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Justices clear way for use of confession in murder trial

SHARE Justices clear way for use of confession in murder trial

The Utah Supreme Court has ruled that Alexander James Bybee's confession may be used in his murder trial in the slaying of a 6-year-old Big Water boy.

Bybee, 18, will be tried Monday in Kanab in the Aug. 13, 1996, slaying of his cousin, Lance Guevarra.Bybee confessed to the killing shortly after a suicide attempt. On Feb. 7, 1997, he led Kane County authorities to the boy's decomposed body - buried in a grave marked with a milk crate.

Bybee, who was 16 at the time of the killing, asked to have his father present when Kane County sheriff's Deputy Allan Johnson interviewed him at a state-run mental hospital in Las Vegas. Johnson rejected the request, then spent an hour hearing the confession.

The teen forbade the deputy from taking notes or tape recording the interview.

In a Jan. 20 ruling, 6th District Judge K.L. McIff declared Johnson's interview was proper.

Defense attorneys asked that McIff's ruling be overturned. The Utah Supreme Court turned down their petition in a one-sentence ruling Friday.

At the time of Lance's disappearance, Bybee was staying at his mother's home, next door to the Guevarras' Big Water trailer. He later lived with his father in Las Vegas, where he was hospitalized one week after a suicide attempt on Jan. 7, 1997.

When Bybee began talking about Lance, his doctor was obliged to go to police because of a Nevada law requiring health-care providers to report suspected child abuse, said Kane County Attorney Colin Winchester.

On Feb. 5, Bybee's doctors took him to a conference room where Johnson was waiting. Hospital staff took measures to avoid the teen's father, who was looking for the boy, according to defense lawyer Karlin Myers.

Defense attorneys contended that Bybee could not have waived his rights knowingly because he was being held in a lock-down ward, undergoing treatment for severe depression.