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Ex-Utah guardsman pleads guilty in stepdad’s beating death

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Jace Zeeman

Jace Zeeman

Utah County Jail

PROVO — A former Utah National Guardsman who prosecutors say beat his stepfather to death in 2017 has admitted to a reduced charge of homicide.

Jace Zeeman, 29, was charged in January 2018 with murder, a first-degree felony, after police said he fought with Brandon Bourgeois, 47, in order to defend his mother. But Zeeman ultimately used more force than would be expected to protect himself, investigators wrote in an affidavit.

On June 20, Zeeman pleaded guilty to domestic violence homicide by assault, a third-degree felony, court records show. A trial had been scheduled to begin next week.

Zeeman, a former member of the Utah National Guard, was honorably discharged in November 2018, Major D.J. Gibb said Monday. A felony conviction would preclude him from rejoining the group, Gibb added. Zeeman had enlisted in 2012.

According to a police affidavit, Zeeman went to his mother's house after being ordered to leave his own home following an intoxicated argument with his wife on Aug. 27, 2017. Later on, about 3 a.m., an argument among several family members unfolded in his mother's American Fork home.

When Bourgeois started arguing with his mother, Zeeman told police he stepped in the middle to try to calm the situation, court documents say.

After Bourgeois hit Zeeman in the face, Zeeman struck back, knocking his stepfather to the ground and continuing to hit him, court records say. When the blows stopped, "the victim was not breathing and had no pulse," according to amended charges filed last month. Bourgeois later died of a brain injury sustained in the confrontation.

Witnesses told police "the fighting never stopped until the police arrived."

Two other charges of domestic violence in the presence of a child, a third-degree felony, were dismissed. Sentencing is Aug. 8.

For the fight with his wife, Zeeman admitted to criminal mischief, class A misdemeanor, in South Jordan Justice Court in 2017. Last month, he pleaded guilty to the an additional criminal mischief charge in a separate domestic violence case.

He also was one of three men charged with trapping a buck deer and killing it in a backyard, but his charge was dismissed last month as part of the deal with prosecutors in the homicide case.