SALT LAKE CITY — An eastern Utah teenager was sent to prison Wednesday after he admitted to breaking into a family's home and stabbing an 84-year-old grandfather to death in September.
His term in the Utah State Prison, however, won't begin for some time.
Nicholas JT Sinoben, 16, of Vernal, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Vernal's 8th District Court to murder, a first-degree felony, in the death of Cal Dee Reynolds. He was immediately sentenced to at least 15 years and up to life.
As he begins serving his sentence, Sinoben will be held in the custody of the Division of Juvenile Justice Services. He could remain in the secure juvenile facility until he turns 21, or the division could decide to send him to adult prison at any point after he turns 18, confirmed courts spokesman Geoff Fattah.
It remained unclear Wednesday why the teenager broke into the home before stabbing Reynolds, his wife and their adult son.
Sinoben originally faced aggravated murder and other charges in juvenile court. On Wednesday, he waived his right to fight prosecutors' efforts to transfer him to the adult system.
A juvenile judge immediately moved the case to district court, where Sinoben pleaded guilty to a reduced count of murder and aggravated burglary, both first-degree felonies, as part of a plea bargain with the state. He originally faced two more counts of attempted aggravated murder.
About 3 a.m. on Sept. 13, the teenager, then 15, broke in through a window of Reynolds' Vernal home near Ashley Regional Medical Center, 150 W. 100 North, court documents show. When Reynolds woke up and went to the bathroom, he saw the boy and verbally confronted him.
"The defendant, armed with a knife, stabbed the elderly male victim multiple times," the charges state.
Reynolds yelled for help and his son responded. But as the son was about to help his father, he was "blindsided" by Sinoben and also stabbed multiple times, according to charging documents.
While the father and son were down, police said, the 15-year-old found Reynolds' wife in a bedroom, pulled her from the bed and repeatedly stabbed her.
Reynolds was flown to a Salt Lake area hospital and died of his injuries Nov. 3. His wife of 60 years, Kathy Reynolds, and his son Kyle Reynolds, needed surgery but survived.
On Wednesday, 8th District Juvenile Judge Ryan Evershed determined the teenager's behavior was serious enough that he required more isolation than juvenile facilities provide, court records show. The adult system also has more resources that are more likely to help rehabilitate the teen and reduce the threat he poses to the public, Evershed found.
Reynolds, a father of four with several grandchildren, served on the Vernal City Council for several years and was a bishop for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to an online obituary. As a young man, he joined the National Guard. An active duty stint took him to Fort Lewis in Washington state.
Eighth District Judge Edwin Peterson ordered the teen to 15 years to life on the murder charge and five years to life for burglary. He allowed the sentences to run concurrently, or at the same time, confirmed Uintah County Attorney Greg Lamb.
Court documents indicate still other charges the teen faces will be resolved in the juvenile system.
Editor's note: An earlier version incorrectly identified Loren Anderson as the boy's defense attorney. He is actually a prosecutor in the Uintah County Attorney's Office. Also, a courts spokesman earlier said the teen would remain in juvenile detention until he turns 21. He later said juvenile justice officials could also decide to send the boy to adult prison at any point after he turns 18.