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Sevier County man pleads guilty to lesser charges in fatal brawl

SALT LAKE CITY — A Sevier County man originally charged with murder after police say he shot and killed another man following a fight has pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

William Gene Muir, 42, of Venice, pleaded guilty in 6th District Court Thursday to manslaughter and felony discharge of a firearm, second-degree felonies, in the death of David Rioja, 36.

A jury trial for Muir had been scheduled to begin Monday on a charge of murder, a first-degree felony.

Muir and Rioja got into a heated argument in front of Rioja's house, 190 E. 155 South in Venice, Sevier County, on Nov. 22, 2015, according to investigators.

Rioja's brother told police he heard the fight from inside the house, followed by the sound of a truck leaving, according to search warrant affidavit. About 15 minutes later he heard a truck return and Rioja exclaiming something to the effect of, "What, you going to shoot me now?" the affidavit states.

Moments later, Rioja's brother heard three gunshots, then heard the truck "spin its tires" and leave, according to the warrant. An autopsy later showed that Rioja was shot twice.

Three minutes after Rioja's family called 911, police say Muir also called 911 from his house, located about 10 blocks away, reporting that he had been assaulted with a baseball bat and that he had shot someone. During the call, Muir began crying and handed the phone to his girlfriend to finish the conversation, the warrant states.

The girlfriend told investigators Muir had come home, woke her up and told her "he was tired of getting beat up." The woman said he had a large, bloody wound on his head and injuries to his right forearm and the palms of his hands. He left again and returned later saying "something bad had happened."

Police found a broken wooden handle, like a handle from an ax, with blood on it at the scene of the shooting, which was possibly used to assault Muir and break the windshield of his vehicle, according to court documents.

As he was led from the home to be treated for his injuries before being booked into Sevier County Jail, Muir asked, "Did I kill him?" charging documents state.

Sentencing in the case is scheduled for March 20. Muir faces potential prison sentences of one to 15 years.