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Death of friend spurs manslaughter charge

Paul Willson
Paul Willson

A Sandy man has been charged with manslaughter in connection with the death of one of his friends.

Paul Edward Willson, 23, faces the a second-degree felony charge in 7th District Court in Price. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing before Judge George Harmond Jr. on Aug. 17.

According to the witness reports compiled by police, Willson and Jonathon Tobey were camping with a group of friends on Aug. 7 in the Price Canyon Recreation Area celebrating a woman's birthday. Tobey had been drinking heavily throughout the evening and became aggressive toward members of the group, at one point "yelling at Paul asking if he wanted to fight" as the group attempted to break camp.

An altercation soon developed between Tobey and a woman and witnesses told police that Willson intervened and began choking Tobey in an attempt to restrain him. As the two women continued disassembling the camp, Willson remained straddled atop Tobey.

"Paul stated that he would hold his hand on Tobey's throat instructing him to calm down until Tobey would comply, at which time he would move his hand onto Tobey's chest to hold him down. When Tobey would begin fighting with Paul he would again apply the 'choke hold,' " according to the probable cause statement.

Willson was told by both women to refrain from his actions, but he continued after Tobey made "gurgling" noises, according to court documents. The women asked Willson to help them load the vehicle and Willson told police he left Tobey lying on the ground, assuming he had passed out from alcohol.

Police were notified after the group attempted to leave and Tobey was unresponsive.

When authorities arrived, the probable cause statement notes, they saw Tobey unresponsive and lying on his back. Initial assessments said his skin was cold to the touch and officers were unable to locate a pulse.

Contributing: Linda Thomson