A man charged in the kidnapping of a Salt Lake nurse whose body was later found stuffed in a storage container pleaded not guilty Friday in federal court.

Michael J. Doyel, 47, appeared in U.S. District Court to enter a plea of not guilty to the charge of kidnapping in connection with the disappearance of 50-year-old Deborah Jones.

In court Friday, Doyel answered "yes" when he was asked by U.S. District Magistrate Judge Brooke Wells if he had read the criminal charge against him and understood it.

Wells then asked Doyel to stand with his attorney and enter his plea, which was not guilty.

If convicted, Doyel faces a mandatory life sentence if it can be proved the kidnapping resulted in death. Federal prosecutors also have the option to seek the death penalty, but that decision has not yet been made, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Carlos Esqueda.

Doyel's demeanor was more subdued than his last appearance in federal court a few weeks ago, when he was overheard insisting that a woman, apparently Jones, was alive and she was going to show up any minute.

Doyel is accused of kidnapping Jones after following and harassing her shortly after the breakup of a brief relationship.

Jones had been missing for several days in April when her body was found bound with nylon cords and stuffed in a plastic bin in her own vehicle, parked outside a Branson, Mo., hotel where Doyel was staying.

Also found with Doyel was West Valley resident Patricia Murray, who authorities say is mentally handicapped. Doyel is charged in 3rd District Court with kidnapping Murray.

Federal prosecutors have asked for a 10-day jury trial and anticipate calling numerous witnesses from different states.

A tentative trial date has been set for July 14 with a cut-off date of June 30 for any plea deals.

Outside of court, Esqueda said his office has been working closely with the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office and anticipated that a homicide charge could be filed in state court within the next week or two.


E-mail: [email protected]