WEST JORDAN — Troy Morley took a long pause when a judge asked him Monday if he was pleading guilty to child kidnapping because he was in fact guilty of that crime.
"Yes, your honor, I am," he said.
On Monday, Morley, who turns 49 in a week, accepted a plea deal in the kidnapping case of a 5-year-old Sandy girl in November.
Morley pleaded guilty to child kidnapping in 3rd District Court. As part of the deal, additional charges of burglary, a second-degree felony; criminal trespass, a class A misdemeanor; and interfering with an officer, a class B misdemeanor, were dropped.
When he is sentenced Oct. 26, Morley faces a minimum of six years in the Utah State Prison and could be sentenced to life. Under state law, when Morley is released from prison he will be required to register with the Utah Sex Offender Registry because a child was kidnapped. The young girl was not sexually assaulted. Morley indicated in court Monday that he had concern about having to register as a sex offender.
Stephanie Edson, the mother of the young girl Morley took, frequently used a tissue to wipe away tears In court Monday as he pleaded guilty.
"As a mother, you want to protect your child and you want to make sure that she has the best outcome of the situation possible. So we're glad that this is moving forward toward closure," she said. "It's a very difficult situation."
On Nov. 4, Morley randomly entered the Sandy home of Aaron and Stephanie Edson after finding an unlocked door. Morley had no prior connection to the family. He found Lainey Edson asleep in her basement room, then asked the young girl to go with him. Prosecutors say Morley carried the young girl out of the room.
Aaron Edson was in his bed when he heard his daughter's voice. He ran outside just as Morley reached the edge of the driveway with Lainey in his arms. Edson asked Morley what he was doing. Morley said he was in trouble and if he had the girl with him that "they" wouldn't kill him. Edson then extended his arms and Morley handed Lainey back to her father without any further confrontation.
In court on Monday, Morley admitted that he was driving from Nevada back to his home in Roy that night and had been using drugs. He eventually pulled over and stopped in Sandy near 10600 South an Automall Drive because he couldn't drive anymore.
Neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys discussed Monday what kind of drugs Morley was using or in what quantity. But both sides believed drugs played a big role in what happened.
"I think this plea represents the best situation we could hope for Troy given the facts of the case. If he had gone to trial and lost the consequences would have basically taken away the rest of his life. This gives him a chance at starting over. He's been a good citizen prior to all this. He has no criminal history. He's going to have a chance to come out of prison at some point and have some kind of a life," defense attorney Roger Kraft said. "I think all of us firmly believe, including the state, that he didn't have any malicious intent to hurt a child that evening."
Neither the state nor defense attorneys could say Monday what was going through Morley's head that night.
"What I believe is that a child kidnapping happened. Now, the exact motive of it? We don't know," said Nathan Evershed with the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office who called the plea deal "just" and "fair."
Morley's father also attended Monday's hearing. Outside the courtroom, he said he didn't agree with the conviction.
"He isn't guilty, because he didn't even know what the hell he was doing. He was under a drug," Gary Stokes told reporters.
The Edsons said they would reserve most of their comments for sentencing."We are so very emotional. But we are relieved that there is an end in sight. And we are very happy with the way the state has handled the prosecution and we are comfortable with this outcome. We are looking forward to sentencing," Aaron Edson said.
When asked how Lainey was doing, he replied, "She is as well as can be expected and we're hoping that this will help us just move on."