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Deal made for testimony in Allen case

Joseph Wright will escape the death penalty for his part in arranging the murder of Jill Allen, who was beaten and strangled more than a year ago in her North Salt Lake apartment.

Prosecutors believe the killing was an attempt by her husband to cash in on a hefty life insurance policy.Wright, 28, West Jordan, has agreed to testify against Paul C. Allen, Jill Allen's husband, who faces capital murder charges. Jill Allen was found dead by her husband on Aug. 28, 1996.

Wright was scheduled for a preliminary hearing Thursday in 2nd District Court but instead his attorney, Loni DeLand, told Judge Michael Allphin that Wright will testify against Allen.

Wright is charged with aggravated murder, a capital offense; conspiracy to commit aggravated murder and criminal solicitation, first-degree felonies; and tampering with evidence, a second-degree felony.

In return for his testimony, however, prosecutors will reduce the four felony counts against him and the capital murder charge, to two third-degree felonies. In addition, no charges will be filed against his wife, Jenny Wright.

"It's simple. We need him," Deputy Davis County Attorney Bill McGuire said, acknowledging the offer to Wright is "a pretty good deal."

Wright is the link between Allen and George Taylor, 28, West Valley City, who confessed to entering Jill Allen's apartment that night, beating her with a baseball bat and strangling her, according to court records.

Wright, who confessed to his role in the murder on Sept. 26, the day before Paul Allen was arrested, acted as the intermediary between Paul Allen and Taylor, according to his confession. He talked to Taylor about committing the murder and passed along an apartment key and the $10,000 Allen allegedly paid to have his wife killed, prosecutors said.

After Wright testifies, he will plead guilty to attempted solicitation of murder and attempted conspiracy to commit murder, third-degree felonies, DeLand said. He is scheduled for arraignment Nov. 4.

Prosecutors will recommend that Wright serve consecutive terms of up to five years in prison and will also recommend that he serve at least eight years.

McGuire said Jenny Wright was a witness to several of the discussions between Taylor and her husband concerning Jill Allen's murder but her actual involvement was "fairly minimal."

McGuire said he does not anticipate more arrests in the murder but the investigation is continuing.

"This is one of the last pieces of the puzzle to fall into place," he said.

Paul Allen, represented by attorney Ron Yengich, is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Oct. 30.

DeLand said Wright is "extremely contrite" about his role in Allen's murder from the beginning and he had to restrain him from telling prosecutors everything while he worked out the plea agreement.

"Clearly, he's culpable," DeLand said. "Paul Allen couldn't have gotten to George Taylor without Joey Wright."

Wright apologized to Andrea Myler, Jill Allen's mother, for a few minutes before the hearing in what DeLand described as an "extremely emotional" meeting. Details of the murder were not dis-cussed.

Myler, DeLand said, urged Wright to tell the truth in upcoming proceedings against Paul Allen and also urged Wright and his wife, who have two daughters, to care for them.