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Elderly woman's slaying to spark a capital trial

Floyd Eugene Maestas
Floyd Eugene Maestas

A man charged with strangling, stabbing and beating a 75-year-old woman to death will face a death-penalty trial.

Third District Judge Sheila McCleve said she heard sufficient evidence at a daylong preliminary hearing Tuesday to try Floyd Eugene Maestas, 50, for capital murder and first-degree felony aggravated burglary.

However, McCleve ordered lawyers for both sides to submit legal briefs and then argue their positions orally on whether conduct described at the preliminary hearing fits the legal definition for second-degree forcible sexual abuse — a third charge against Maestas.

Following that process, McCleve will formally bind Maestas, who has a long history of violent crimes, especially those targeting elderly women, over for trial in the slaying of Donna Lou Bott, 75.

The slaying took place during a robbery at her home on Sept. 28, 2004. Her battered body was discovered three days later in her bedroom.

Todd Grey, the state's chief medical examiner, testified Bott died primarily from strangulation and a variety of blunt force injuries that, among other things, ruptured her heart and tore its aorta. A facial cut also contributed to her death, he said.

Grey testified Bott was alive when many of the injuries were inflicted.

Two other men, William Hugh Irish and Rodney Roy Renzo, both age 20, are charged with the same crimes, but both testified they have cut deals with prosecutors for unspecified lesser charges in return for testifying against Maestas.

All three men have been in the Salt Lake County, Summit and Weber County jails since their arrests days after Bott's death.

They are accused of a crime spree that reportedly began when Irish and Renzo met Maestas at a friend's house, then went to a party.

"Mr. Maestas asked me and Rodney if we were 'down white boys,' " meaning if they were willing to rob a house, Irish testified.

Irish said Maestas drove the three of them to a home, they got in through a back door window, and Irish and Renzo began searching for things to steal. They snatched up a cell phone and, as Irish went past a bedroom, he said he saw Maestas "on top of someone," despite the fact that it was fairly dark inside.

"He was yelling . . . 'I'll stab you!' " Irish testified.

Questioned by defense attorneys, Irish admitted lying to police during two initial interviews, then said he told the truth the third time. During the lengthy testimony, Irish and Renzo at times offered differing details of the crimes.

Renzo testified he "heard a bunch of roughness going on" in the bedroom where Maestas was with Bott. Renzo said he stole some change, then spotted a motionless body on the floor of the bedroom covered by a sheet, except for the person's feet.

"Floyd was stomping on the person in the mid-section," Renzo said, demonstrating the act with his shackled feet. "He was throwing punches and stomping with his boots over and over. There was no sound, there was no movement."

The trio reportedly then went to another home, which prosecutors identified as belonging to an 83-year-old woman, but Irish said he did not go inside. Irish said he heard muffled screams and Maestas shouting.

At the second woman's house, Renzo testified he saw Maestas pulling up a T-shirt over a woman's head and yelling, "Where's your purse?" while the woman was screaming for help. Maestas hit her in the head with his fist while Renzo snatched up a purse and they ran off, Renzo said.

Irish, who said he stayed outside, joined them in the getaway car, and Renzo testified Maestas gave him a T-shirt to throw out the window because it had some of Maestas' blood on it, which could be used for DNA identification. The car reportedly ran out of gas, and Renzo and Irish got on a train and ended up in Orem.

Use of the stolen cell phone and evidence in the abandoned car, registered to Maestas, led to the trio's arrests.

McCleve set dates for prosecutors and defense attorneys to submit legal briefs on the forcible sexual abuse issues and scheduled another hearing for Jan. 13.