A judge has upheld prosecutors' decision to upgrade manslaughter charges to murder charges for a man accused of causing a crash that killed two 3-year-old boys who were playing in an Eagle Mountain corral.

Attorneys for Kent Cody Barlow, 27, contested the upgrade. He attended Thursday's hearing remotely from the Utah State Prison, where he is being held on a conviction in another case. He was on parole for that case when the crash occurred.

Barlow was previously ordered to stand trial for two counts of manslaughter, a second-degree felony, and possession or use of a controlled substance, a class A misdemeanor. Recently, the Utah County Attorney's Office upgraded those charges to two counts of murder, a first-degree felony.

He is accused of causing the deaths of Odin Jeffrey Ratliff and Hunter Charlie Jackson. The 3-year-old boys died after a car crashed into Cedar Valley Stables on May 2, 2022. Witnesses testified that Barlow was showing off his car and driving fast when he lost control and the car went off the road and into the corral.

Fourth District Judge Robert Lund said it is the prerogative of prosecuting attorneys to decide which charges to file, but warned deputy Utah County attorney Ryan McBride that the change in charges could potentially create issues on appeal.

The judge said although the new charges increase potential penalties, the information on which the case is based has not changed, which minimizes any prejudice against Barlow.

Defense attorney Benjamin Aldana argued there were "due process issues" with the upgraded charges because there was no new information to justify the change. He said prosecutors filed the more severe charges because a new county attorney was just elected and the new administration had "buyer's remorse" about the manslaughter charges.

He also accused prosecutors of withholding evidence, saying he received a new report on Feb. 17, 2023, indicating Barlow was going 123 mph before the crash — a significant variation from the last report indicating his speed was between 80 mph and 100 mph. Aldana called the new information an "ambush."

In March, a spokesman for the Utah County Attorney's Office said the key to the upgraded charges was an allegation of "depraved indifference to human life." After Utah County Attorney Jeff Gray took office, he took a look at the Barlow case with a fresh set of eyes. From Gray's perspective, Barlow knowingly engaged in conduct that showed a depraved indifference to life, the spokesman said.

With the new charges, Aldana also argued that keeping the same trial date in October would be prejudicial to his client, and asked for the trial to be delayed until spring of 2024 so he could have the option to bring the jury to the crash site.

Lund said there should be enough time to prepare, but he did move the trial to Jan. 8, 2024.

Although the altered charges were filed months after a preliminary hearing in the case was held, Lund said prosecutors had a reason to wait for a ruling on Barlow's motion not to admit evidence from Barlow's blood test at trial. In a hearing on Feb. 23, Lund ruled that such evidence could be used in trial — overruling Aldana's claims that the process for the warrant breached Barlow's constitutional rights.

At Thursday's hearing, the attorneys seemed to agree that manslaughter, the original charge, will be presented to the jury as a "lesser included" option, meaning the jury would have an option of convicting him of manslaughter if it felt he wasn't guilty of murder.

Barlow is scheduled to be back in court on June 28 for a preliminary hearing on the two murder charges.