ST. GEORGE — A man already charged with killing a pair of women in 2010 pleaded guilty Monday to the kidnapping death of a St. George man less than two months earlier.
That victim was abducted, beaten and then shot in the head in the remote desert of the Arizona Strip.
The federal indictment against Paul Clifford Ashton, 34, was unsealed Monday after he pleaded guilty to kidnapping that resulted in death and discharge of a firearm, both felonies.
Ashton, as part of a plea agreement, will serve up to life in prison for the events that played out when Bradley Eitner, 43, was taken from Ashton's home in St. George on Halloween 2010. Sentencing has not yet been scheduled.
Eitner had fallen asleep or passed out on the couch in Ashton's home, leading him and another individual to lift Eitner off the couch and carry him to Ashton's truck. During the trip, Ashton said he banged Eitner’s head against the frame of the door at least once. He also admitted placing Eitner in the back of the pickup truck and slamming the tailgate against Eitner’s head at least once, according to the plea agreement.
Although the other person pleaded with Ashton to take Eitner to a homeless shelter or hospital, Ashton instead said he was going to smash his head in or beat him with a shovel, documents said. He dropped off that individual, and picked up an accomplice before heading into the secluded desert on the Arizona Strip.
Once there, according to court documents, they helped Eitner out of the truck and the accomplice shot him twice with a rifle. Eitner's body was then pushed off an embankment and left hidden in a rock crevice.
Eitner’s body was discovered March 11, 2011, and an autopsy determined he died from blunt force head trauma and a single gunshot wound to the head.
Ashton and Brandon Smith, 31, are charged in St. George's 5th District Court with two counts of aggravated murder and a count of attempted murder after two women — Jerrica Christensen, 20, and Brandie Sue Dawn Jerden, 27 — were shot to death on Dec. 11, 2010, in their St. George apartment. James Fiske, 28, was also shot during the same incident, but survived.
Ashton is accused of shooting Jerden and also shooting Fiske. Smith is accused of killing Christensen. Both have a review hearing on the charges scheduled for June 12.
In a memorial tribute posted online for Eitner, Sandie Divan said the victim was smart but struggled with his own set of problems.
"Brad wasn't your typical homeless person," she said.
Another poster said he became acquainted with Eitner while Eitner was serving his mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day-Saints.
"Everyone revered him and looked to him as an example and leader. He was very much a scholar of the Bible," he wrote.
The man said he spent time involved with Eitner in a business venture that led him to meet people who ultimately shaped his career as an investor and speaker.
"Brad Eitner touched my life and I would like to think I knew him when he was at his best."Comment on this story
Ashton's past involves other violent incidents and prior felony charges. In 2007, he was shot seven times and left for dead on a back road in Ogden before being found by passers-by.
Ashton was "involved in the drug scene in Ogden. He was involved in a home invasion robbery" where a "meth lab was discovered," according to a police report obtained by the Deseret News.
He was also charged months before the 2010 shootings with felony drug possession and possession with intent to distribute. In 2005, he was charged with two counts of felony unlawful sex with a minor. Both counts were dismissed, according to court records.