Prosecutors will seek harshest punishment for accused Provo rapist


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PROVO -- The man accused in the brutal attack of a Utah Valley University student near the Provo River Trail in June faced a judge Wednesday morning.


We think life without parole is the appropriate sentence for these crimes, and so we're unwilling to make an offer that involves anything less than that.

–Donna Kelly, prosecutor


Prosecutors say they will seek the harshest punishment possible for Shawn Leonard. He is accused of beating, raping and leaving the 19-year-old woman for dead.

At Wednesday's hearing, Leonard's defense team asked the judge for more time to prepare. It's something prosecutors didn't object to.

Prosecutor Donna Kelly said her team prefers to have the case pushed back because the victim does want to testify. Recently, though, she has been going through numerous surgeries and it's still hard to understand her when she talks because she has difficulty opening her jaw.

"I'm hopeful that by the time this gets set for a preliminary hearing you'll be able to understand her when she speaks," Kelly said.

Leonard faces charges of attempted aggravated murder, aggravated sexual assault and aggravated kidnapping. Police say he attempted to strangle the woman with a cord, raped her and then attacked her with a cinder block.

Shawn Leonard faces charges of attempted aggravated murder, aggravated sexual assault and aggravated kidnapping in the June assault of a UVU student. (ASHLEY FRANSCELL/Daily Herald)
Shawn Leonard faces charges of attempted aggravated murder, aggravated sexual assault and aggravated kidnapping in the June assault of a UVU student. (ASHLEY FRANSCELL/Daily Herald)

The woman regained consciousness sometime later and crawled to the trail where she was rescued. She suffered terrible injuries to her head, neck and face.

Prosecutors said they won't offer Leonard any type of a plea deal.

"We think life without parole is the appropriate sentence for these crimes, and so we're unwilling to make an offer that involves anything less than that," Kelly said.

Leonard also faces an aggravated robbery charge for allegedly holding up a clerk at a store in the Provo Riverwoods shopping center right after the rape and attempted murder.

Both incidents happened after Leonard walked away from a work release program at the Utah County Jail, where he was serving time for felony theft.

Prosecutors are also asking that Leonard's probation be revoked in that case and that he be sent to prison for violating probation. The judge will consider that when Leonard returns to court on Oct. 6.

Meanwhile, some good news in the recovery of the victim is that her vision is returning and improving beyond what was expected.

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Story compiled with contributions from Sam Penrod and Randall Jeppesen.

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