OGDEN -- The Utah Supreme Court is expected to decide within the next month or so whether or not to consider an appeal by an accused double murderer, challenging a judge's decision that the slayings were essentially one crime.
During an appearance in 2nd District Court on July 1, lawyers for Jacob Daniel Ethridge said they had filed an appeal with the state's highest court. Court records indicated the case had been docketed, setting the stage for the Supreme Court to decide whether or not it will even take up the case.
Ethridge, 32, is charged with aggravated murder in the slayings of Teresa Rene Tingey, 43, and Rosanna Marie Cruz, 25, in July 2008. He is accused of gunning down the women as he encountered them along Adams Avenue, where they worked as prostitutes. Ethridge is accused of soliciting Cruz and then killing her. A short time later, police said he encountered Tingey and shot and killed her.
Weber County prosecutors maintain that the two killings were one single criminal episode. Ethridge's defense attorneys contend that they were two separate events. The death penalty hinges on the decision; if the high court upholds an Ogden judge's decision, it clears the way for the Weber County Attorney's Office to seek execution if Ethridge is convicted.
Under Utah law, multiple murder victims in a single criminal episode can be an aggravating factor in death penalty cases. Prosecutors could not seek the death penalty if the killings were deemed two separate offenses. The Weber County Attorney's Office has not decided if it will seek the death penalty until the state's high court decides if it will even consider the case.
Court records said that Ethridge continued to waive his right to a speedy trial. Another status hearing in the case is scheduled for Aug. 5.
Beyond the murder cases, Ethridge is facing a pair of charges of assault by a prisoner. He is accused of attacking an inmate and a deputy at the Weber County Jail, where he is being held without bail.