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Brother says southern Utah killing was ‘self-defense — 100%'

Investigators say Sage Daves then ‘shot 17 rounds at Lemuel, striking him multiple times. Lemuel had bullet wounds in his left leg, left arm, abdomen, shoulders, chest, and head’

SHARE Brother says southern Utah killing was ‘self-defense — 100%'

The brother of a Colorado man charged with murder in a weekend shooting death in Monticello says he believes the killing was in self-defense.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

The brother of a Colorado man accused of fatally shooting another man in Monticello over the weekend says he believes his brother was only trying to defend himself and his family.

"It was self-defense — 100%," Wade Daves told KSL.com Wednesday.

On Monday, Sage Jennings Daves, 22, who lives in Dove Creek, Colorado, was charged in 7th District Court with murder, a first-degree felony; plus trespassing, marijuana possession and possession of drug paraphernalia, class B misdemeanors.

Wade Daves, however, disputes several of the allegations listed in an arrest report filed by a San Juan County sheriff's deputy. He says the victim, Lemuel Prion, 61, had been harassing his family for months and demanding "payment" from his father, even though he said Prion did not own the land where the confrontation took place.

Sage Daves' father called his son about 8:40 a.m. on Sunday, "saying Lemuel was causing issues at their property," according to a police booking affidavit.

Wade Daves says Prion had been squatting on property owned by a third party that is adjacent to Daves family property. Wade Daves said the problems with Prion included him driving over the gate dividing the two properties, taking out the posts in the process, and doing "doughnuts" on his family's land. Last winter, he claims Prion released his father's horses from their corral.

He said Sage Daves was going to drive from his work in Dove Creek, Colorado, to try and talk to Prion.

"He said, 'I've got to go take care of this and calm him down.'"

The affidavit says Sage Daves "drove about 20 miles to Lemuel Prion's residence" and "while they were talking, Lemuel threatened to burn Sage's family alive. Lemuel then picked up a pitchfork and came after Sage saying, 'I'm going to gut you.'"

"Lem picked up that pitchfork and he took off running for Sage," Wade Daves said. "Sage ran for the truck to try and get out of there."

But because his brother owns an older vehicle, Wade Daves said the truck wouldn't start right away. Meanwhile, Prion was allegedly still advancing with a pitchfork.

According to the affidavit: "Sage then states Lemuel stabbed the front of his truck with the pitchfork and continued to threaten Sage. Sage pointed the gun at Lemuel to get him to stop, but Lemuel instead lunged at Sage with the pitchfork."

Investigators say Sage Daves then "shot 17 rounds at Lemuel, striking him multiple times. Lemuel had bullet wounds in his left leg, left arm, abdomen, shoulders, chest, and head. Lemuel succumbed to the gunshot wounds and died on the scene," according to the arrest report.

Wade Daves disputes some of those findings.

"My brother did not fire 17 shots," he said. "I counted the casings."

He also says his brother told him Prion lunged directly at Sage Daves with the pitchfork and not at the truck. Wade Daves was not present when the shooting occurred, but arrived at the scene shortly after. He described his brother as being in "shock."

"I was so scared," Wade Daves says his brother told him when he arrived. "I didn't know what to do. He came at me with that pitchfork. I was scared, but I couldn't get out of there fast enough. I didn't pull the trigger until he lunged at me," while adding that his brother stated he "pulled the trigger until the gun was empty."

Wade Daves says "there was no property dispute" and that his brother was simply acting in self-defense. He described his brother as "one of the nicest people around" and a "hard working man" who does jobs in construction, farming and ranching.

"My brother has no criminal record, has never been in trouble. He's not a bad guy," he said.

On the other hand, Wade Daves pointed to Prion's criminal history, which is extensive. In 1994, Prion was convicted of three crimes in two cases — aggravated assault, being a drug dealer without affixing a tax stamp and possession of a weapon in a correctional facility — being found guilty and mentally ill. He was sentenced to a total of 15 years at the Utah State Prison. Prion's defense had requested probation, but the judge ruled that Prion's history indicated that he posed a risk for "serious violent behavior," according to a court docket.

In 1992, Prion was accused of murdering and dismembering a 19-year-old woman in Tucson, Arizona after the victim's severed arms were found in a dumpster. He was convicted in 1999, but the Arizona Supreme Court unanimously overturned his conviction in 2002.

The last time Prion was in the custody of the Utah Department of Corrections was May 2012.

Neither the San Juan County Attorney's Office nor the San Juan County Sheriff's Office immediately responded to KSL.com's requests for comment.