Court Denies Plea Change in Aggravated Murder Case

Court Denies Plea Change in Aggravated Murder Case

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Utah Supreme Court has ruled that Scott Joseph Merrill may not change his no-contest plea to aggravated murder in the ambush slaying of an Emery County road worker.

Sixty-four-year-old Charles Watterson was killed in 1998 as he graded a dirt road 15 miles south of Green River.

Officers later found Watterson's wallet, without money and bearing Merrill's fingerprints, hidden in a pile of rocks nearby.

Merrill was sentenced in 2000 to life in prison with a chance for parole. In exchange for his no-contest plea, prosecutors dropped additional charges of aggravated robbery, criminal mischief and attempted escape.

Merrill could have been sentenced to death or life without parole.

At the time of the sentencing, Merrill claimed to have acted on a commandment from God. But he also said he was on an anti-depressant and competent to enter the plea.

The Utah Supreme Court ruled Friday that Merrill cannot now change his mind and withdraw the plea.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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