WEST JORDAN — Courtroom spectators wept as a prosecutor and two witnesses described the ugly words they say Parley Jeffs Dutson chanted as he knelt by his nearly nude girlfriend who lay dying on an apartment floor gasping for breath after being shot in the head.
Dutson, 19, is charged with murder and aggravated sexual assault, both first-degree felonies, in connection with the April 7, 2007, death of Kara Hopkins, 15. The pair had been a couple on and off for two years, and Hopkins was fatally injured at a party in an apartment Dutson shared with other young men. She was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
Prosecutor Rodwicke Ybarra described the evening's events in a matter-of-fact voice during opening statements to the seven-woman, three-man jury on Tuesday. But when Ybarra related the vulgar and violent phrases Dutson was accused of mumbling over and over that night, including one about wanting to have sex with Hopkins until she was dead, one female juror clasped her hand over her mouth and some courtroom observers cried.
Ybarra said eyewitnesses reported that Dutson had tried to rip Hopkins' clothes off at the party, demanded in vulgar terms to have sex with her then and there, and grew angry when she resisted. When she wouldn't submit to him immediately because others were present and she tried to dodge and weave away from him, the prosecutor said Dutson fired a gun at her in front of other young party-goers.
"He shot her and hit her in the back of the head with a bullet," Ybarra said.
Dutson reportedly was found by two security guards, alerted by fleeing party-goers about the shooting, who came into the apartment with guns drawn. They reportedly found Dutson, wearing only boxer shorts and a sleeveless T-shirt, on the floor by her, chanting and ignoring their commands to put his hands up.
However, defense attorney Denise Porter described things in a different light. She said Dutson grew up in the Fundamentalist LDS Church polygamous town of Colorado City, Ariz., left home at age 16, faced some hard times, and ended up drinking and doing drugs.
Still, Dutson cared deeply about Hopkins, there were many tender and happy moments in their relationship, and he was a comforting presence in her life, even when she called him in the middle of the night when she was upset about something, Porter said.
Porter said that on the night of Hopkins' death, Dutson had consumed alcohol and a tea brewed from psychedelic mushrooms mixed with Kool-Aid. As for the ugly words he kept repeating, they were ugly, Porter admitted, but said they were lyrics from a rock song the couple had listened to earlier in the day.
Porter said Dutson is deeply sorry for what happened and wants to take responsibility for his actions, but he did not mean to kill her.
Porter invited jurors to weigh all the evidence and see if it depicts someone incapable of making rational decisions because of drug use — "a young man so high, so intoxicated, he didn't have the faintest idea what was happening."
Porter said Dutson's state of mind at the time was so muddled by drugs that it was impossible for him to intend to hurt Hopkins, even though it is clear he fired the handgun that killed her. Porter asked that the jury convict Dutson of the lesser charges of manslaughter and sexual battery.
The trial is scheduled to continue through Friday.