A 25-year-old Utah man has admitted to killing a woman without provocation on the first date.
Ethan Hunsaker pleaded guilty and mentally ill Tuesday in Farmington's 2nd District Court to the May 2020 murder of Ashlyn Black.
If a judge agrees that Hunsaker is currently mentally ill, the plea allows him to receive treatment at the state's psychiatric hospital before he begins serving out his sentence in the Utah State Prison. He faces at least 15 years and up to life for the first-degree felony.
Second District Judge David Connors is set to review an evaluation and make a ruling following a hearing Aug. 27.
Hunsaker's mental health at the time of Black's murder isn't a factor. Rather, Connors will make a decision based on his current status.
After meeting on Tinder last year, the pair went to a bar and returned to Hunsaker's home, where he choked and stabbed Black hours later while they were cuddling, court documents say.
Hunsaker called police early on May 24 and reported that he had killed someone he'd met on social media. Theirs was a "normal date," with no argument, Hunsaker told police. Attorneys say Hunsaker has mental illnesses but haven't provided details.
Joshua Egan, an attorney representing Black's family, said Hunsaker's guilty plea provided "tremendous relief" for her loved ones.
Black adored working with children with disabilities, was quick to speak up for others and dreamed of starting a family of her own, according to her family. They have described her as a lover of camping, the band Nirvana, and vintage clothing.
Prosecutors say Hunsaker had thought up ways to kill and kidnap others shortly before Black's death and expressed a desire to have police kill him.
His plea was not part of an agreement with prosecutors and didn't require their approval, deputy Davis County attorney Jason Nelson emphasized after the hearing held via videoconference.
"We never offered a plea deal in this case," Nelson said.
A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.
The Utah Department of Health offers suicide prevention help on utahsuicideprevention.org/suicide-prevention-basics. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255, and help is available through the SafeUT app.
Free and confidential help and support for victims and survivors of domestic violence is available 24/7 at 1-800-897-LINK (5465) or at udvc.org.