Category: murder

Murder suspects who escaped custody in Utah recaptured in Arizona

NAVAJO COUNTY, Ariz. — Two people accused of murder have been recaptured in Arizona after they overpowered their guards and escaped while in Utah last month.

The Navajo County Sheriff’s Office and US Marshals apprehended Blane Barksdale, 56, and Susan Barksdale, 59, Wednesday night.

The Barksdales escaped last month while being transported from New York to Arizona in connection with the murder of 72-year-old Frank Bligh in Phoenix.

While in the Blanding, Utah area, the two faked a medical emergency and then overpowered their guards when they stopped the van. The guards worked for a private security company.

The pair tied those guards up and drove the van to Arizona before moving to a red GMC pickup truck.

The Navajo County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the two were arrested Wednesday night but did not provide specific details about how, where or when they were found.

More details are expected to be released at a press conference later Thursday morning.

Slain Memphis teen’s father says son was lured on social media

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The father of an 18-year-old Memphis man was shot and killed Monday afternoon said he believes his son was lured to his death via social media, WMC-TV reports.

On Thursday, police identified the victim as 18-year-old Jack Luibel.

Police say Luibel was shot to death near a church in Frayser, a community in North Memphis.

Authorities described the two suspects as men wearing white T-shirts and blue jeans who ran from the scene, according to WREG.

John Luibel, Jack’s father, spoke with WMC-TV to warn others. He believes someone possibly posing as a woman sent his son numerous messages via Snapchat.

When Jack finally went to meet the woman for a date, he told his cousin to track him down if he didn’t hear anything in 30 minutes, his father said. Jack reportedly told his cousin the house he was at looked run-down and unoccupied.

Neighbors said the house where the shooting happened had been vacant for some time.

It’s not yet clear what led up to the shooting, but Jack’s father said he believes his son was robbed and may have fought back before he was killed.

No arrests had been made as of Thursday evening.


Man accused of murdering MacKenzie Lueck charged in separate sex abuse case

SALT LAKE CITY — Prosecutors have filed sex abuse and kidnapping charges against the man accused of murdering MacKenzie Lueck after a woman reported abuse that she said occurred in 2018.

Ayoola Ajayi was charged Tuesday with one count of aggravated kidnapping and three counts of forcible sexual abuse.

A woman told investigators she met Ajayi on a dating app, met him in person and then agreed to dinner at his home in March of 2018.

She said after dinner Ajayi began kissing her, and she tried to get him to stop when he began kissing her more intensely and began groping her.

Ajayi is accused of kidnapping and murdering MacKenzie Lueck after meeting up with her at a park in North Salt Lake. He is accused of trying to burn her body in his backyard before hiding her remains in Logan Canyon.

Investigators located child pornography on Ajayi’s computer during the homicide investigation, which led to 19 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor against the man.

Uncle pleads guilty in kidnapping, rape and murder of 5-year-old Elizabeth Shelley

LOGAN, Utah — Alex Whipple has pleaded guilty to some of the charges filed against him in connection with the rape and murder of 5-year-old Elizabeth Shelley.

A preliminary hearing on Tuesday in Logan, quickly turned into an announcement of a plea deal. In exchange for pleading guilty to aggravated murder, child kidnapping, rape of a child and sodomy upon a child, other charges were dismissed.

The State of Utah will not seek the death penalty as a punishment for 21-year old Whipple, not only as part of Tuesday’s plea deal but also as part of a deal in which Whipple agreed to disclose the location of Lizzy’s body, ending a search that lasted several days.

Prosecutors, for the first time, disclosed how they believe Lizzy was killed.

In court, they explained Lizzy was stabbed in the back with a knife, which pierced her lungs. Her lungs filled with blood, prosecutors said, causing her to drown.

They also laid out the evidence found for rape and sodomy. They said they believe Whipple kidnapped Lizzy from her room after Lizzy’s mother and mother’s boyfriend went to sleep on August 25th. They said Whipple took her to away from the home, then detained her and sexually assaulted her.

While they’ve now given a clearer picture on how Lizzy died, there’s still no answer to why.

“I don’t think there’s a real reason that this happened,” said Shannon Demler Whipple’s defense attorney, after the hearing. “There was never a discussion of anybody doing anything to him, or he was paying them back or anything.”

After the court hearing, Lizzy’s family publicly spoke, expressing their gratitude for those who have offered “words of comfort, thoughts and prayers during our nightmare.”

“We miss Lizzy immensely,” said Liesel Merrill, who is Lizzy’s aunt,

She said they’d also like to thank police, Cache County Attorney’s Office and victim’s services for helping them through this “horrific process.”

“We are hopeful that the criminal case can be resolved quickly, so that we can continue to grieve without the worries of the court hearings,” Merrill said.

She ended with a final reminder about Lizzy.

Lizzy was about kindness, happiness and looking for butterflies and rainbows,” Merrill said. “We ask that people everywhere, remember to live like Lizzy.”

