Judge rules man will stand trial in brother-in-law's murder

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OREM -- An Orem man charged with murder in the shooting death of his brother-in-law last October faced a judge Wednesday.

In the preliminary hearing, the judge has ruled there is enough evidence against Stephen Strate to stand trial. The judge made the ruling after hearing evidence from several witnesses.

Strate then pleaded not guilty to the charges. It appears a jury will ultimately have to decide if it was murder or self defense.

The case goes back to Oct. 25, when Orem dispatchers got a 911 call from a man who told them he had just shot a man five or six times. He told dispatchers the man came at him with a chair.

"He came after me with a damn chair," Strate told the dispatcher.

"He came after you with a chair?" the dispatcher asked.

"Yeah," Strate said.

"And so you shot him six or seven times?" the dispatcher said.


The man who police found dead was Strate's 54-year-old brother-in-law, Marvin Sidwell.

The courtroom was packed with people who support Strate.

The medical examiner took the stand and revealed the victim had methamphetamine in his system, which Strate's defense attempted to bolster its claims that Strate acted in self-defense.

The medical examiner also said Sidwell was shot five times. Toxicology tests revealed Sidwell has traces of methamphetamine in his system.

The victim's 79-year-old mother also took the stand and testified about the shooting. Wiping away tears, she testified she was upstairs when she may have heard a brief argument and then two shots. She also acknowledged to Strate's attorney that he had done a lot for her -- as well as Marvin -- over the years.

Strate himself also appeared to be crying while she was questioned by attorneys.

Strate's attorney Ron Yengich has said his client acted in self-defense: "It's what was said on the 911 call, it's what was said by the defendant to his wife, overheard by the police officer and consistent with the problems Marvin had had in the past and on that very day, clearly [self defense] is what this case is about."

However, Deputy Utah County Attorney David Sturgill said, "There has to be some substance to that claim, and our position is that these circumstances don't rise to the level of self defense... And that is clearly going to be an issue at trial."

Strate posted $1 million in bail 10 days after his arrest on murder charges and has been free since. He will return to court next month, when the judge will set a date for his trial.

E-mail: spenrod@ksl.com


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