FARMINGTON — Just a few weeks before Sun Cha Warhola was charged with killing her two children, she apparently called a Korean newspaper asking for help.
"She said she needed a lawyer who could help her," said Inseon Cho Kim, who works for the Korean Times of Utah. "She was insecure, scared to death. … She said she wanted to divorce her husband but didn't want to give her children to him."
Two weeks later, Warhola, 44, was charged with their deaths. Ed Brass, an attorney qualified to handle death penalty cases, was appointed Friday to represent the Korean woman who police believe strangled her two children in a bedroom of the family's Layton home.
Warhola was charged Thursday with two counts of aggravated murder, a capital offense, in connection with the deaths of her children James, 8, and Jean, 7.
"We spoke to Mr. Ed Brass, and he's ready to accept an appointment in this case," Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said during Warhola's first court appearance Friday. "Mr. Brass is clearly Rule 8 qualified and is known as one of the best attorneys in the state, if not the country."
Police and prosecutors believe the mother killed her children inside James' bedroom at their Layton home, 2184 N. Snoqualmie Circle. The children and their mother all had multiple wounds on their arms and legs that police say appear to be defensive wounds, indicating a struggle occurred.
Warhola searched among a number of predominantly Korean friends who came to court to support her Friday, and some even attempted to speak with her after the hearing.
A judge ordered that Warhola remain in the Davis County Jail with no bail.
Defense attorneys Todd Utzinger and Julie George represented Warhola Friday and filed an order preventing anyone but the woman's attorneys from visiting her in jail.
The order states any others interested in visiting Warhola will have to obtain written permission.
"It was a precautionary measure to protect her interests," Utzinger said after the hearing. "We want to make sure people with more prurient interests won't have access to her."
Rawlings said it's much too early to predict whether his office will pursue the death penalty for Warhola but called it a "potential sentence."
Prosecutors do not have to officially declare for several months whether they will seek the death penalty in Warhola's case, but since the potential exists, a death-qualified attorney was appointed.
Attorneys in death penalty cases must be qualified to do so under state law. To be eligible to work on a capital murder case, attorneys must meet a number of requirements. They must have taken six felony cases to a verdict within the past four years; at least one of the two appointed attorneys must have worked on a capital or a felony homicide case that went before a jury and ended in a verdict; and they must complete or teach a legal class dealing with the trial of death penalty cases. They must also have at least five years' experience practicing law.
When he came home from work Wednesday, Kenneth Warhola, 46, discovered the door to the bedroom was closed and blocked from the inside. His wife was inside the room and told him to wait 10 minutes before entering, prosecutors say.
Several minutes later, the father forced his way inside.
"His wife was inside, and she asked him not to look at the children who were lying on the bed covered with a blanket," the charges state.
He said after realizing that James' face was cold to the touch, he called 911 from a neighbor's house because he said he couldn't find his house phone.
The mother told police that no one else had been inside the home except her and the children, the charges state.
Sun Cha Warhola's next court hearing is scheduled for Sept. 20.