Facebook Twitter

Police arrest man sought in killing of West High student

‘She had dreams and plans for her future and now they’re gone,’ girl’s mother says

SHARE Police arrest man sought in killing of West High student

SALT LAKE CITY — Shaun French, wanted in the killing of 15-year-old Baleigh Bagshaw, was arrested in Colorado Wednesday after a two-day manhunt, police said.

He was arrested about 11:30 a.m. on U.S. 50 near county Road 13 in southeast Colorado, according to the Otero County Sheriff's Office.

Salt Lake police on Wednesday said they now consider him a suspect in the teenager's death. Previously they insisted he was only a person of interest.

Baleigh's mother, Shawna Bagshaw, said while she remains devastated, she felt some relief after the arrest was made.

"I feel like I can maybe sleep tonight knowing that he is behind bars, but it still doesn't bring back my daughter. There was no reason for him to take her life, if it was him. There was no reason for my daughter to have lost her life, period."

"What I knew of him, I feel like was a big lie," Bagshaw said, referring to French. She declined to elaborate.

Investigators had been looking for French, 24, since Monday when Baleigh arrived home, 1624 W. 500 North, in her Fairpark neighborhood from West High School just after 3 p.m. While she was talking on the phone with her mother, she was brutally attacked by an unknown person, according to police.

French used to live in the same house as Baleigh and her family, investigators confirmed. They declined to say how long or how recently French had lived there, but noted he was not living there at the time of the girl's death.

The suspect's father, Darrell French, said Wednesday that his son lived with Baleigh's family from Christmastime in 2016 until July 2017, when he moved back into his father's home in Evanston before moving out again in November.

Darrell French said he also felt relieved his son was in custody, adding he had been worried about his son's state of mind and what he might do. When he learned his son was being sought by police in connection with the girl's death, he said "It shocked me to a degree … I can't put two and two together."

His son, one of two infant boys he adopted, sometimes struggled as a child, he said.

"People pushed him and stuff like that, because he didn't get along in school well," Darrell French said.

Salt Lake police declined to say whether Shaun French was found with his vehicle that investigators had previously asked the public to be on the lookout for. It was also not known if French, who police said should be considered "armed and dangerous," was found to be in possession of any weapons at the time of his arrest Wednesday.

Investigators will now begin the process of extraditing French back to Utah to face charges. He was charged Tuesday with three counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor, a third-degree felony, for an alleged illegal relationship with Baleigh, but he has not been charged in connection with her death.

The charges were filed in court but were sealed. Court documents indicate that the sexual contact between French and Baleigh happened in February of last year. A $500,000 bail was requested for French.

On Monday, police asked the public to be on the lookout for his camouflage-green, 1991 Daihatsu Rocky SUV with Wyoming plate 19 13974.

A possible motive for the killing had not been revealed as of Wednesday.

Bagshaw said her daughter loved dogs and dreamed of a career training poodles, Bernese mountain dogs and other breeds to be therapy, protection and search-and-rescue animals. The weekend before her death, Baleigh spent time searching for her own protection dog at a dog show, she said.

Her family has several dogs, but Baleigh had two of her own. They are a toy fox terrier named Freedom currently being bred in California, and a 1-year-old border collie mix named Moose, who now appears lost. "He's constantly looking for his owner, his master," Baleigh's mother said.

Four years ago, she added, the family lost Baleigh's father to liver failure. The teen inherited his love of bands AC/DC, Kiss and Nirvana, and often listened to them on YouTube.

"I just want everyone to know that Baleigh was an awesome kid. She did not deserve to die. She had dreams and plans for her future and now they're gone," Bagshaw said. She said Baleigh leaves behind an extended family that is struggling to cope with her death, including her sister Miranda Cannon, a nuclear machinist mate in the U.S. Navy.

Baleigh was set to become an aunt later this month, and had picked out materials and patterns to make a romper and dress for her baby niece, Mia, her mother added.

"I'm not going to be able to see grandchildren from her," she said. "I'm not going to be able to walk her down the aisle when she gets married and give her away. I'm not going to see her graduate from college or high school, because her life was taken way too soon.

A GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for funeral expenses was established in Baleigh's name Tuesday.

Contributing: Jed Boal