CEDAR CITY — Seventeen-year-old Zachary Russell Beatty pleaded guilty to first-degree felony murder for his part in the robbery-slaying of a woman and was immediately sentenced to 5 years to life in prison.
In exchange for his plea, charges of aggravated robbery and aggravated arson were dropped.
Beatty said he was in on the planning of the crime and assisted in disposing of the woman's body but insisted it was Carl Gary Wilcken who pulled the trigger.
Wilcken, 18, is charged with aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and aggravated arson in the case and could face the death penalty if convicted.
Beatty told the court Tuesday that the plan was for him to enter the house, hold Cynthia Boggs at gunpoint and steal drugs, money and weapons.
Beatty said he couldn't go through with the crime and left his rifle at the door.
Iron County Sheriff Dude Benson testified previously that Wilcken told him he sat in the car while Beatty entered the house and shot Boggs four times with a handgun.
Beatty spoke in measured tones Tuesday as he gave his version of how they planned and carried out the crime and disposed of the woman's body in the Desert Mound area west of Cedar City, then went back and burned the woman's trailer home.
Iron County Attorney Scott Burns said he expects Beatty to repeat his testimony at Wilcken's trial.
Beatty said the crimes began when he and Wilcken approached Boggs' husband, John Boggs, on Jan. 30 to purchase marijuana and methamphetamine.
He said John Boggs told them to call him later that day.
Beatty said he and Wilcken decided they would go to the Boggs' home and steal the drugs, money and weapons.
"I was supposed to hold the gun on her because she didn't know my face," Beatty said. Beatty said he loaded a .22-caliber rifle and Wilcken loaded the .380-caliber handgun that was used to kill the woman.
Beatty testified that he and Wilcken didn't intend to kill the woman but knew it could happen during the robbery.
Beatty said he and Wilcken told the woman that her husband told them to wait for him at the residence.
She let them in and led them to a back bedroom to wait.
Beatty said he was seated on the floor and the woman lay on the bed while Wilcken left the room, purportedly to get a chair.
He said Wilcken returned shortly with the gun in his hand.
"I saw him open the door and I looked at my feet," Beatty said.
He said Wilcken fired four shots, killing the woman.
Beatty said Wilcken berated him for not taking part in the shooting.
They took a shotgun, an Uzi and $20, which they later used to purchase the gasoline used to burn down the residence.
Burns said Beatty cooperated with investigators almost from the beginning of the case, taking deputies to the various sites where bloody towels, shoes and guns were tossed.
"He corroborated his story with blood, guns and money," Burns said.
"I have to be tough, but in the same vein, these are children, which makes it a soul-searching endeavor," Burns said. This has been a very hard case for me personally."
Benson agreed, saying "I wish this would have been some long-haired biker guy out of somewhere in New Mexico that we could all hate together, but it isn't.
"These are people we know, kids we know," he said. "But, that doesn't lessen the fact that they took a human life. Now, there must be consequences."