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3 trying to discard murder victim got stuck in Utah mud, charges say

Three people were charged Thursday in connection with the shooting death of a woman in Juab County. Investigators say the trio got stuck in the mud after trying to leave the woman's body in a remote area.

Three people were charged Thursday in connection with the shooting death of a woman in Juab County. Investigators say the trio got stuck in the mud after trying to leave the woman's body in a remote area. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

MONA, Juab County — A South Dakota man accused of shooting and killing a woman as they were driving through Utah had intended to dispose of her body in Juab County until their car got stuck in the mud, according to charging documents.

On Thursday, David Manuel Mestas, 26, of Sioux Falls, was charged in Utah's 4th District Court with aggravated murder, a first-degree felony; possession of a firearm by a restricted person, obstructing justice and theft by receiving stolen property, all second-degree felonies; abuse or desecration of a dead body and drug possession with prior convictions, both third-degree felonies; and possession of drug paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor.

On Aug. 22, Mestas was sitting in the back seat of a car with three other people when he shot the woman in the front passenger seat in the head, killing her, the charging documents state.

Mestas, Richard Anthony Sanchez, 26, and Christina Zoey Ann Sanchez, 22, then "drove to an out-of- the-way location in Juab County with the intention of disposing of the body," according to the charges.

The deceased woman's body was dragged from the passenger's seat and left in the dirt, police say. But when the others tried to leave, the vehicle became stuck in the mud.

"Noticing vehicles driving by, Mestas and the others stuffed the body back into the vehicle through the trunk into the back seat of the car and covered the body with clothing, suitcases, and other items to conceal the body," the charges allege.

A passerby, unaware of what was happening, helped pull the group's car out of the mud.

The group then drove to the Park-n-Pump gas station in Mona, where they got into a fight that escalated to the point that bystanders called police. Juab County sheriff's deputies, who responded to the scene, discovered the body of the woman in the car and took all three people into custody.

"Officers searched the car and found three firearms, one of which was stolen. Officers also found methamphetamine, heroin, and numerous used syringes in the vehicle," according to the charges.

Investigators then learned that about a week earlier, Mestas had made plans to kill a man who he believed had assaulted his sister, the charges say. According to court documents, Mestas lured the man to a location in South Dakota and shot at him twice, but did not hit him. A second man who was with Mestas, however, critically injured the victim by firing a shotgun twice at him, the charges state.

Mestas and his group took off for Las Vegas shortly after the shooting to avoid prosecution, according to police.

Mestas told investigators he was "using methamphetamine heavily" during the trip and that he "kept hearing the others talk about him and making comments toward him. The male believed the female victim in particular was calling him a snitch," according to a police affidavit filed in court.

Mestas allegedly pointed a gun at the woman multiple times during the car ride. He later told investigators "he did not know why he did this. The male suspect said he felt weird and thought it was maybe the drugs," the affidavit says.

After shooting the woman, "everything went blank," he told deputies, according to the affidavit.

Richard Sanchez, of Rapid City, South Dakota, whom police say was driving the car, was also charged Thursday with obstructing justice and theft by receiving stolen property, both second-degree felonies; abuse or desecration of a dead body and possession of a weapon by a restricted person, both third-degree felonies; drugs possession, a class A misdemeanor; and possession of drug paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor.

Christina Sanchez, also of Rapid City, was charged with theft by receiving stolen property, a second-degree felony; possession of a firearm by a restricted person, a third-degree felony; drug possession, a class A misdemeanor; and possession of drug paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor.

The name of the deceased woman has not been released.

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