SALT LAKE CITY — Shaun French was "obsessed" with 15-year-old Baleigh Bagshaw and harassed her in the days leading up to her brutal murder, investigators say.
On Friday, the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office charged French with aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, in the West High teenager's death. Charging documents say French slit the teen's throat and told an acquaintance that he "damn near cut her head off," the charges state.
French, 24, is also charged with aggravated burglary, a first-degree felony; obstructing justice and sexual exploitation of a minor, second-degree felonies.
On May 7, Baleigh arrived home, 1624 W. 500 North, in her Fairpark neighborhood from school just after 3 p.m. She called her mother, as she always did, to let her know she was home.
Baleigh "started screaming" while on the phone with her mother, according to charging documents. A neighbor went to check on the girl but called police after seeing blood inside the house.
After the incident, French called family members to say "he cut a girl's throat," the charges state.
French and another man then began driving, allegedly to South Carolina. They stopped at a gas station in Evanston, Wyoming, where French threw his bloody clothes and a backpack into a dumpster, according to court documents. Salt Lake police later spent more than 250 staffing hours searching the Uinta County Landfill. They found the backpack and inside it, clothing with blood stains, a knife, rubber gloves, duct tape, latex gloves and a ski mask, charging documents state.
French was arrested on U.S. 50 near county Road 13 in southeast Colorado by the Otero County Sheriff's Office following a two-day manhunt. His friend was in the car with him at the time of his arrest.
As investigators began piecing together a possible motive, they learned that Baleigh told her mother on May 2 that she had a sexual relationship with French when he lived with their family from December 2016 until July 2017 when she was 14, according to court documents.
French threatened to send Baleigh's mother nude pictures of her daughter as well as post them on social media, the charges state. As Baleigh was telling her mother this information, her phone kept ringing. She stated "it was French and that he had called her 13 times that day."
Later, Baleigh's mother received nude photographs of her daughter sent to her via social media. At that point, Baleigh and her mother discussed getting a restraining order against French, police say.
Detectives interviewing friends and family of French were told that "French was 'obsessed' with (Baleigh) and that he wanted to marry her."
The friend who was with French when he was arrested told police that French had recently visited him in Ohio and "was trying to get his life together and breaking up with a girlfriend in Utah," the charges state. The two planned to drive to Southern Carolina together. But French diverted their trip back to Utah because investigators say he "wanted to talk to his ex-girlfriend about her statutory rape accusation."
On May 6 and 7, French and the man spent part of their days at an undisclosed park. On May 7, French allegedly left the man to walk to Baleigh's house. When he returned, he "had blood all over his face and hands," according to the charging documents.
An autopsy determined that Baleigh had "severe lacerations" to the front of her neck and a "deep stab wound" to the back of her neck.
Prosecutors have requested that French be held without bail. An initial appearance is scheduled for Tuesday, and a special scheduling conference is set for June 9.
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