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Hearing set for former security guard charged with murdering homeless man

Timothy Richard Lutes has pleaded not guilty to murder.

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Timothy Richard Lutes

Salt Lake County Jail

SALT LAKE CITY — More than two years after he was charged with fatally shooting a homeless man in the back, the murder case against a former security guard is moving forward in court.

A judge on Thursday scheduled an October preliminary hearing for Timothy Richard Lutes in a case that prompted greater training requirements for security guards at state buildings.

Lutes, 28, is accused of killing Thomas Ray Stanfield as Stanfield was walking away at dawn following a fistfight with Lutes on June 20, 2018.

Defense attorney Michael Peterson said he and prosecutors have not yet agreed on terms of a possible plea bargain, but his client is “still hopeful that perhaps we can reach a resolution with the state.”

Lutes appeared in a mask over a video from Salt Lake County Jail during the brief hearing in 3rd District Court.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder, a first-degree felony.

Peterson said he would like the hearing to be held in person, a change from the current protocol of holding court proceedings remotely amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“I can’t make any promises about that,” said 3rd District Judge Randall Skanchy. “It continues to look less and less likely.”

Deputy Salt Lake County District Attorney Chou Chou Collins said her office plans to file additional counts of illegal discharge of a firearm.

At the time of the shooting, the plaza outside the Department of Workforce Service building in downtown Salt Lake City was closed to the public to deter camping and loitering. Stanfied’s family has said they believe he wanted to be first in line when the agency opened so he could try to find a job.

After coming across Stanfield, Lutes set his flashlight to strobe and reengaged him in the confrontation multiple times, prosecutors say. Lutes told investigators Stanfield took his holster and pointed Lutes’ own firearm at him, according to police. Surveillance video shows Stanfield tossing Lutes’ empty gun holster aside, then walking away.

Police have not said whether Stanfield was armed. His daughter has said he was not.

Stanfield’s mother, Connie Elison, sued Lutes, the security firm he worked for, Citadel, and the state, alleging wrongful death and violation of her son’s civil rights.

A judge dismissed the suit last month after the parties reached a settlement, said Bob Sykes, Elison’s attorney. He declined to say how much money his client was awarded or whether each defendant chipped in.

Stanfield’s family believed he was taking steps toward a better life at the time he was killed, Sykes added, saying “they felt he was on a road to change.”