Two counts of obstructing justice and one count of abuse or desecration of a human body were dismissed as part of the plea deal. A separate court case which included six charges from when sheriff’s deputies first arrested Whipple, was also dismissed.

While the death penalty is off the table, life in prison is not.

Demler said he will argue for a sentence that he feels is “reasonable,” and that they will work on mental evaluations for Whipple to present at the sentencing.

“We expect the sentencing is going to be very difficult for the judge not to give Mr. Whipple the maximum and we know that,” Demler said. “But we at least want to provide information to the courts, so that they’re well informed when they make that decision.”

Whipple’s sentencing is set for September 24 at 1:30 p.m.

Man arrested in rape, murder of 14-year-old girl nearly 40 years later

DOBSON, N.C. — The Surry County Sheriff’s Office has made an arrest in the 1980 rape and killing of a teenage girl, according to a news release.

Robert James Adkins, 62, of Dobson, is charged with first-degree murder and first-degree forcible rape.

The sheriff’s office said the charges stem from the death of Ronda Mechelle Blaylock. WGHP spoke with Ronda’s mom back in 2015. She has since passed away.

Ronda, 14, was a ninth-grade student at Atkins High School when her parents reported her missing on Aug. 29, 1980.

Jeffrey Shouse and Sherri Thigpen were around their cousin Ronda’s age when she disappeared.

“We would have sleepovers together and we would go to my grandparents’ house together,” Thigpen said.

Ronda and a friend got into a blue pickup truck outside of a bowling alley in Rural Hall.

Three days later, her body was found in the woods off Sechrist Loop Road in Pilot Mountain.

“I just remember being outside and riding my bike and crying because I was sad that she was gone,” Thigpen said.

The medical examiner determined Ronda had been stabbed to death.

“I would have ask him ‘Why? Why did you do that to her?,” said Tammy Worrell, who was close friends with Ronda in middle school. “She was a sweet, loving and caring person and she did not deserve it.

Adkins was arrested on Friday and is being held in the Surry County Detention Center without bond.

“I hate that it took so long but I’m glad that they finally made an arrest,” Worrell said.

“Very relieved and thankful that finally it looks like they have somebody that is responsible,” Shouse said.

“I think that’s wonderful that they didn’t let it go,” Thigpen said. “I am hoping that the evidence is enough that they can put him behind bars for the rest of his life.”

“I just hope he never sees the light of day and dies in prison,” Shouse said.

New witness: MacKenzie Lueck murder suspect wanted to carry out ‘disturbing’ project

SALT LAKE CITY — New details are unfolding in the investigation into the murder of University of Utah student MacKenzie Lueck, and a witness is now describing why he’s troubled by what he said suspect Ayoola Ajayi asked him to do in the days after Lueck disappeared.

That man said Ajayi reached out to him for a backyard landscaping project. That proposed project has now turned into evidence for detectives.

Landon Fullmer owns 360 Landscapes. He’s taken on quite a few projects for the busy summer season.

Though, when he thinks about this summer, there’s one project, in particular, he’ll always remember — even though he never actually took it on.

“I just felt like there was something that he was trying to cover up,” Fullmer said of the potential client.

He said a man named Ayoola Ajayi contacted Fullmer through Angie’s List on Monday, June 24. That was one week after Lueck disappeared, and days after her family reported her missing.

Apparently, Ajayi wanted the land in his backyard leveled. That’s all he indicated on his request, Fullmer said.

“We had a phone conversation,” Fullmer explained. “I asked him to be a little bit more specific in what he was looking for. He said his backyard needed to be leveled or graded, maybe some soil and some sod brought in.”

To Fullmer, Ajayi’s request was pretty typical of clients. That is, at first.

Ajayi wanted the project done ASAP. Fullmer said Ajayi needed was in a hurry and wanted everything done within a few days.

“When I told him we were out a month, he was pretty disappointed,” Fullmer said. “But, I kind of told him that’s what to expect in June in landscaping.”

He said Ajayi told Fullmer he’d try to find someone else who could do the project sooner, but they decided to set up a tentative bid appointment at Ajayi’s home.

They set it for two days later, on Wednesday, June 26.

When that day came around, Fullmer texted Ajayi but never heard back.

“We ended up never meeting. And, I think that was the day police ended up on-site,” Fullmer said.

It was the day Salt Lake City Police showed up with a search warrant at Ajayi’s home and took him in for questioning.

It was also the day detectives dug through an apparent burn pile in the backyard, where they later said they found human tissue from MacKenzie and her burned belongings.

Her body was eventually discovered burned and buried in Logan Canyon, SLCPD later said.

As soon as Fullmer made the connection, he said he called police.

Fullmer’s text messages and phone call information are now part of a huge list the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office recently released.

Now looking back at what Fullmer said Ajayi asked him to do, Fullmer is glad he didn’t get a chance to take the job.

