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Teacher admits killing ex-husband’s new girlfriend in front of kids

By Annie Knox, KSL | Updated - Feb. 21, 2020 at 7:13 p.m. | Posted - Feb. 21, 2020 at 11:00 a.m.


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WEST JORDAN — A Utah teacher admitted Friday that she shot and killed her ex-husband’s new girlfriend in front of their twin 3-year-old sons in 2018.

As part of a plea bargain with prosecutors, Chelsea Watrous Cook, 33, no longer faces the possibility of the death penalty.

On Nov. 25, 2018, authorities say Cook went to drop off cold medicine for her sons at her ex-husband’s home in Midvale, where he and Lisa Vilate Williams were making homemade Christmas ornaments with the boys.

But Cook slipped into the apartment while he waited outside. After he began calling police, she briefly went into a bathroom, walked toward her coat and fired several rounds at Williams, 26, fatally striking her in the chest, hip and back, court documents say.

Prosecutors said Cook’s ex-husband grabbed the gun away from her and she went and sat down with the two children, who had just watched her shoot Williams, according to the charges. Once her ex-husband was back on the phone with 911, Cook moved again toward her coat but he was able to pin her to the wall until police arrived.

On Friday, Cook pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, a first-degree felony. Cook also admitted to a first-degree felony charge of aggravated burglary and three counts of felony discharge of a firearm — one first-degree felony, one second-degree felony and one third-degree felony — as well as two counts of committing a violent offense in the presence of a child, a class B misdemeanor.

Williams’ mother, Tawny Williams, has said Cook had been harassing her daughter leading up to the shooting and she was worried about her daughter, a bank teller who loved caring for plants and had begun dating Travis Cook six months earlier.

Chelsea Cook was a health and yoga teacher at Skyridge High School in Lehi.

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Under the terms of her plea agreement, prosecutors will ask that a judge order her to serve consecutive prison sentences, with credit for more than a year she has spent in the Salt Lake County Jail.

The aggravated murder count carries a potential sentence of at least 25 years and up to life in prison, with the possibility of parole. The back-to-back sentences stipulated in the plea deal for all the charges amount to at least 36 years.

Court records show Chelsea Cook has participated in a drug and alcohol treatment program for female inmates, going to a daily group therapy session and to private counseling twice a month. She also holds leadership roles within the program.

“Chelsea has been an active member of the therapeutic community demonstrating healthy boundaries and communication by holding herself and others accountable,” her social worker wrote in a letter to the court, adding that Cook’s ongoing progress was good, “with potential for personal growth.”

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 18.

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