It's an impossible situation for a parent to go through and they're handling it as best they can. —Defense attorney Todd Utzinger
FARMINGTON — A 15-year-old boy facing two counts of murder in the deaths of his two younger brothers will have hearings to determine the strength of evidence against him and whether the teen should be tried as an adult.
Tuesday a preliminary hearing date was set for Aug. 27 by Second District Juvenile Court Judge Janice Frost to review the evidence in support of the murder charges. Once completed, a second hearing will be scheduled to act on a motion by prosecutors to have the teenager stand trial as an adult.
The 15-year-old has been charged in the deaths of Alex Vidinhar, 10, and Benjie Vidinhar, 4, who were found dead in their West Point home on May 22 with "wounds consistent with a stabbing," according to investigators. They were being watched by their older brother while their mother and sisters were away at a dance recital.
When the mother returned home, the bodies of the two boys were discovered. Police searched for several hours before eventually finding the older brother several miles away.
The teenager was flanked by his father and defense attorneys Tuesday. Attorney Todd Sessions said his client would waive his rights on both the timeliness of the preliminary hearing and a trial.
"This is important enough that we need to make sure that we have all the information gathered," he said. "We've talked to (the teenager) and he understands that we need to procedurally do this in a way that looks out for his best interests."
The boys' father, who declined to comment Tuesday, has stated previously that he did not want his teenage son tried as an adult or to face a possible sentence of life in prison without parole. Defense attorney Todd Utzinger said the parent's opinion is "one of many factors" that the judge will consider when determining whether to order the youth to stand trial as a juvenile or as an adult.
He said the judge will look at the teenager's background, the nature of the offense and the resources available to the teenager in both the adult and juvenile systems, among other things, before making decision whether to certify the teen as an adult.
"Our belief is the juvenile should stay in juvenile court," Utzinger said, pointing to his client's age. "He's still mentally developing and has a long ways to go. I think if he were to be put in the adult system it could cause serious harm to his psyche and that whatever issues arise out of this case we think can be adequately addressed in juvenile court."
Under Utah law, people convicted and sentenced in the juvenile system are released from custody when they turn 21, regardless of the crime. A 15-year-old certified to stand trial as an adult, however, would be placed in an adult detention facility, even while still a teen, and could be sentenced to a maximum of life in prison.
Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said when charges were filed that "neither of these alternatives is attractive," but that his office focuses primarily on public safety when making the decision to try and have the teen certified as an adult.
The boy's father has said previously that the family "never imagined something like this could happen," and he believes emotional or mental health issues may have played a role in the incident. Utzinger said the fact that the teenager's father was sitting next to him Tuesday "speaks volumes."
"It's an impossible situation for a parent to be in and I think they're handling it as best they can," he said.