Editor's note: A previous version of this story mentioned a judge denied a reduction in bail. A correction has been made to show the decision was a denial of an increase of bail.
PROVO — A judge has denied an increased bail for a South Jordan man accused of killing his stepfather in a fight last year.
Police say Jace Zeeman, 27, may have been fighting with his stepfather, Brandon Bourgeois, 47, in an effort to defend his mother, but took the altercation too far.
Zeeman was originally charged with manslaughter, a second-degree felony, and two counts of domestic violence in the presence of children, a third-degree felony. But last month, the charge for Bourgeois' death was boosted to murder, a first-degree felony.
As the case advances, prosecutors had asked that his bail of $50,000 be increased. In a hearing Monday, 4th District Judge James Taylor ruled that there was not sufficient evidence for the bail amount to be changed.
Prior to the hearing, a packet of letters vouching for Zeeman's character were filed in court, including several letters from his colleagues in the Utah National Guard.
"During this unfortunate event, Sgt. Zeeman has been very honest and up front, providing us with details of the events that transpired from the start. I feel this shows true remorse for what happened. Sgt. Zeeman has been one of my best, and I would sure like to see him back, just as much as his soldiers would," wrote one senior officer over Zeeman.
According to a police affidavit, Zeeman went to his mother's house after being ordered to leave his own home following an intoxicated argument with his wife on Aug. 27. About 3 a.m., an argument between all family members unfolded in his mother's American Fork home.
Bourgeois started arguing with Zeeman's mother, according to court documents. Zeeman told police he stepped in the middle to try to calm the situation, a police affidavit states.
When Bourgeois hit Zeeman in the face, a fight ensued between the two men and another brother in the family, and police say Zeeman went beyond what would be considered self-defense or defending his mother.
"In this case, it appears the two adult sons may have used force beyond what is expected to protect themselves from an unlawful simple assault," investigators wrote in a warrant.
Zeeman told officers he "choked out" Bourgeois, the affidavit states, and witnesses told police that the stepfather was repeatedly punched and "the fighting never stopped until the police arrived."
Bourgeois, who suffered a brain injury and multiple facial fractures, died Sept. 1 after being removed from life support, according to police.
Zeeman was booked into Utah County Jail and posted bail on Sept. 28, according to a spokesman for the sheriff's office.
Zeeman was charged in South Jordan Justice Court for the fight with his wife. He faced misdemeanor charges of domestic violence in the presence of children, damaging a cellphone, criminal mischief and intoxication. He pleaded guilty July 30 to the criminal mischief charge while the remaining counts were dismissed, and he was ordered to complete one year of probation. A six-month jail sentence was suspended.
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