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WEST JORDAN — Christian Cody Facer sat with his head bent over in a West Jordan courtroom on Tuesday next to his lawyers as he listened to a 3rd District judge determine there was enough evidence for him to face trial for murder.
Judge Chelsea Koch said it is rare for a homicide case involving DUI to be charged as murder; typically, it would fall under a manslaughter charge. In this instance, however, she said the standards for a murder charge had been met because of the long flight from officers at incredibly high speeds and multiple stop signs and stop lights that were run.
Thy Hoang Vu, 33 — also known as Thy Vu Mims — a Salt Lake entrepreneur, one of the founders of Mims Bakery and a community activist, was killed in a crash in October 2021. A passenger in Mims' vehicle was also critically injured and a dog that was inside Mims' vehicle died in the crash. Facer is accused of causing that crash while driving after drinking alcohol.
According to charging documents, Facer was fleeing from officers prior to the crash at high speeds in a large truck that he knew could "disintegrate" a car if it were to hit one.
"You are lucky that you are alive, and you probably don't feel it right now," Koch told Facer.
At the hearing, Facer, 40, was ordered to stand trial for murder, a first-degree felony; failure to stop at the command of police, a second-degree felony; two counts of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, a third-degree felony; reckless driving, operating a vehicle without an interlock system as he was previously ordered to do and aggravated cruelty to an animal, all class B misdemeanors; having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle, a class C misdemeanor; and five additional traffic infractions.
Luis Rubio, an officer with North Salt Lake City, testified that he followed Facer as the man drove through neighborhoods. He said he located the vehicle, a large pickup truck, on I-15 and began to pursue it.
Rubio said Facer drove through an intersection where he did not have the right of way, T-boning Mims' vehicle. The truck turned on its side and the other vehicle was pushed off the road and into a driveway.
Facer and his passenger were taken to a hospital to be treated for injuries sustained in the crash, and Facer was booked into jail a few days later.
Assistant County Attorney Andres Gonzalez said Facer demonstrated "complete and total disregard for human life" from the moment he got behind the wheel of the car with a blood alcohol content of 0.31% — over six times the legal limit.
Gonzalez said Facer got behind the wheel of the car, ran multiple red lights and stop signs, passed a bottle of whiskey between himself and a passenger, was speeding between 65 and 75 mph on neighborhood roads and over 100 mph on I-15, and did not attempt to avoid the collision with Mims' vehicle.
"He was determined to evade police at all costs, without any regard for anything else that was going on in the road. He hit a car as he was weaving across lanes and lanes of travel. He didn't care about anything else that was going on, and did so without regard for the grave risk to human life," Gonzalez said.
Samantha Dugan, Facer's defense attorney, argued that her client's actions are tied to the pursuit by law enforcement. She said other things could have been done to apprehend him.
"His conduct is a direct and proximate result of the law enforcement pursuit," Dugan said.
She argued Facer should not stand trial for murder and asked the judge to reduce the charge to manslaughter instead, saying that his conduct was reckless but was not "depraved indifference," the standard that the murder charge was based on.
Dugan's statements did not persuade the judge.
"While I don't necessarily approve of the officer's decision to pursue," Koch said, "that can't impact my decision with regard to the mindset and the utter callousness and depraved indifference to human life, Mr. Facer, that you exhibited when you continued to run from that officer, ultimately resulting in the death of an innocent individual and almost killing another individual."
Facer is expected back in court on Dec. 5.