A 3rd Circuit judge will wait until February to decide whether enough evidence exists to order a trial for Steven Ray Stout, charged with brutally murdering two West Valley women a year ago.
Prosecutors rested Wednesday afternoon in a daylong preliminary hearing before Judge Eleanor Van Sciver, who granted a defense request to hear motions on Feb. 1 before considering the evidence presented in the hearing.Stout, 32, is accused of killing his ex-wife's stepmother, Bonnie Craft, 41, and Craft's daughter, Maureen Turner, 18, whose bodies were discovered Jan. 22, 1988, in the Craft trailer home, 2801 S. 2540 West.
During Wednesday's hearing, an FBI forensics expert testified that a latent palm print lifted from a broken Pepsi bottle found inside the home matched Stout's right palm print.
Authorities allege the broken bottle was used, along with a ball-peen hammer, to bludgeon the victims, who suffered other life-threatening injuries, according to Edwin Steve Sweeney, former state medical examiner.
Sweeney testified Turner was strangled severely with a blood-stained sweater. She was also stabbed twice in the chest, resulting in punctures to a main chest artery and to the lungs. Additionally, Turner was beaten severely about the head.
Craft was struck at least 17 times in the head with a blunt object, suffering skull fractures and extensive brain damage. She was also stabbed seven times in the back, the pathologist testified.
Sweeney, who said there was no sign the victims had been sexually assaulted, testified the blunt injuries could have been caused by the pop bottle or a hammer, both of which were found at the scene. He said the stab wounds could have been inflicted with either of two knives police linked to the crime scene, he said.
One of those knives was found under the living room couch. Another was found in a cat litter box several days after it had been removed from the home, according to witnesses.
After the knives were examined by Stout and his attorneys, one was placed on the defense table, which unsettled Van Sciver. He interrupted testimony and blurted, "I want that knife off that table right now!"
Under cross examination by public defender Brooke Wells, Sweeney said he could not rule out the possibility that the homicides were committed by a person in a frenzied state of mind.
Although prosecutors did not present all their evidence in the hearing, they allege Stout fled the homicide scene in Craft's car, which was abandoned later in Salt Lake City.
A witness who was acquainted with Stout testified Wednesday that the evening of the slayings, she saw Stout in the "fruits and vegetables" section of a Bountiful grocery store, buying "munchies" and a blanket. Two days later, after seeing news stories on TV, she told her experience to police.
Stout allegedly stole his ex-wife's car from James Craft's business. That car, riddled with bullets and smashed by rocks, was found in West Virginia, where Stout is alleged to have fled after the slayings.
The FBI arrested Sout Dec. 7 in Mississippi after he was featured on the nationally syndicated show "America's Most Wanted." His girlfriend at the time recognized him and turned him in, authorities said.