo climbed onto his lap and tried to drive away to escape, charging documents state, but didn't know how to drive the car.
Boutain returned as the woman was calling 911, ordering her out of the car, charges state. Boutain allegedly told police he intended to take the woman up into the foothills and kill her so that her body wouldn't be found in the lot, then leave in the car.
But when Boutain reached for the woman's dropped cellphone, she fled on foot. Boutain allegedly shot twice at the woman and missed.
The incident prompted a lockdown of the campus and a large-scale manhunt up into the foothills, but Boutain told police he was able to escape the law enforcement perimeter by crawling high up onto the hillside, then moving north into the Avenues neighborhood and walking downtown. He was arrested the next day after a librarian at the Salt Lake Main Library recognized him.
The Boutains allegedly came to Utah from Golden, Colorado, in a stolen truck taken from Mitchell Bradford Ingle, 63. According to prosecutors there, the couple had been "partying" with Ingle in his RV on Oct. 27 when Austin Boutain became enraged the man was flirting with his wife. The couple devised a plot to kill and rob Ingle, according to prosecutors.
Austin Boutain is accused of slitting Ingle's throat and leaving his body in the trailer as the couple fled in his truck with three guns.
Ingle's body wasn't discovered until three days later when Kathleen Boutain was questioned by police in Salt Lake City and reported what had happened.
In addition to the aggravated murder and attempted aggravated murder charges, Austin Boutain is charged in 3rd District Court with aggravated kidnapping, and aggravated robbery, first-degree felonies. In addition, he faces two counts of possession of a firearm by a restricted person and three counts of theft by receiving stolen property, second-degree felonies; and five counts of illegal discharge of a firearm, a third-degree felony.
Kathleen Boutain is charged with criminal solicitation, a first-degree felony; plus two counts of criminal solicitation and three counts of theft by receiving stolen property, second-degree felonies.
The Boutains are charged in Colorado with first-degree murder. Janzen confirmed Tuesday that they will not be extradited out of Utah until the case against them here concludes.