Man suspected of driving dead woman's car in custody

Published: Friday, Feb. 7 2014 12:20 p.m. MST

Murray police believe Christen James Spencer, 49, was driving the car of an 85-year-old woman on the morning she was found dead in her burning Murray house. He was arrested Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, on an unrelated federal warrant by the U.S. Marshal Service.

Salt Lake County Jail

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MURRAY — Police have arrested a man suspected of driving the car of an 85-year-old woman on the morning she was found dead in her burning house.

Christen Spencer, 49, was arrested on a federal warrant by the U.S. Marshal Service on Wednesday night and booked into the Davis County Jail. Spencer was already on the Murray Police Department's radar for its homicide investigation before he was picked up, said Murray police detective Kenny Bass.

Investigators now believe they have enough information to link him to the stolen vehicle, Bass said.

Shirley Sharp was found dead in her house, 20 E. Winchester St. (6400 South), on Jan. 25. An autopsy determined she died from blunt force trauma to her head. Someone also intentionally set a small fire in the bedroom where she was found.

About 30 minutes before her body was discovered, officers from the Utah Transit Authority pulled over a vehicle near 75 W. 5300 South. The driver, however, sped away while he was being questioned. The officers had the license plate number by that point and traced it back to Sharp's house.

Investigators were working Friday to determine whether he is tied to Sharp's death and what kind of evidence they have to justify asking for criminal charges from the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office.

In 2002, Spencer was indicted in federal court for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. He was convicted and sentenced in 2005 to 27 months in federal prison. In 2004, he was indicted federally for possessing stolen mail and identification fraud, according to court records. He was sentenced to eight months in prison to run concurrent with his other federal sentence.

Spencer was convicted in 2012 of an amended charge of attempting to use or possess someone else's bank card, according to court records. In 2001, he was convicted of felony drug possession and sentenced to a year in jail. In 1997 Spencer was convicted of felony forgery and felony theft in another case.

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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