A Salina woman who is accused of the beating death of an elderly man was bound over for trial at the end of a daylong preliminary hearing recently in 6th District Court.
Cindy Johnson, 34, pleaded not guilty to the Dec. 28 killing of Dean V. Nielsen, 70, while at his apartment in Salina. She is charged with first degree felony murder and, if convicted, could receive a life sentence.Three days were set aside for the trial, March 2, 3 and 4, to be held at the Sevier County Justice Complex in Richfield. The preliminary hearing began early Thursday morning and continued until 6:30 p.m., following a parade of 17 witnesses, four for the prosecution and 13 for the defense.
Sevier County attorney Don Brown is leading the prosecution while court-appointed attorney Douglas Neely of Manti is council for Johnson. Judge Kay L. McIff will preside at the trial.
Nielsen's body was discovered by deputy sheriff Charles Ogden and Salina police officer Bill Hales. Nielsen was sitting in a recliner chair in his apartment at Maple Drive Apartments in Salina when he was killed. Officers said there was no doubt that he had been beaten to death with a blunt instrument, probably a baseball bat, and had been struck at least eight times.
The defendant had lived in the same apartment complex as Nielsen and had frequently visited him, officers said. They believed the motive for the slaying was to obtain prescription drugs from the victim. He had been living alone since the death of his wife and had been taking percocet, morphine and other drugs because of the pain he suffered from a crushed hip.
Sevier County Sheriff's Lt. Delbert Lloyd said most of Nielson's drugs were missing. An empty prescription bottle that had contained medication used by the elderly man was found near a river along with other items that had belonged to him.
Johnson has been held in the Sevier County Jail since her arrest in lieu of $500,000 bail. She waived her right to have a preliminary hearing within 10 days during the Jan. 6 arraignment before Judge David Mower. Her attorney requested a delay in the hearing pending results of an autopsy by the Utah Medical Examiner's office and investigative reports of law enforcement officers.