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West Valley man admits stabbing woman, hiding body in shed

Justin VanCleave, 20.
Justin VanCleave, 20.
Salt Lake County Jail

SALT LAKE CITY — A West Valley man has pleaded guilty to repeatedly stabbing a woman he shared a house with, then hiding her body in a shed.

Justin VanCleave, 20, pleaded guilty last month to murder, a first-degree felony, in the May 2016 death of Amanda Garcia, 33. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dismissed a charge of obstructing justice, a second-degree felony.

A sentencing hearing for VanCleave will be scheduled Sept. 29. He faces a potential prison sentence of 15 years to life.

VanCleave, who was 18 at the time, lived in the house at 2960 Mountain Goat Way (7170 West) with his mother, three brothers and Garcia, but court documents do not specify his relationship with Garcia.

Officers were called to the house May 23, 2016, and discovered "bloody drag marks on the steps and patio leading from the house to the backyard," as well as a bag containing bloody towels, clothing and a knife inside a shed behind the house, charging documents state.

VanCleave's mother told police that she received a phone call from Garcia about 11 a.m. while she was at work that day, and she could hear her son in the background. Shortly after, the mother received a text message from her son saying Garcia had left the house, according to the charges. When the mother returned home, VanCleave was in the shower.

Three friends who went to the house told police VanCleave had told them he stabbed Garcia with a kitchen knife and showed them her body. Charging documents indicate "VanCleave asked them to help him dispose of the body, but they refused."

VanCleave later told police he stabbed Garcia in the bathroom, then cleaned it up and put her body in the shed, according to the charges. Police say he then told them where to find the knife he used and the clothing he had been wearing.