Phillip Michael Leishman has pleaded guilty to the gang-related slayings of two people in retaliation for a car theft.
Leishman, 20, acknowledged the slayings of Derek "Snyper" Shaw and Michael Allgier were committed in retaliation for the theft and vandalism of a car belonging to Summer Johnson, 16.Johnson is charged with two counts of first-degree felony murder for allegedly ordering the killings. Also charged is Denny Duke Kandt, 20, who allegedly covered the rear of the building with a sawed-off rifle but fired no shots. Johnson and Kandt are awaiting trials and could face up to life in prison if convicted.
As the trigger man, Leishman was charged with two counts of capital murder and faced a possible death-penalty conviction. He pleaded guilty Monday under an agreement that he is to be sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
To give Leishman's defense team time to prepare mitigation evidence - as required in capital cases - sentencing was set for Sept. 1 by 3rd District Judge Sandra Peuler. Meanwhile, Leishman is serving prison time for a drive-by shooting in an unrelated case.
Prosecutor Michael Christensen said the plea bargain deal was approved by the victims' families.
Christensen estimated Leishman will serve at least 40 years before being paroled.
Leishman confessed to police after his arrest, and is now feeling remorse for his actions, as well as depression, Christensen said. Leish-man told the judge Monday he had been taking Prozac.
According to preliminary hearing testimony, Johnson believed Shaw had stolen her Saturn and ripped out the radio. Shaw purportedly offered to return the car for $100.
Witness Thomas Ferry, 14, said he knew the real car thieves and Shaw was not involved.
Ferry testified that on Jan. 19, 1997, Johnson - driving the recovered Saturn - took Ferry, Leishman and Kandt to where Shaw lived in West Valley City. Johnson and Ferry waited in the car in the parking lot while Leishman went to the front of the apartments and Kandt covered the rear.
Not knowing which unit was Shaw's, Leishman asked Allgier, who had just arrived. Allgier said he was going to visit Shaw and told Leishman to come along.
When Allgier knocked on the apartment door, Shaw answered. Leishman quickly shot Allgier in the back of the head and fired two shots at Shaw, hitting him in the leg and head. Allgier, 19, died instantly. Shaw, 24, died on the way to the hospital.