PROVO — Murder charges filed Wednesday describe the violent death of a homeless man as a "near decapitation" and say he may have been targeted because he wouldn't commit to starting a new street gang.
Enmanuel Depaz, 18, is charged in 4th District Court with murder, a first-degree felony, in the death of 24-year-old Ammon Brown on Nov. 21.
Court documents say Brown's body was discovered by a railroad employee near 1640 S. State in a wooded transient camp near the tracks. Police immediately ruled out suicide because of the extensive nature of Brown's injuries.
"(There) were multiple deep lacerations and blunt force trauma to the victim's head and face, and a laceration to the victim's throat, which was so deep that it transected the throat completely and to a point of near decapitation," court documents state.
A preliminary autopsy report concluded Brown "probably knew the assailant" because he didn't have any "defensive wounds" on his hands and appeared to have been attacked from behind, charges state.
Surveillance images from the area show Brown with two other people at the Provo Food and Care Coalition several blocks away a few hours before he was found dead. The same two people were at the Provo FrontRunner station later that day after the time police believe Brown was killed, court documents say.
Utah Transit Authority police were viewing a live feed on Nov. 23 when they spotted Depaz at a train station with his girlfriend in Salt Lake County, according to the charges. They identified him as one of the men in the surveillance video and arrested him.
Depaz allegedly admitted to being at Brown's tent in the transient campsite on the day in question. The tent was about 75 to 100 feet from where Brown's body was found.
UTA police were able to identify the third individual in the group as a 16-year-old boy. The teen told police he was with Brown and Depaz on the day of the murder and had visited the transient camp in Provo.
"While (Depaz) and (the) juvenile were together but not in earshot of the victim, (Depaz) was complaining about the victim not wanting to be part of their 'gang' any longer," charges state.1 comment on this story
An investigation into the circumstances of Brown's death is still ongoing.
Depaz is also charged with three second-degree felony counts and one class A misdemeanor count of obstructing justice; possession of a forged writing, and two counts of possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person, all third-degree felonies; and possession of a dangerous weapon with intent to assault, a class A misdemeanor.
Depaz, who is believed to be a transient, pleaded guilty in September to giving a false personal identity to a police officer, court records show. He was charged on Oct. 28 with misdemeanor retail theft, and a warrant was issued for his arrest in that case on Nov. 10. Charges indicate he was also convicted of assault by a prisoner while he was a juvenile.
Depaz is currently being held in the Utah County Jail. He is scheduled to be in court Dec. 5.