West Jordan man sent to prison in Christmas Eve killing of 16-year-old

One of two West Jordan men charged with shooting and killing a 16-year-old who thought he was there to join a gang has been sentenced to a term of 15 years to life in the Utah State Prison.

One of two West Jordan men charged with shooting and killing a 16-year-old who thought he was there to join a gang has been sentenced to a term of 15 years to life in the Utah State Prison. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

WEST JORDAN — On Christmas Eve last year, a 16-year-old West Jordan boy was lured to a recreation center thinking he was going there to join a gang.

Instead, he was shot and killed.

Jedediah Zane Newsome, 19, pleaded guilty to murder, a first-degree felony, in the death of Kenneth Gant, and was sentenced Thursday to a term of 15 years to life in the Utah State Prison. Newsome and Coda Benjamin Verucchi, both of West Jordan, are each charged with murdering Gant.

Newsome admitted intentionally causing Gant's death by shooting him two times at the Gene Fullmer Fitness and Recreation Center, 8015 S. 2200 West in West Jordan.

In exchange for his guilty plea to murder, multiple other charges and cases were dismissed. In the same case, prosecutors dismissed two counts of discharge of a firearm, a first-degree felony; possession of a weapon by a restricted person, a second-degree felony; and obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony.

In other cases, prosecutors agreed to dismiss charges of aggravated robbery, possession of a weapon, failure to stop at the command of law enforcement, aggravated assault by a prisoner and interfering with an arresting officer.

Salt Lake County deputy district attorney John Ham submitted statements from the victim's family during the sentencing and read a letter from a family representative.

Kenneth Gant, 16, of West Jordan, was shot and killed on Christmas Eve. Two people have been arrested in his death.
Kenneth Gant, 16, of West Jordan, was shot and killed on Christmas Eve. Two people have been arrested in his death. (Photo: GoFundMe)

Gant's body was found on Christmas Day behind a storage container at the recreation center. An autopsy showed he had been shot four times.

Newsome told police about the West Jordan killing after he was arrested for stealing a car at gunpoint in West Valley City on Dec. 27, according to charging documents.

Newsome told police he believed Gant was a rival gang member "but was trying to 'get put on'" — or join — Newsome's gang, according to the charges. "Newsome said that he was texting (Gant) and told him to meet him at the library and they could talk about 'getting him in."

Newsome claimed he was walking away when he heard two shots, ran back to where Gant and Verucchi were still at, took the gun from Verucchi and shot Gant twice, the charges state.

Verucchi is also charged with murder and two counts of discharge of a firearm causing serious injuries, first-degree felonies; and being a restricted person in possession of a firearm, a second-degree felony.

Verucchi turned 18 a few days after being charged as an adult with Gant's death. His charges are still pending and his case is scheduled for a hearing in October.

During the preliminary hearing for both Newsome and Verucchi on May 25, 3rd District Judge Todd Shaughnessy determined there was enough evidence in Newsome's case to order him to stand trial but asked attorneys to file additional arguments in Verucchi's case. Shaughnessy has not yet ruled whether there is enough evidence to send Verucchi's cases to trial before a jury.

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Emily Ashcraft joined KSL.com as a reporter in 2021. She covers courts and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.

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