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FARMINGTON — Statements that a 15-year-old boy gave to police the morning after he allegedly killed his two younger brothers will not be allowed in court, a judge ruled Thursday.
Attorneys on both sides of the case stipulated to the decision, agreeing that the West Point teenager's statements were made in violation of his constitutional Miranda rights. Second District Juvenile Court Judge Janice Frost said statements the boy made while in the interrogation room of the Davis County Sheriff's Office will be suppressed.
The stipulation, filed Thursday, noted that the statements were made on May 23 — the morning after Alex Vidinhar, 10, and his 4-year-old brother Benjie were found stabbed to death in their West Point home.
The two had been left in the care of their older brother while their mother and sisters were away at a dance recital. When the mother returned home, she discovered her boys’ bodies. The 15-year-old was found hours later several miles away and was arrested.
In the stipulation, defense attorney Todd Utzinger said "investigators overcame (the teenager's) free will to gain (his statements)." The judge asked the teenager Thursday if he understood the stipulation.
"Yes, ma'am," he replied.
The judge noted that there is one exception to the stipulation, which is that if the teenager testifies in court and makes contradictory statements, the suppressed interview could be used to impeach him. He told the judge he also understood this portion of the agreement.
As the stipulation indicated, (the teenager) twice expressly refused to waive his rights and several times expressly invoked his right to remain silent, and despite that they continued to question him until he finally succumbed to their request to make a statement.
–defense attorney Todd Utzinger
Utzinger said he has never before seen such a clear violation of someone invoking their rights and being ignored.
"I think it was very egregious," Utzinger said. "I mean, the fact that it's so bad that the state's conceding that point I think speaks volumes.
"As the stipulation indicated, (the teenager) twice expressly refused to waive his rights and several times expressly invoked his right to remain silent, and despite that they continued to question him until he finally succumbed to their request to make a statement," he said.
His client also told detectives he didn't want to answer any questions, indicated he wanted to sleep and had to be woken up twice during the interrogation. This despite the presence of multiple detectives, Utzinger said.
"Nobody stood up to say, 'We've got to stop this. He said he doesn't want to talk,'" Utzinger said.
Prosecutor Ryan Perkins declined to comment about the ruling. Davis County Sheriff Todd Richardson said he had not been briefed on the interrogation-related issue, but did note that his deputies go through "extensive training."
The Davis County Attorney’s Office has indicated it wants to certify the teen to stand trial as an adult. The boy’s father, who sat next to the teenager in court Thursday, said previously that he hopes his son will stay in the juvenile court system.
"I understand that there must be justice, but life without parole would be way too harsh for a 15-year-old with no previous criminal history," the father said shortly after the killings. He also said he believes emotional or mental health issues played a role in the case.
The 15-year-old is charged as a juvenile with two counts of murder and is being held in the Farmington Bay Youth Detention Center.
"Are you doing OK?" the judge asked him Thursday.
"Yep," he replied.
Utzinger said he is waiting on psychological evaluations that should be complete in February.
A status conference was set for Feb. 27.