OGDEN — It took 21 years to charge Wade Garrett Maughan with murder, five years to take him to trial and two words to settle it all.
"Not guilty" was the unanimous verdict handed down after nearly six hours of deliberation by a jury of eight women and one man.
The family of Bradley Newell Perry, 22, who was killed in 1984, was too shocked and disappointed to even react.
Maughan, 54, was the second man to be charged in connection with Perry's death. Originally charged with capital murder, defense attorneys reduced the charge to murder, a second-degree felony, after prosecutors failed to get the death penalty in the case of Maughan's co-defendant, Glenn Howard Griffin, 52.
Griffin was found guilty and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in 2008.
In Maughan's case, it came down to his confessions. All of them.
Prosecutors said Maughan, a friend of Griffin's, confessed to the murder a number of times — both in written statements and in conversations with friends and police. But defense attorneys contend that Maughan was under so much pressure from police that he confessed in an effort to be compliant and avoid the threat of death.
Maughan was charged in 2005 with the 1984 slaying of Perry, who was working at a family-owned convenience store and gas station in Box Elder County. Perry had taken on the graveyard shift to save money for college.
Perry was found stabbed and bound with an extension cord after some passing Utah State University students were suspicious of an especially attentive attendant who gave them a dollar bill with blood on it, and they alerted authorities. A DNA test of the blood years later led police to Griffin, and the case was reopened. Authorities believe the two men killed Perry in a robbery gone wrong.
Investigators focused in on Maughan soon after reopening the case, and he penned two separate confessions, said prosecutor Brad Smith. But defense attorney Richard Mauro said Maughan issued the confession only after authorities repeatedly told him he had been named by Griffin and was facing the death penalty if convicted.
"There is no physical evidence of any of this stuff," Mauro told jurors. "Wade gives them terrible historical information until it gets to the point where Wade says, 'Why don't you just tell me what I did?' and they start feeding him facts that he adopts as his own."
Beyond reiterating that there was no physical evidence placed at the "violent" crime scene, Mauro said there have been as many 20 separate bogus confessions to the murder.
Smith argued that Maughan's claim that he merely folded under interrogation was a lie, as is his denial of guilt.
After hearing the decision, Smith, who worked on Maughan's case for five years and stayed on even after leaving the Box Elder County Attorney's Office, said only, "It's the jury's verdict."
Mauro said his client was pleased with the news, as was he.
"We never thought Wade was guilty from the beginning, and we're happy that the jury returned that in their verdict," he said.
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