Orem man will face jury in murder of brother-in-law

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OREM -- An Orem man charged with gunning down his brother-in-law is another step closer to standing trial for murder. Stephen Strate will face a jury next month as his fate is decided.

Strate, 54, called 911 minutes after the October 2009 shooting. He told dispatchers he was being attacked with a chair, but prosecutors believe Strate was the aggressor and was completely unjustified in opening fire.

"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.

"Yeah," Strate answered.

Police responded and found Strate's 51-year-old brother-in-law, Marvin Sidwell, was dead. He had been shot five times.

Strate told police Sidwell came after him with a stool. After police investigated, Strate was arrested and charged with murder.

"We feel the defendant's actions here were egregious and do constitute murder beyond a reasonable doubt without any just provocation," said Deputy Utah County Attorney Craig Johnson. "If there was a legitimate self-defense argument it's on us to review and decide how that cuts against the case, and we don't feel it's valid under these circumstances."

Neither Strate nor his attorney Ron Yengich wanted to comment about the impending trial. But during a pre-trial hearing Thursday, Yengich told the judge the defense will call expert witnesses dealing with crime scene investigation and how someone can be affected by meth use.

The autopsy found Sidwell had methamphetamine in his system at the time of the shooting, which the defense has suggested made Sidwell a dangerous threat.

"Whether the guy was high on meth or not, a stool is not up to the level that Utah law requires for shooting and killing them in their bedroom," Johnson said. "Ultimately only one person in that room had a gun and it wasn't the person who died, it was the defendant Mr. Strate."

A jury will sort it out beginning late September. Jury selection will begin Sept. 27 and the trial is expected to last about a week.

If convicted, Strate could face 15 years to possibly life in prison.

E-mail: spenrod@ksl.com

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