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Rick Egan
Michael Jerome Doyel, 51, enters Judge Atherton's courtroom, Friday, Jan. 6, 2012. Doyel pleaded guilty to murder, a first-degree felony, in 3rd District Court in the death of Deborah Jones.

SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake man accused of strangling his former girlfriend, stuffing her body into a storage bin and driving to Missouri pleaded guilty to murder Friday — more than three years after the killing.

After entering his plea to the first-degree felony, Michael Jerome Doyel, 51, was immediately sentenced by 3rd District Judge Judith Atherton to 15 years to life in prison for the death of Deborah Marie Jones. Additional counts of obstruction of justice and theft, a second-degree felony, were dismissed in exchange for Doyel's plea.

Jones, 50, was last seen alive with Doyel outside a Salt Lake restaurant on April 16, 2008, and was reported missing four days later.

Doyel and Patricia Murray, a mentally challenged woman, were found at a motel near Branson, Mo., on April 21, 2008. Authorities found Jones' body, bound at the hands and feet with nylon cords, in the plastic container sealed with bungee cords in her car. Doyel had rubbed deodorant on the bin to mask the smell of her body.

According to court documents, Doyel harassed Jones after she broke up with him. He left her a voice message saying he would carve her name on his body if he couldn't have her. Arresting officers in Missouri found her name freshly carved into his arm.

In December, Doyel pleaded guilty in federal court to kidnapping Jones and transporting her body across state lines and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Dee Benson said at the time of sentencing that he did not believe Doyel would be a "free man in this lifetime."

Doyel suffers both mental and physical health problems. His case stalled amid questions of Doyel's mental competency, but it was determined in July that he was competent enough for the case to move forward.

In his federal plea agreement, Doyel admitted that he "held (Jones) against her will, in order to convince her to come back to me, which resulted in her death." He told Benson at sentencing that: "I don't think I should be in society for what I did wrong."

Jones' family members said what Doyel took from them could never be replaced. One of Jones' sons said Doyel could "rot in hell."

"He's guilty and he's scum and he has cancer and I hope it eats him alive soon," another son, Bryan Jones, said.

Atherton ordered that restitution for the family be left open for one year.

Prosecutor Blake Hills said Doyel will first serve the federal prison term. If he is still alive when that sentence is complete, he will be turned over to the state to serve his Utah prison term.

Hills called the resolution to Doyel's case is "a good example of cooperation between the federal and state prosecutors."

"I think it went well and justice was served by the sentence," Hills said. "The family was consulted and they approved of the way it was resolved."

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