CEDAR CITY -- Taberon Dave Honie has been sentenced to die for killing and sexually assaulting his ex-girlfriend's mother.
The sentence was handed down Thursday by 5th District Judge Robert Braithwaite, who said: "It was not a sentence I gave to the defendant; he earned it. If this isn't a death penalty case, I don't know what is."The judge then stayed the execution pending an automatic appeal required by state law.
Braithwaite said he "welcomed the appeal" and a review of the case, but he hopes it is not remanded back to trial.
Honie, 23, was convicted of aggravated murder in the July 9 slaying of Claudia Benn, 49, at her home.
Benn was at home with her three granddaughters when Honie used a rock to smash through a glass patio door. Honie cut Benn's throat four times from ear to ear and slashed her repeatedly with a kitchen knife.
After the sentence was announced, Honie mouthed the words "You got it," toward Benn's 30 or so friends and family members sitting behind the prosecutor's table. Members of both Honie's and Benn's families cried.
Iron County Attorney Scott Burns told the Honie family he was "sorry" as he left the courtroom.
One of Honie's aunts responded, "I hope you enjoy your fun" and she said to Benn relatives she hoped they could live with their consciences. No one from the Benn family responded.
Earlier, Benn's oldest daughter, Carol Pikyavit, Honie's ex-girlfriend and the mother of his 2-year-old daughter, testified she would be satisfied if Honie were sentenced to life in prison without parole.
In making a plea for the judge to spare Honie's life, defense attorney Steve McCaughey asked him to consider what a father means to his daughter.
McCaughey said it "doesn't seem to fit" for the state to execute the father of a girl who lost Benn, her maternal grandmother. "This girl is entitled to have a father to visit with," McCaughey said.
Burns argued the death penalty was the appropriate punishment and rejected claims that mitigating factors such as poverty and substance abuse contributed to the crime.
Burns stressed the importance of Benn's role as a substance-abuse counselor for the Paiute tribe in Cedar City.
"(Honie) did not murder a drunken Indian in the park," Burns said. "He murdered a superstar in the Paiute community."
Honie, who is a Hopi, read a written statement in court Thursday that said, "Please don't think that I don't have any remorse or sympathy if I don't cry or show how I really feel. It's just that I was taught by tradition that if you're a male, you don't cry openly. During the past couple of days there is not one moment that went by that I didn't feel like throwing myself on my knees and begging for forgiveness from everyone I hurt."