American Fork man takes plea deal 5 years after brother's murder

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AMERICAN FORK -- An American Fork man who shot and killed his brother five years ago pleaded guilty to murder Wednesday.

There was no question mental illness was the leading factor in this murder from day one, but questions of mental competency kept the case in the courts for years. Wednesday's plea agreement came just a month before the case was set for a trial.

"We think this is a fair resolution. It's a very tragic case; when a brother kills a brother, it's very tragic," said Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman.

Eryk Drej
Eryk Drej

The shooting happened on the evening of June 1, 2005. Eryk Drej opened fire on his younger brother, Lukasz Drej, in the backyard of their American Fork home. It was determined that Eryk Drej believed his brother wanted to kill others and sell their organs on the black market.

Wednesday Eryk Drej told the judge he suffers from schizophrenia but is now on medication that has allowed him to comprehend what he did.

"My understanding, from the defense attorney, is that he is doing quite well. The medication has worked. He's mentally aware of what he's doing and fairly stable," Buhman said. "Fifteen years from now, that will be up to the board of pardons and the state hospital to see whether they do a civil commitment or what they do; that will be up to them."

As part of the plea deal, Eryk Drej pleaded guilty to murder. He will be sentenced to one to 15 years in prison and won't get any credit for the past five years he has been in custody.

Prosecutors expect Eryk Drej will serve nearly all of the 15-year sentence. They say the outcome is better than risking an acquittal at trial or the chance the jury would find him guilty of manslaughter instead of murder. That possibility could have allowed him to be free within a few years.

Eryk Drej will be formally sentenced to prison on Oct. 20.


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