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COLORADO MAN GETS LIFE FOR SLAYING

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A Colorado man who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the strangulation and brutal sexual assault of a Salt Lake County woman has been handed a life sentence in the Utah State Prison.

Ben Fidel Salazar, 50, appeared this week before 3rd District Judge Richard Moffatt, who ordered Salazar to serve the prison term for killing Charlotte Montoya, 48.Montoya, with whom Salazar was living, was killed in her apartment at 1679 W. Thornhill Drive, on March 28, 1988. She had been strangled, raped with a vacuum cleaner attachment, and her body had been wrapped in sheets, which were tightly bound with garbage bags and rags.

Prosecutors allowed Salazar to plead guilty in exchange for their not seeking the death penalty. A charge of auto theft was also dismissed.

Defense attorneys, in an earlier sentencing hearing, presented evidence to show that Salazar had a troubled childhood, was forced to shoot another man in self-defense and had a drinking problem. His father spent time in a mental hospital and his sister committed suicide, according to the evidence.

On the day of Montoya's death, Salazar was seen in the apartment complex's parking lot selling her furniture. He was also observed changing the license plates from his car to her car, which he drove to New Mexico.

Bloomfield, N.M., police arrested him and returned him to Durango, Colo., where he had escaped from a halfway house after serving prison time for assaulting his wife with a butcher knife. Salazar was later extradited to Utah.