Charges: Uintah County man committed murder while out on bail in rape case
Geoff Liesik, Deseret News
VERNAL — His family posted a $64,000 bail to free him from jail after police say he slapped, choked and sexually assaulted a complete stranger.
As a condition of that bail, a judge ordered him to wear an electronic ankle monitor that would allow officers to pinpoint his location around the clock.
But that didn't stop Jesse Anthony Saenz from killing a man, according to investigators in Uintah County.
Saenz, 23, was charged Thursday with murder, a first-degree felony, theft, a second-degree felony, and possession of a firearm by a restricted person, a second-degree felony.
Saenz and the man he's accused of killing, Elvis Zachary Olsen, became friends while serving time in jail, according to Uintah County Sheriff's Sgt. Leonard Issacson.
On April 21, the two men were alone at the home of Saenz's grandfather when Saenz shot and killed Olsen, Issacson said. He added that a motive for the shooting remains unclear because Saenz has asserted his right to remain silent.
Olsen's body was discovered about 100 feet north of the home. An autopsy showed he had been shot in the chest and the face.
At the time of the shooting, Saenz was facing charges of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, object rape, forcible sodomy and forcible sexual abuse, all first-degree felonies. He was out on bail, but investigators won't say whether he was wearing a court-ordered ankle monitor when Olsen was shot.
"The ankle monitor was taken off the day Elvis died," Issacson confirmed.
After the shooting, Saenz left Utah. He was driving Olsen's car when he was arrested the next day in Glendale, Ariz., according to Uintah County Undersheriff John Laursen.
Authorities said they found a gun and other items in the car that had been stolen from the home of Saenz's grandfather. The gun was sent to the Utah State Crime Lab for testing to determine if it was used to kill Olsen.
The kidnapping and sex assault charges against Saenz stem from a 2012 incident in Vernal.
On June 10, a man living near 50 West and 600 North heard yelling outside his home about 2 a.m. and went to investigate. He witnessed a man smack a woman, then grab her by the throat and drag her into a field, according to charging documents.
The homeowner called 911. Responding officers found the man and woman still in the field. The man — later identified as Saenz — attempted to flee, but a Taser was deployed and he was arrested.
Saenz did not know the woman he is accused of attacking, police said.
During Saenz's first court appearance, 8th District Judge Ed Peterson denied his release on bail, citing his belief that Saenz posed "an immediate danger to the community," court records show.
Judge Clark McClellan, to whom the case was assigned, later set bail at $128,000.
Saenz bailed out on March 13, after his family paid a bail bond company $64,000, well above the 10 percent those companies typically require. He was fitted with an electronic ankle monitor as a condition of his release. He was also given a 9 p.m. curfew and barred from entering the Vernal area, except to appear in court.
After Saenz was released, the woman he is accused of attacking told the Deseret News she feared for her own safety, knowing he was on the streets.
"I don't think it's safe for other people, either," she said. "I have a real hard time with it."
As an adult, Saenz has misdemeanor convictions for theft and interfering with an arresting officer, court records show. His juvenile record, however, shows he was referred to juvenile court in 2007 on allegations of rape of a child and sex with a minor under the age of 16. He was ultimately placed in a secure facility for juveniles.
State court records show Olsen, 22, was also no stranger to police. He pleaded guilty in 2009 to contributing to the delinquency of a minor, in 2011 to unlawful sex with a minor and in 2012 to failure to register as a sex offender.
On Feb. 20, Olsen was sentenced to serve 90 days in jail for violating his probation in the unlawful sex with a minor case.
Uintah County Jail records show he was released four days before his body was found, after receiving credit for time served and time off for good behavior.
Saenz and Olsen were in the jail at the same time. However, Laursen said they were not housed in the same cell block during their most recent incarceration.
Since his return from Arizona, Saenz has been held without bail. His first court appearance on the murder, theft and weapons charges is set for June 4, the same day he is set to appear in court for a hearing in the sexual assault case.
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