FARMINGTON — Showing little emotion, as he has throughout most his court proceedings, 17-year-old Aza Vidinhar was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years to life in prison for the murder of his 4-year-old brother.
In addition, 2nd District Court Judge David Hamilton ordered the sentence to run consecutive with his sentence of up to five years in prison for assaulting another inmate while at the Mill Creek Youth Center detention facility in Ogden.
The sentence brings to a conclusion the tragic case of Vidinhar, who killed his two brothers, Alex and Benjie, ages 10 and 4, inside their West Point home on May 22, 2013, stabbing one of them 88 times and the other 28 times, and then later attacked a third person while incarcerated.
As part of his plea deal, Vidinhar pleaded guilty in 2014 to the murder of Alex in juvenile court and to Benjie's murder in adult court. As long as he behaved while in juvenile detention, prosecutors agreed to leave him there until he turned 21 and then move him into the adult system.
But on Nov. 1, Vidinhar attacked another inmate with a broom handle. He was found in violation of the plea agreement and transferred to the Utah State Prison.
Before sentencing Tuesday, prosecutors emphasized that Vidinhar has shown no empathy, remorse or any type of emotion for his actions.
"He has a callous indifference toward life and toward others," said Davis County Deputy District Attorney Brandon Poll.
Vidinhar has stated that he did not care how his brothers felt, what his parents are feeling now, or how his actions have affected many others. According to the pre-sentence report, Poll said Vidinhar had actually planned on killing his brothers earlier because they had the television up too loud.
As for his attack of another inmate in juvenile detention, Poll said Vidinhar stated "he would have killed him if he had enough time."
But Vidinhar's attorney, Todd Utzinger, countered that there have also been times that has client has mentioned empathy for his parents. There are some days he seems to care, and others that he doesn't.
"It's easy to take one line out of a 30-page report and make him look terrible. There are other lines that make him look better than that. But the reality is everybody knew what was going to happen today. The judge's hands were tied," Utzinger said.
Because of that, Utzinger advised his client not to address the court when he had the chance. When the judge asked him if there was anything he wanted to say, Vidinhar replied, "There is nothing."
"Nothing he said, frankly, was going to change what happened today," Utzinger said outside of the courtroom, adding that he didn't want to add any more emotion to an already difficult hearing.
Likewise, Vidinhar's father and other family members did not address the court, and quickly left the courthouse without speaking to waiting reporters.
"I know that, obviously, they are in an impossible situation and trying as best they can to keep their existing family together knowing that Aza can't be a part of that family," Utzinger said. "They've got to piece their lives together as best they can, and I think at this point, probably his father and grandfather will try to maintain communication to at least keep tabs on how he's doing. But, realistically, I think Aza is pretty much on his own."
But rather than being a cold-hearted killer, Utzinger said, Vidinhar has serious mental health issues that went undiagnosed and untreated until he was arrested. Even today, he said doctors have not fully diagnosed what type of personality disorder Vidinhar might have.
"All we know now is we have an immature kid who has some problems," Utzinger said. "And unfortunately now is even less likely to receive (treatment) at the prison. I think he's a kid who has a lot of serious mental health issues that we don't understand at this point.
"I think he's still a kid who doesn't quite grasp how serious things are. He doesn't know how to articulate his feelings. And unfortunately I think when you have those sort of mental illnesses, an inability to articulate how you feel translates into a coldness that I hope is not really there," Utzinger said.
As for sending Vidinhar — who turned 17 just a couple of weeks ago — to the Utah State Prison, Utzinger said he doesn't believe it's the right thing to do but recognizes the state has no option.
"I don't think any 17-year-old ought to be in the prison," he said. "The difficulty that the judge is in and the system is in is there's no realistic alternative when someone is acting out violently. We need to have a better system, and we don't have it."
Hamilton concurred as he announced his sentence that the court had no choice in its action.
"Aza has a long road ahead of him here. Unfortunately, it's not going to be easy for him," he said.
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