SALT LAKE CITY — Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for a 26-year-old Utah man accused of killing a teenage girl after she ended their relationship last year.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill filed a notice in 3rd District Court Nov. 8 stating his office’s intent to pursue capital punishment for Shaun Patrick French if French is ultimately convicted of aggravated murder, a first-degree felony.
He is charged with stabbing 15-year-old Baleigh Bagshaw to death on May 7, 2018, attacking her in her home while she was on the phone with her mother after school. Investigators said they arrived a short time later to find a pool of blood.
An attorney for French did not immediately return a voicemail and email left Wednesday.
During his eight years as Salt Lake County’s top prosecutor, Gill noted his office has rarely sought the death penalty.
“I take these cases extremely seriously,” Gill said. “I did not arrive at that lightly.”
In a different pending case, he is pursuing capital punishment for Ramon Luis Rivera, charged in the fatal stomping and stabbing of a fellow inmate, 24-year-old Jeffrey Ray Vigil, at the Utah State Prison. A trial date for Rivera has not yet been set.
Gill’s office filed the same notice in the case of David Fresques, who ultimately pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated murder as part of a plea deal that spared a possible death sentence. He was ordered in 2014 to life in prison with the possibility of parole for the shooting deaths of Omar Jarman, 35; Shontay Young, 34; and Danielle Lucero, 26, inside a house in Midvale.
Gill said his own process for deciding whether or not to seek the death penalty is “odd.”
“I set aside like a full day where I just go and do nothing but think about the case,” he said. After consulting his colleagues, “I review the materials. It’s a decision I make and I make alone,” he continued.
In French’s case, Gill said he consulted with Baleigh’s family but did not say if they are seeking a particular outcome. The task of weighing whether to pursue a potential death sentence, “It’s the most difficult thing in my elected position that I’ve had to do,” he said.
Gill noted he secured an extension from a judge to make the decision in French’s case and said the recent filing is not a bargaining chip in potential plea negotiations.
I set aside like a full day where I just go and do nothing but think about the case. ... It’s a decision I make and I make alone.
–Sim Gill, Salt Lake County District Attorney
“That’s not a game that I play,” he said.
During a preliminary hearing in August, French’s brother, Cody French, recalled Shaun French saying he had slit the girl’s throat and testified that his brother discussed suicide after their relationship ended.
Shortly before Baleigh’s death, she told her mom that she had engaged in a sexual relationship with French during a time when he lived with her family, authorities said. She was 14 years old at that time.
A Salt Lake police detective testified during the August hearing that French had a friend create a Facebook account that was then used to send intimate pictures of Baleigh to her mother before her death.
French faces other charges, including sexual exploitation of a minor and newer counts of witness tampering. He has pleaded not guilty to each.
He was arrested in southeast Colorado following a two-day manhunt after Baleigh was killed.
He is due back in court Nov. 18.