CEDAR CITY — Eighteen-year-old Carl Gary Wilcken unexpectedly pleaded guilty to a charge of murder Thursday for his part in the shooting death of a Cedar City woman earlier this year.
In exchange for his plea in 5th District Court, charges of aggravated robbery and aggravated arson in the robbery-slaying of 36-year-old Cynthia K. Boggs were dropped, said Iron County Attorney Scott Burns.
Another teenager, Zachary Russell Beatty, 17, pleaded guilty in April to first-degree felony murder in the Jan. 30 murder of Boggs. Beatty was sentenced to five years to life and is in the Utah State Prison.
Beatty, who was offered a similar plea bargain in exchange for a full and detailed confession, said Wilcken shot Boggs multiple times. The two were also accused of burning Boggs' trailer to the ground, stealing guns and drugs, and dumping her body in a nearby field.
Wilcken's attorneys, Salt Lake lawyer Ed Brass and Keith Barnes in Cedar City, said their client maintains he did not shoot Boggs and did not know Beatty intended to pull the trigger.
"He was out there and did participate in the burning of the trailer," Brass said Thursday. Because of Wilcken's complicity in the crime and because Utah law states an accomplice is just as liable as the person who actually committed the murder, Brass said the potential penalties facing his client were too great a risk to take.
"We entertained the offer because if he was convicted he could possibly be executed or get life without parole," said Brass. "If the penalty of death or the penalty of life without parole had not been there I can tell you there would have been a trial."
Brass had filed 11 pretrial motions in preparation for Wilcken's scheduled Nov. 8 jury trial, and that's what Burns thought he would hear in court Thursday. Before court, however, Burns said Wilcken's attorneys asked if his previous offer was still good.
"I'm thankful they decided to take that offer. I'm satisfied justice was done today," Burns said. "I don't know who pulled the trigger, but I believe they planned this together. Cynthia Boggs was brutally murdered in her own bed. My thoughts are with the victim and her family and friends. I hope the healing can now begin for everyone involved."
Wilcken conferred with his attorneys and parents for two hours Thursday before entering his plea, Brass said.
"This was very hard for him. He hesitated before entering the plea," he said. "His parents were very emotional and distraught. They believe in their son."
Sentencing has been set for Nov. 6 at 10 a.m. before Judge Robert T. Braithwaite in 5th District Court in Cedar City.