PROVO — A Lindon man accused of trying to hunt down and kill his ex-wife pleaded guilty Monday to murdering her new husband instead.
Fred Lee, 62, was originally charged with aggravated murder, potentially a capital offense, in the death of Mike Sidwell, 42. As part of a deal with prosecutors, Lee pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of murder, a first-degree felony, as well as aggravated burglary, a first-degree felony; stalking, a second-degree felony; and commission of domestic violence in the presence of a child, a third-degree felony.
In plea documents filed Monday, Lee admitted that in July 2014 he went seeking out his ex-wife, Joy Sidwell, despite a stalking injunction that had been in place for nine months prohibiting Lee from contacting the woman or her husband. Lee said he intended to kill the woman.
When he arrived at the house, Lee said, "I reached my arm inside the home and fired a handgun."
Two shots struck and killed Mike Sidwell. Lee said he then went into the house searching for Joy Sidwell.
A 5-year-old granddaughter who was in the house at the time witnessed Lee's attack, plea documents state.
After searching the home, Lee went to another unit in the building as he continued looking for his ex-wife, firing his gun through the door before kicking it in.
Prosecutors had said in September 2014 they intended to seek a death penalty if Lee was convicted.
In February 2015, Lee was found to have a cognitive disorder, according to court documents, and was deemed incompetent for the case to proceed. Findings by three psychiatrists who evaluated Lee suggested the Lindon man wasn't able to communicate with his attorney to prepare a defense, couldn't comprehend the potential penalties he faced if convicted and would likely be confused in a courtroom setting.
After treatment at the Utah State Hospital, Lee was found competent to face the charges in May.
In exchange for Lee's guilty plea, prosecutors dismissed five additional counts against him: attempted murder, a first-degree felony; two counts of aggravated burglary, a first-degree felony; and two counts of aggravated assault, a third-degree felony.
Prosecutors will recommend that the sentences in the case run consecutively, meaning he could face at least 21 years and up to life in prison.
Sentencing is set for July 31.