AMERICAN FORK — A 23-year-old Vernal man accused of murder in the death of a former BYU professor is still mulling whether to withdraw his guilty plea or just be sentenced.
"That's what we're working with right now — whether he's going to attempt to withdraw his plea or stick with the deal he entered into," defense attorney Aaron Dodd said Tuesday.
Benjamin Rettig, 23, pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and aggravated kidnapping, both first-degree felonies, in a plea deal that reduced the murder charge from a capital offense, which could have led to the death penalty.
Rettig and Martin Cameron Bond, 24, were both charged with the December 2010 killing of retired BYU professor Kay Mortensen after a cache of firearms belonging to Mortensen was found at Bond's Vernal home.
Just before Rettig was sentenced, though, he wrote a letter to 4th District Judge Thomas Low saying that his attorneys pressured him into taking the plea deal and that lied in court about the facts of the case. Multiple hearings have been held since and Rettig has yet to make a decision as to what he wants to do next.
Prosecutor Tim Taylor said until a sentence is pronounced, Rettig can ask to withdraw his plea. It would be up to the judge to allow it or not.
Another hearing on the matter is set for Oct. 4.
Mortensen was found with his throat slit and his arms tied behind his back in his Payson home. His son and daughter-in-law arrived at the home when the slaying and robbery was in progress and eventually found the man's body.
Police said they gave conflicting accounts of the event and they were eventually charged in Mortensen's death. But they were released and the charges dismissed after a tip from Bond's ex-wife led police to Rettig and Bond.
Last week following a preliminary hearing, Bond was ordered to stand trial on charges of aggravated murder, a capital offense, three counts of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery, all first-degree felonies.