Charges filed against man accused of murdering neighbor

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Prosecutors have charged a West Valley City teenager with aggravated murder in the death of his neighbor. If convicted, 18-year-old Martin Vuksinick could spend the rest of his life in prison.

The aggravated murder charge also leaves the door open for prosecutors to seek the death penalty. They have 60 days after Vuksinick is arraigned in court to pursue that. If they don't, the murder charge also means he may never get out prison.

"Aggravated murder, as it currently stands, one of the possible sentences is life without parole," said Salt Lake County Deputy District Attorney Alicia Cook.

At the very least, Martin Vuksinick could spend a minimum of 20 years in prison. It's a harsh reality for his longtime friend Ciara Steele.

"It's a hard time feeling that he's going to be gone forever, pretty much, but he did commit a very horrible crime," she said.

Steele had a brief phone conversation with Vuksinick Tuesday when he called from jail. "It was hard. It was really hard. I don't know how to describe it," she said.

She did not want to talk about their conversation, only saying they didn't talk about the murder.

In addition to aggravated murder, prosecutors charged Vuksinick with aggravated burglary, which is punishable by five years to life.

"Any murder case is difficult and sad, and they tend to have their own elements as to why -- why they're such sad cases. And in this one, you have two families who have been, their lives have been changed forever by this one night," Cook said.

Kimberly Hain's two children, who are 6 and 8, found their mother dead in their West Valley City home on May 22. They waited for their dad to come home from work, and he called police.

Four days later, police arrested Vuksinick, who lives next door to the Hain family.

Prosecutors say Vusinick's motive in entering the home during those early-morning hours was theft. "In the process of that, he had the bat and he came across Kim Hain and he hit her several times with that and caused her death," Cook said.

She says Vuksinick hid the bat in a nearby field. That's why prosecutors filed the obstruction of justice charge against him. It carries a penalty of one to 15 years.

It's all a lot to process for Steele, who is still in shock. "I'm in a hard situation, you know? It's like my little brother, but he did commit a crime so what do you do?" she said.

Vuksinic remains in the Salt Lake County Jail. He's being held on $1 million bail.


Story compiled with contributions from Sandra Yi and Marc Giauque.

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