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Witness describes ’99 killing

S.L. woman is first to testify during preliminary hearing

SHARE Witness describes ’99 killing

Erin Warn appeared calm and poised Tuesday as she pointed across the courtroom and identified Donald Eugene Younge as the man who stabbed her 10 years ago, nearly slicing her liver in two, and then killed Amy Quinton.

Warn was the first witness during a preliminary hearing to testify against Younge, 43, who is charged with aggravated murder and nine other charges, all of them first-degree felonies.

Third District Judge Ann Boyden on Tuesday ordered Younge to stand trial on all 10 charges, which also include aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary and attempted aggravated murder.

Prosecutors have not yet declared whether they will seek the death penalty if Younge is convicted.

Quinton, 22, was a popular University of Utah theater student who died after being stabbed in the chest on Aug. 3, 1999, in the Salt Lake apartment she shared with roommate Lynn Drebes.

Warn testified she had gone to the apartment at 127 S. 800 East to visit Drebes and drop off her cat because Warn was going on a trip. Quinton was studying in her bedroom while Warn and Drebes visited on a patio area, then went inside to watch a movie and eat pizza in Drebes' bedroom.

Warn said Drebes left the room to get more pizza and then she heard Drebes screaming. When Warn looked out, she said she saw a man holding a knife to Drebes' throat. Warn hurried into Quinton's room and urged her to call 911, but the man pushed his way inside and told them to hang up or he would hurt Drebes.

The man then hung up the phone. The 911 dispatcher called back and the man answered, saying that everything was fine and the call had been a mistake.

Warn said the intruder had an "in control but demanding" demeanor with the women in the apartment, switched to a "very relaxed voice" while speaking to the dispatcher, then resumed his original demanding attitude.

She said she particularly recalled that he was not wearing gloves when he handled the phone.

"I remember looking at his face and thinking, 'I'm not going to forget him, I'm not going to forget his eyes,' " Warn said. "Maybe I've seen too many crime shows, but I remember thinking there may be fingerprints (on the phone)."

The man threw a roll of duct tape onto the bed and told the women to tape themselves but then asked for their wallets. Warn got hers from the living room. He took it and Drebes' wallet and began to leave when Warn asked him if she could keep her identification.

"He came back fast — that's when he proceeded to stab me and Amy as well," Warn testified.

Warn said she earlier had seen the man with a hunting knife but did not see it when she was stabbed. She said Drebes pulled her away and shoved her into a closet.

"I was having trouble breathing, I was a little shocked," Warn said. In the darkness, she began to feel a wetness that turned out to be her own blood.

"I remember hearing Amy screaming and shortly after, I heard Lynn yelling to 911, 'My friend has been stabbed,' " Warn testified.

One of Warn's credit cards was used that night to buy gas in the Parleys Canyon area and again in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

Drebes' testimony echoed much of what Warn said, although the two recalled certain details differently. For example, Drebes remembers ordering Warn into the closet while Drebes tried to go to Quinton to help her.

Drebes recounted that Younge first attacked her and held a knife to her throat, hit her at least three times during the episode, knocking her into a wall twice and hitting her very hard in the head at least once. She also testified that he threatened to kill her if she didn't shut up and when she asked what he wanted, he replied "money."

She also described his demeanor as "angry to an extreme."

"His rage was so palpable as to be its own physical presence in the room — that's how it felt."

Drebes also testified that when she went into Quinton's room, she saw Quinton standing with a hand to her chest, then falling face down onto the floor, making no effort to break her fall.

Younge had been held in an Illinois jail facing three murder charges in the deaths of three women there, and for a sexual assault charge involving a fourth woman. The victim in the sexual assault case later was found dead in an unrelated incident.

All the Illinois charges were dismissed without prejudice, meaning they could be refiled. Alicia Cook, spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, said it was her understanding that problems arose in the Illinois cases due to an issue with a witness's credibility.

Younge also was charged with raping a U. student in 1996. Younge's identity was not known, but his DNA was recorded. After Younge was arrested in Illinois, Utah law enforcement officials linked him to the 1996 rape.

Prosecutor Vincent Meister said DNA from both the Utah and Illinois sexual assault cases brought attention to Younge as a possible suspect in Quinton's slaying. Younge was extradited to Utah in March. He will be arraigned Dec. 11.

e-mail: lindat@desnews.com