Prosecutors Seek Death Penalty in 1970's Murder

Prosecutors Seek Death Penalty in 1970's Murder

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FARMINGTON, Utah (AP) -- Prosecutors are preparing to seek the death penalty against Robert Lee Sales in the slaying more than 30 years ago of a 17-year-old Ogden girl.

The body of Roylene Alexander was found June 15, 1972, by the Weber River in South Weber. Sales, 61, is serving a life sentence for his 1974 conviction in the rape and murder of 19-year-old Joann Poulson in 1971.

He appeared at a scheduling hearing Thursday at which 2nd District Judge Darwin C. Hansen set trial for Jan. 26, 2004.

Hansen set May 2 for prosecutors to file their motion if they are going to elect to seek the death penalty.

Hansen told the attorneys a defendant who has committed a crime before 1992 has the right to ask for the penalty that would have been given at the time the crime was committed, or he can ask to be sentenced under the current law.

Defense attorney Glen Cella said Alexander was killed during the time when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional.

After the hearing, Davis County Attorney Mel Wilson said that when Sales was first charged, prosecutors believed they could not pursue the death penalty. But after researching it, they believe they "have a good argument to assert the death penalty and are prepared to go forward with it."

Cella said a lab in California has agreed to examine the DNA evidence.

In a preliminary hearing in February, Pilar Shortsleeve, supervising criminalist with the Bureau of Forensics Service, a department of the Utah Crime Lab, testified that DNA samples taken from panties believed to be Alexander's matched DNA samples of Sales.

Sales had been suspected in the slaying from the first investigation but it was not until 1998 that DNA testing had become sufficiently developed for it to be used in the case.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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