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Teen accused of rape, attempted murder of Sandy jogger bound over for trial

WEST JORDAN — A teen accused of raping and attempting to kill a 50-year-old woman out jogging in a Sandy park was bound over for trial Tuesday.

Testifying during the preliminary hearing in juvenile court, the woman described how the teen lured her to stop on the trail by saying he needed help. She did all she could to fight him as he dragged her out of sight and "overpowered" her.

Before the teen's strangle-hold on her throat pushed her to unconsciousness, the woman said a grim thought came to her mind.

"I cannot believe that this is how it ends for me," she recalled thinking. "And I remember the last thought before I blanked out, it really happened quickly … I remember thinking, 'How long will it take for them to find me?'"

The boy, 16, faces charges of attempted aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, three counts of aggravated sexual assault and one count of aggravated robbery, all first-degree felonies. Third District Juvenile Judge Renee Jimenez bound the case over for trial on all six charges Tuesday.

Listening to witnesses' testimonies Tuesday, the 16-year-old sat slouched, his head down, often fidgeting with a pencil or the chair next to him. The Deseret News has chosen at this time not to identify the teen.

Before the woman took the stand, reporters were barred from the courtroom while family members among others were allowed to enter. An audio recording of her testimony was permitted, but Jimenez ordered the recording itself not be published or broadcast.

According to the recording of the woman's testimony, the boy, who was 15 at the time, asked to borrow her phone as she was jogging on a trail in Dimple Dell Regional Park.

"It seemed like he needed help, so I stopped," she said.

Once she realized the boy wasn't actually using her phone and she tried to get it back, he dragged her into a ravine where he started beating her, she said.

"How do you explain being on a bike path running one second, and now somebody's punching you, hitting you? I was just, I was in such shock that someone was hitting me like that. I could not believe, especially a male person, hitting a woman like that," she said.

The woman said that at first she fought back and tried to get away, but he "overpowered" her. The boy got "more and more angry," she said, and the attack "got worse by the second."

He then told her, "You will die today," she recalled.

"I thought, 'Okay. This is really bad. This can't be happening. … So I remember squeaking out … I just said, 'I will do whatever you want' to get him to stop," she said. He then pulled her pants down and began to sexually assault and strangle her, she testified.

"I was trying so desperately to breathe," she said.

When she tried to get away, the teen dragged her back into the ravine, hitting her with what she believes was a glass bottle. Another time, he tried to shove a shard of glass into her eye. And each escape attempt brought her further away from the bike path and people, she said.

And then he finally stopped, she said. He looked at her and said, "I can't believe I did this," according to the woman.

"I believe, for me, that it was some kind of divine intervention," she said.

"I just said, 'It's okay. It's okay. I forgive you. I forgive you. Please believe me. I forgive you.' And he was finally calm," the woman recalled.

Then, she felt prompted to run.

Travis Jones, a witness who was in the area at the time, described hearing "blood-curdling screams" and seeing the woman try to run up the trail in apparent distress.

Jones said seeing her trying to run reminded him of a nightmare when you can't get your legs to move fast enough. She was holding her shirt down, Jones said, and appeared to be missing pants.

When she got closer, Jones said he could see marking and bruising around her eyes, and her hair was "a mess."

"It looked like she'd been beat up to me," he stated.

In his testimony, Sandy Police Detective Matthew Crook described how police used surveillance camera footage and still photographs from that day from two TRAX stations and a train that matched the suspect's description, leading them to the then-15 year old.

A resource officer at the boy's school recognized the boy in the photos and contacted police.

Clothes found at the boy's house matched the clothes worn by the attacker, Crook said, and investigators found blond hair — the color of the woman's — on them. He also presented forensic evidence in the case, including DNA results from the woman's rape kit that matched the teen.

In his closing statement, defense attorney Owen Stewart asked the judge to throw out the attempted aggravated murder charge. She did not.

"I don't think the strangulation rose to that level. … This wasn't an attempt to murder her," Stewart said.

Prosecutor Coral Sanchez-Rose disagreed.

Though the boy changed his mind and the woman ultimately survived, that doesn't negate his actions, she argued.

"Here is an individual who has already strangled the victim twice, to the point once where she loses consciousness, and yet he strangles her again. … And when he lets up, when he has her in a chokehold and she can't breathe … he lets up to unleash on her in a different manner," Sanchez-Rose said.

The boy will remain in a juvenile detention facility as prosecutors seek to transfer the case to the adult system. A hearing to schedule those proceedings is set for next Tuesday.

Those who have experienced sexual abuse or assault can be connected to trained advocates through Utah's statewide 24-hour Rape and Sexual Assault Crisis Line at 888-421-1100.