OGDEN — A 16-year-old boy accused of shooting and killing an Ogden grocer in February would serve time in the juvenile system before going to prison at age 21 under terms of a new tentative plea deal.
The teenager has not yet entered any guilty pleas, but Weber County Attorney Chris Allred said Monday the teen is expected to do so in Ogden's 2nd District Court on Wednesday. The boy had faced a charge of aggravated murder in juvenile court in the death of Satnam Singh, 65, until prosecutors filed reduced charges in the adult system last week.
"I want to emphasize that we were prepared to pursue either way," Allred said. His office consulted family members of Singh, a beloved business owner and member of Utah's Sikh community, he added. Evidence in the case points to a robbery gone awry, Allred has said, but not a hate crime.
Juvenile Judge Debra Jensen certified the teen, Antonio Gianny Garcia, as an adult on Friday at the request of both sides after they explained the plea deal, Allred said. If a judge in the adult system rejects the deal, however, the case goes back to juvenile court. Garcia was 15 years old at the time of the killing.
He is accused of walking into the Super Grocery convenience store, 675 N. Monroe Blvd., on Feb. 28 and saying, 'This is a stick-up' before firing a gun four times, striking Singh twice just before midnight and running away. His defense attorney did not immediately return a request for comment on Monday.
The plea agreement levels out big risks for the teen and for law enforcers, Allred said. If the parties hadn't reached a deal and the judge were to determine the case should remain in the juvenile system and he was found guilty, the state could hold Garcia and provide services only until he turns 25 years old.
However, if Garcia were ordered to stand trial as an adult, he would face a potential of at least 25 years in prison on the aggravated murder charge.
Garcia now faces a lesser charge as an adult of felony discharge of a firearm, a first-degree felony; and a remaining charge of aggravated robbery, also a first-degree felony.
Allred expects the boy will receive credit for the time he's expected to serve in the juvenile system but will spend additional years at the prison for the charges that carry at least five years and up to life at the Utah State Prison. Utah's parole authorities will determine exactly how long he's incarcerated.
Ogden police arrested the boy March 2, saying they retrieved the gun along with a hoodie and sweatpants that matched those seen in surveillance footage of the gunman in the store.
The boy declined to tell detectives who had sold him the gun, but admitted to planning the robbery "because he did not have as much cash as he wanted," according to the charging documents.
"He acknowledged that he had smoked THC prior to the day of this event but that he stopped smoking so he could be sober for the robbery," the charges say.
State law caps the maximum penalty for those who are minors at the time of their crimes to at least 25 years and up to life in prison.