“I had a like a physical reaction to it,” Fullmer said, of his realization. “I’m like, I was supposed to go and bring in soil and sod and bury that backyard. So, it’s kind of a disturbing thought.”

Man charged with murder in death of girlfriend’s infant daughter

LOGAN, Utah — A Logan man has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of his girlfriend’s infant daughter.

Kyle Taylor Gooch, 30 of Logan, was charged Tuesday with criminal homicide, aggravated-murder as a first-degree felony.

The charge stems from the death of a 1-year-old girl in December of last year.

Charging documents indicate police were called to the home Gooch shared with his girlfriend and their several children and found the infant dead. The child was tightly swaddled and in her crib.

Gooch told police he was at home with the infant and other children while his girlfriend was out running an errand. He said when the infant cried he would swaddle her tightly, saying that helped calm her down.

Gooch said when he went to check on the girl the next day she was dead, and that’s when the family called 911.

Medical personnel examined the girl and found bruising on her head and burns on her face consistent with being forcibly smothered, court documents state.  A doctor with expertise in abuse cases said it was extremely unlikely the girl died by accidental asphyxiation.

That expert also stated it would be an unusual for a child of that age to prefer being swaddled so tightly.

In a later interview the child’s mother told police Gooch would swaddle the girl, put her face down and point out they couldn’t hear her crying anymore.

She told police Gooch “would be very controlling of her and her children.” She said he would verbally abuse her when she treated her 2-year-old son with love, using derogatory terms for the boy.

She also said Gooch would hold his hand over the children’s mouths to keep them from crying or lock them in their rooms when they cried.

In a third interview she told police that Gooch had been drinking heavily the night her daughter died and that when she got home he seemed very drunk and was acting distant.

“[She] stated Kyle kept encouraging her to drink heavily with him almost to the point that she was going to vomit from consumption of alcohol,” the document states.

While Gooch denied abusing the child, police stated he was the only person to be in the room with the girl the night she died.

Gooch was arrested Tuesday and booked into the Cache County Jail.

Support is available 24/7 in Utah for those dealing with domestic or intimate partner violence.Visit the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition online or call 1-800-897-5465 for resources and assistance. In an emergency, dial 

Utah County Attorney’s Office will allow death penalty to be considered in murders of Eureka teens

UTAH COUNTY — The Utah County Attorney will allow the death penalty to be considered in the case of a man accused of murdering two teenagers and dumping their bodies in a mine shaft.

Jerrod Baum pleaded not guilty in connection with the deaths of Breezy Otteson and Riley Powell in June, and last week the families of the deceased said they hoped the death penalty would be considered.

“He’s been locked up…since he was 15,” said Amanda Hunt, Breezy Otteson’s aunt. “So, over half his life he’s been locked up so clearly institutionalizing him is not the answer.”

David O. Leavitt, Utah County Attorney, announced Wednesday his office will allow the death penalty to be considered in the case.

Baum is charged with eight felonies: two counts of aggravated murder, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of desecration of a body, one count of possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person, and one count of obstructing justice.

Woman charged with murder after premature twins, born with several drugs in systems, die

Tiffany Marie Roberts (Courtesy: Hamilton County Sheriffs Office)

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — A Tennessee woman is facing multiple charges – including murder – in the deaths of her premature newborn twins, both of whom were born with multiple drugs in their systems.

According to WTVC, 29-year-old Tiffany Marie Roberts had gone in for check-ups prior to the twins’ birth and, on three different occasions, tested positive for cocaine, oxycodone, Roxicodone, methamphetamine and benzodiazepine usage while pregnant.

Sunday, the day of the babies’ births, Roberts reportedly admitted to taking ecstasy and immediately felt short of breath, prompting her to go to the hospital.

She gave birth to the twins who died at a children’s hospital two days later, nine hours apart.

Police were called to investigate and learned both infants tested positive for “several narcotics,” including cocaine, at the time of their birth.

Roberts was arrested and charged with viable fetus as victim, aggravated child abuse or neglect and first-degree murder.

California couple arrested for reportedly strangling, killing newborn in hospital immediately after birth

OXNARD, Calif. – An Oxnard couple was arrested Friday on suspicion of strangling and killing the woman’s newborn baby boy after she had just given birth to him at a hospital, officials said.

Officers responded to a call about a suspicious injury at St. John’s Medical Center at about 7:53 a.m. and were told an infant was in serious condition and had “suspicious injuries,” the Oxnard Police Department said in a news release.

During an investigation, detectives found the child’s mother, Andrea Torralba, 20, and her boyfriend, David Villa, 21, had strangled the baby boy until he was unconscious, Oxnard police said.

Medical staff found the infant unresponsive and tried to treat him, but he succumbed to his injuries and died at the hospital, authorities said.

Torralba and Villa were arrested on a felony charge of assault on a child by means of force resulting in the child’s death, authorities said.

Bail for Villa was set at $5,000,000, according to county inmate records. No booking information was available for Torralba, but police said her bail was set at $1,000,000.

The case is under investigation.