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West Jordan man gets life without parole in murder, kidnapping

SALT LAKE CITY — A West Jordan man was sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole for kidnapping and killing a man over an apparent drug debt.

Viliamu Seumanu, 43, pleaded guilty in April to murder, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, first-degree felonies, and obstructing justice, a second-degree felony, for his part in the killing of Cleat Aaron Knight, who was found dead near Snowbasin in January 2014.

The life in prison without parole was for the aggravated kidnapping. Seumanu was also sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for the murder conviction and 15 to life for the second aggravated kidnapping charge. He was also sentenced to one to 15 years in prison for the obstruction charge. All sentences were ordered to run concurrent.

Rudy Bautista, Seumanu's attorney, said he will appeal the sentence.

Seumanu was one of four people arrested and charged in 3rd District Court for Knight's disappearance and death. According to police, Seumanu and three others — Christopher Kim Leech, 36, Tina Maxine Soules, 42, and Theron Myore, 44 — took Knight from West Valley City, transporting him to South Salt Lake and then to the area in Weber County where the man's body was found, not far from a road that leads to Snowbasin.

The dispute stemmed from an unsettled drug debt, according to police.

The group was allegedly holding another man, an acquaintance of Knight, against his will in November 2013 as they discussed killing the man and Knight, according to charging documents. During the conversation Myore reported he had a .40-caliber handgun with him and Soules asked that the man not be killed, the charges state.

The man's hands were bound with wire and he was blindfolded as the group loaded him and Knight into a truck, according to the charges. Seumanu rode in the back of the truck with the men as Myore drove. Soules stayed behind.

After driving to Weber County, the two men were ordered out of the truck and Leech retrieved Myore's gun, the charges state.

Leech reportedly shot Knight in the back, then handed the gun to the second man and told him to also shoot Knight or be killed himself, according to the charges. The man then shot Knight, who was left in the canyon as the rest of the group left, taking the man with them, police said.

After receiving a tip, police found Knight's body on Jan. 2, 2014 in the canyon, his hands still bound with wire.

Leech has also been charged with aggravated murder, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of aggravated robbery, and obstructing justice, all first-degree felonies. He is scheduled to appear in court July 6 to schedule a jury trial.

Soules has pleaded not guilty to murder and two counts of aggravated kidnapping, all first-degree felonies. Her next hearing has not been scheduled.

Myore is also charged with murder and two counts of aggravated kidnapping, all first-degree felonies. A change of plea hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 3.

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com, Twitter: McKenzieRomero