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Prosecutors now won't seek death penalty in killing of BYU professor

Published: Saturday, Aug. 1 2015 8:29 p.m. MDT

Kay Sherman Mortensen, a former professor at BYU, was killed in his Payson home. (BYU, ) Kay Sherman Mortensen, a former professor at BYU, was killed in his Payson home. (BYU, )

AMERICAN FORK — When Martin Cameron Bond goes before a jury in January, his life will no longer be on the line.

During a court hearing Tuesday, the death penalty was taken off the table in the case against the 25-year-old man accused of killing retired BYU professor Kay Mortensen. Charged with aggravated murder, prosecutors had already filed notice that they would seek the death penalty, but they decided Tuesday that the only penalty Bond will face if he's convicted will be life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Defense attorneys filed 41 motions last week "questioning the constitutionality of the death sentence and all the normal challenges to it," said Rudy Bautista, Bond's attorney. In court Tuesday the decision was made to remove the death penalty if the only possible sentence that remains is life without parole.

"It's still a very heavy sentence," Bautista said. "It's the second most serious sentence you can get. A life in prison without the possibility of parole is very long and torturous in the prison."

Martin C. Bond appears in 4th District Court in American Fork Dec. 21, 2010. He is charged with aggravated murder in the killing of retired BYU professor Kay Mortensen. Prosecutors announced Tuesday they will not seek the death penalty. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Martin C. Bond appears in 4th District Court in American Fork Dec. 21, 2010. He is charged with aggravated murder in the killing of retired BYU professor Kay Mortensen. Prosecutors announced Tuesday they will not seek the death penalty. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

But the agreement satisfies both the interests of justice and the desire to curtail the often long process of pursuing the death penalty, he said. Defense attorneys were already planning to ask for a six month continuance of the trial. Now, Bautista said, they won't have to.

"It takes the pressure of the risks and the workload of dealing with a death sentence possibility (away)," he said. "It takes into account, also, Mr. Bond's lack of criminal history — it takes it all into account."

Calls to prosecutors for comment were not returned Tuesday.

Mortensen, 70, was killed in his Payson home on Nov. 16, 2009. Bound with zip ties and with a gun to his head, he was forced to kneel over his bathtub before his throat was slit. Two men from Vernal, Bond and Benjamin Rettig, 25, were charged with the killing.

Martin C. Bond appears in 4th District Court in American Fork March 15, 2011. He is charged with aggravated murder in the killing of retired BYU professor Kay Mortensen. Prosecutors announced Tuesday they will not seek the death penalty. (, Andrew Van Wagenen) Martin C. Bond appears in 4th District Court in American Fork March 15, 2011. He is charged with aggravated murder in the killing of retired BYU professor Kay Mortensen. Prosecutors announced Tuesday they will not seek the death penalty. (, Andrew Van Wagenen)

Prosecutors say Bond slit Mortensen's throat while Rettig held the gun.

Rettig pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and aggravated kidnapping, both first-degree felonies, and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for the murder and 15 years to life in prison for aggravated kidnapping. Fourth District Judge Thomas Low ordered that the sentences run concurrent with one another. The judge issued two fines of $10,000 and restitution in the amount of $10,671.

As part of the plea agreement, it is anticipated Rettig will testify against Bond at trial.

Bautista said he is very grateful to Utah County prosecutors and Mortensen's family for their willingness to eliminate the possibility of the death penalty in Bond's case. He said this should allow the family to see justice sooner.

"It's very gracious of them, for the loss they suffered, to agree to take death off (the table)," he said. "It shows that they're good people, honestly, in my book."

The trial, scheduled to last six days, is set to begin Jan. 14.

E-mail: emorgan@desnews.com

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