Edward Linsmier, Deseret Morning News
Richard Stuart Carlson appears in court Tuesday. He has been unable to pay for his attorney.

FARMINGTON — A Layton man charged with killing his wife and putting her body in the bathtub to make it look like an accident lost his attorney Tuesday because he said he cannot get money freed up from his Air Force pension to pay for legal help.

At the same time, Richard Stuart Carlson, 52, does not qualify for taxpayer-funded legal aid because he owns a home, two cars and receives a monthly pension check of $2,800.

He is currently being held in the Davis County Jail on charges of first-degree felony murder and second-degree felony obstruction of justice.

Second District Judge Michael Allphin granted a motion by defense attorney Greg Skordas to withdraw from the case after hearing descriptions of miscommunication about payment. Davis County Attorney William McGuire did not object to Skordas withdrawing, but noted that the victims deserve to have the case move forward.

Carlson told the judge he has tried unsuccessfully for an "assignment" of his pension check to pay for attorneys' fees, but it has not worked out. He said his brother-in-law in Massachusetts has tried to help, but even with power of attorney, cannot get the financial situation straightened out.

Carlson said he cannot sell his house because there is a lien on it that he didn't know about previously and his two cars are old and would not fetch much, leaving his pension as the only income source.

He previously was turned down for free legal help because, with a monthly check of $2,800, he does not qualify as an indigent person.

The judge told Carlson it is important that the case proceed in a timely way for the victims and to preserve the integrity of the criminal justice system, but Carlson will have to provide more than verbal assurances to get private legal help. "Given your income, there's probably a way to do it," Allphin said. "These kinds of cases take a lot of time and resources, and there are not too many criminal defense attorneys who would do it on a promise."

Carlson was supposed to have a preliminary hearing Tuesday, but the judge rescheduled a roll call date for June 21 and said he would set another preliminary hearing about a month beyond that, giving Carlson six weeks to make arrangements.

Carlson is charged in connection with the Feb. 10 death of his wife, Joanne, 48, after a struggle the day before in their home.

Prosecutors say the couple's 19-year-old son was in the house, heard sounds from the bedroom and looked in to see Carlson holding a pillow on his wife's face. Prosecutors also say Carlson, who was wearing a ski mask, put his wife face down in the bathtub and washed her clothes to remove blood stains, while the son called 911 from a neighbor's house.

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