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Murder charge filed in cross-country trip

Murder charge filed in cross-country trip

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A Utah man captured in Missouri with the body of his ex-girlfriend is accused of killing her and using her cell phone to tell friends that she was alive and well, authorities said Monday in announcing a murder charge.

Michael Doyel told police that Deborah Jones was strangled before her body was stuffed in a plastic storage container for an 1,800-mile ride that stretched from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas to Branson, Mo., according to court documents.

Jones' body was discovered April 21 in a 50-gallon container in her Volkswagen Passat outside The 76 Inn in Branson. Doyel was inside the motel with another Utah woman, who was unharmed.

Jones' name was carved in his arm.

He was charged Monday with first-degree murder, obstruction of justice and theft. Doyel, 47, is in the Salt Lake County jail. Defense attorney Todd Utzinger didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.

Doyel, 47, lived with Jones for several months at her Salt Lake City home. He stole money from her, then moved out after a series of arguments, investigators said in court documents.

Her son, Jeffrey Jones, told police that Doyel began harassing her by sending plumbers and contractors to her house on fake repair calls.

Jones disappeared after meeting with police April 16 to complain about Doyel and ask about a protective order.

An autopsy found she died of strangulation and was hit on the back of the neck, probably three days before the body and Doyel were found in Missouri.

After the disappearance, Doyel told authorities that he used Jones' cell phone to send text messages to her friends and family declaring she was fine.

The court documents don't say whether Doyel confessed to the death. In an interview, prosecutor Alicia Cook would say only that some murder cases can be proved with circumstantial evidence.

In separate cases, one in federal court and other in state court, Doyel is charged with kidnapping Jones and another woman, Patricia Murray of West Valley City. She rode across the country with him but didn't know there was a body stashed in the rear of the Passat.

Doyel covered the clothing with a deodorant stick to mask the smell and used air freshener and perfume on the box, according to documents filed in federal court.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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