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'Peacekeeper' died after keeping persistent teen from party, witnesses say

Keenan Thompson, 25, of Spanish Fork, is charged with murder in the stabbing death of a Payson man on July 4, 2012. Police say a teen who had been turned away from a party returned with Thompson, who stabbed homeowner William Wright, 36, twice.
Keenan Thompson, 25, of Spanish Fork, is charged with murder in the stabbing death of a Payson man on July 4, 2012. Police say a teen who had been turned away from a party returned with Thompson, who stabbed homeowner William Wright, 36, twice.

AMERICAN FORK — William "KC" Wright was not the type to start a fight unless provoked, friends testified in court Monday.

Even then, he was the type to try and avoid or de-escalate situations, they said. That's what he was doing the night he was killed outside a party at his Payson home, according to testimony given in 4th District Court Monday.

Wright, 36, sustained fatal injuries in an altercation around 4 a.m. after he refused to allow an underage person to attend a Fourth of July party at his home at 644 N. 700 East, police said.

"He was trying to be the peacekeeper. He was trying to explain to this little boy why he couldn't be there," Amy Anderson, who was at the party, testified of Wright. "He patted the boy on the arm, like, 'Hey, bud. We're not trying to be mean, but we can just get in a lot of trouble for having you here. You're underage. Come back when you're 21. We'll still be here.'"

After the 15-year-old was turned away from the party, police say the boy returned to the house with an older cousin, Keenan John Thompson, who allegedly stabbed Wright twice. He is charged with murder, a first-degree felony, and other crimes in connection with Wright's death.

Amanda Calton, another party attendee, testified Monday during a preliminary hearing that Cordy Greenhalgh — who had apparently been staying across the street from Wright with his grandparents — had been trying to hang out at Wright's party much of that night.

"He kept trying to drink, he was going and stealing beer, he was going and being rude, basically starting arguments," Calton said. "We didn't want a 15-year-old kid there."

No one got violent with the boy, Calton said, but those at the party let Wright know whenever the boy came back and Wright would again escort the teenager across the street. Calton said she heard Wright tell the boy he was more than welcome to join in parties when he was of age.

Sadie Leavitt, Thompson's girlfriend, testified that she checked her phone around 3 a.m. and saw she had three missed calls from Cordy, her cousin, who was "crying hysterically."

"He had told me that he had got hit in the face and needed somebody to come get him," Leavitt testified.

The teenager said he was locked out of his grandparents' home and Thompson left to get the boy, she said. Thompson hadn't been home for a few days prior to the incident, which Leavitt said meant he'd relapsed and had been using cocaine. Still, he had returned and rested much of July 3 and seemed fine when the call came in.

"He seemed like he was in a pretty good mood," Leavitt said. "He seemed a little irritated with Cordy."

Around 30 minutes later, though, Thompson returned with the teenager and appeared to be in shock. She said Cordy was still crying, but neither would tell her what was going on, even after Thompson dropped to his knees and started to pray "that this man would be OK."

Prosecutors contend that Thompson, 29, drove to the home that night and stabbed Wright in the neck and abdomen, killing him. They also say Thompson fled the scene, disposed of the knife he was using and some clothing, and tested positive for cocaine after he was arrested.

Leavitt said it was her aunt who told her that there had been a fight that left one man on the ground surrounded by blood. Despite Thompson's silence, she said she decided they needed to get out of their Spanish Fork home and she called her mother in West Valley City. After arriving there, she said Thompson told her what had happened.

"He just said that when he arrived over there, some men ran up toward him and before he knew it, one man was right up in his face and that he could have possibly cut him," Leavitt testified.

Her mother came down soon after and told them that someone had died. It was Thompson, Leavitt said, who then requested that they return to Utah County.

Jon Clements said he had known Wright since he was 3 years old and was in the kitchen of Wright's home when he learned that the man he counted as his best friend had been hurt. He ran out in the road, where Wright lay, and placed his cheek next to his friend's.

"There was so much blood," he said. "I stayed there until he took his last breath and the police showed up."

Calton said Cordy was largely a non-issue until he started "screaming" at those at the party and telling them that his cousin, and occasionally his brother, were going to come and "kill all of you." She said Wright went over and talked to the boy, who stopped yelling. A white car sped to the scene soon after.

"It stops, the door flies open and the driver gets around to the front of the car," Calton said.

The headlights were so bright that she said she could not see what exactly was happening, but yelled that there was a fight and saw that the car's driver was holding "something shiny." Some of the men from the party ran to respond, but she estimated it was less than 30 seconds until the driver sped off, apparently taking Cordy and leaving Wright on the ground.

It happened so fast she thought maybe the car had hit her friend. The only thing Wright had been carrying was a clear, plastic cup, Calton said.

"He was a really good guy, nice guy," she said of Wright. "He was always trying to help people out, tried to give people the benefit of the doubt."

Wright was intoxicated, Calton said, but was not loud or instigating anything. Jeremy Cameron, who was also at the party, said Wright was "happy-go-lucky, normal KC" that night.

Monday was the second day of testimony on the evidence against Thompson, following an initial day of testimony in January. Defense attorneys asked Judge Thomas Low to hear arguments in the matter Thursday before deciding whether to order Thompson to stand trial.

Thompson has been charged with murder, a first-degree felony; obstructing justice, a second-degree felony; purchase or transfer possession or use of a firearm by a restricted person and possession or use of a controlled substance, third-degree felonies.

Cordy Greenhalgh pleaded guilty in juvenile court to obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony, and was placed in state custody in the juvenile system. A review of his case is scheduled for later this month.

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