Christensen murder trail scheduled for February
By Suzanne Dean
MANTI—Sanpete County may see its first full-dress murder trial in more than 20 years next February.
Ironically, there is a chance the defendant, Anthony Christensen, could be sentenced to prison on other charges before the trial date. But the trial on homicide and related charges would still go forward.
Christensen is charged in the apparent beating death of Kammy Mae Edmunds on March 31, 2017 in Mt. Pleasant. Christensen and Edmunds were living together at the time.
At the time of her death, Edmunds was 34 and the mother of two. Her mother, Tammy Coates of Spring City, later launched the Kammy Mae Foundation to raise awareness of domestic violence and help victims leave abusive relationships.
Christensen is facing charges of homicide, a first-degree felony; obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony; and abuse or desecration of a body, a third-degree felony.
A final pretrial conference was held last Wednesday, Nov. 20 in 6th District Court. At the conference, Judge Wallace Lee set Jan. 2 as final date for hearing any pretrial motions from both Christensen’s attorney and the county attorney.
The two sides also agreed to ask the court to call a pool of 150 potential jurors and discussed screening questions that could be posed to the jurors.
The trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 4, 2020. “We’re planning on a full, three-week trial,” said Wes Mangum, deputy county attorney.
In mid-October, Richard Gale, the public defender representing Christensen, informed the court his client had rejected a plea agreement that would have resolved all charges against him.
“My client, after having discussed the matter and the state’s offer with him, has decided he does not accept the state’s offer at this time,” Gale told Judge Lee.
While in jail on homicide charges, Christensen has been charged with assaulting two other inmates. Ordinarily, both of the charges would be third-degree felonies. The maximum penalty for a third-degree felony is 0-5 years in prison.
But in 2013, the Utah Legislature passed a statute stating that if a person who has two previous convictions for violent crimes is convicted of additional violent offenses, he or she can be classified as a “habitual violent offender,” and the penalty in the additional cases can be bumped up to a first-degree felony.
Mangum said when the jail assaults came up he started looking into Christensen’s background and found he had a “lengthy criminal record” in Wyoming for violent crimes ranging from domestic assault to strangulation.
His rejection of a plea agreement in October covered the two assault charges as well as the homicide. So the assaults must also go to trials before juries.
“We would have those trials in January before the murder trial,” Mangum said. In each of the cases, if Christensen is found guilty, another hearing would be held to determine if he met the statutory criteria for being a habitual violent offender.
If he did, Mangum said, the convictions for assault by a prison “could be treated for sentencing purposes as a first-degree felony.” A first-degree felony carries a penalty of 5 years to life in prison.