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Midvale man sent to prison for killing his ‘role model’

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WEST JORDAN — David Brown had an enlarged heart in every sense.

Physically — it ran in his family — and metaphorically.

"I've seen David go without lunch to feed someone else," John Brown said of his brother. "One time, I saw him give his last dollar. … No matter what he was doing, no matter what was going on, if you made a phone call, he'd drop everything to be there."

When he saw a struggling Christopher John Wiggins, a young man he had once sponsored in Alcoholics Anonymous, he offered him a place at his home.

Four months later, David Woodrow Brown, 47, was dead.

"David suffered from an enlarged heart," prosecutor Robert Neill said. "The medical examiner said the reason David died the day he did, because this condition can be lethal any time, was because of the injuries he'd received."

Wiggins told police that he had beaten Brown, but said in court Friday that he didn't realize at the time that he'd killed him.

Third District Judge Charlene Barlow sentenced Wiggins, 24, to prison Friday, ordering him to serve one to 15 years for manslaughter, a second-degree felony, and five years to life for aggravated burglary, a first-degree felony.

She ordered that the sentences run consecutive.

"I don't think your character and history speak well for you," the judge told Wiggins. "But what's most concerning is the circumstances of this offense."

Neill outlined "the horrendous and vicious crime" that occurred on Oct. 15, 2011 at Brown's Midvale duplex, 528 E. Carmel Drive (7400 South). He said the incident began days earlier, when the men argued over missing property.

Wiggins told the judge that he and Brown had threatened to harm each other and that the police were called. Wiggins left the home, but Brown feared for his safety, filed for a protective order and changed the locks at his home, according to Neill. When Wiggins returned and found the home locked, he found a ladder and a garden tool and broke a window to get inside.

"All the resentment, all the anger, it overwhelmed," Neill said, reading from Wiggins' statements to police. "I chose to let it play a huge influence on my (expletive deleted) beatdown of him."

Neill said Wiggins stuck Brown with the garden tool before going after him with his fists and then used his foot to push Brown down the stairs. Wiggins did not call 911, but Brown managed to place an emergency call and officers arrived to find Wiggins smoking a cigarette.

The judge said Wiggins tried to minimize his actions, both before and at the time of Brown's death. She pointed to the fact that he apparently told police that he was worried Brown would hurt him.

"You didn't call for help," Barlow said. "You decided to have a cigarette and gather your thoughts. Clearly you gathered enough of your thoughts to put the blame on him."

Wiggins read a statement to the judge describing how he met Brown, the man's goodness, his own life and his hopes to live in honor of Brown's memory. After periods of sobriety, he said he had slipped and was drinking heavily on the day he killed Brown. He had not meant to kill his friend, he said, and did not know he was dead.

"I have not and cannot forgive myself," Wiggins said. "I'm very sorry for Dave. I'm sorry for his family. He was a hospitable person. I considered him a friend."

Wiggins said he regretted not talking to the man instead of fighting with him. He called Brown a "role model" to him who told inspiring stories and loved to help people.

"I cannot change the outcome," Wiggins said. "All I can do is try to honor Dave's memory."

John Brown said he does not believe his brother's death was an accident, but he has forgiven Wiggins and knows that his brother has, too. He had once expressed concerns about Wiggins living with his brother, but said he was assured by Wiggins that "everything would be OK." He now regrets trusting Wiggins, but feels sorry for what the young man and his family have lost.

"I will always miss my brother," John Brown said. "My brother brought the light into the room."

He believes the judge's sentence was fair to everyone, and said forgiving Wiggins and seeing him sent to prison helps bring him some closure.

"Now we can bury David," he said.

E-mail: emorgan@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam