SALT LAKE CITY — A jury decided Thursday whether the choke hold Todd Anderson used on his girlfriend was a move to subdue her, or a means to kill her.
After close to six hours, the five-man, three-woman jury convicted Anderson, 43, of manslaughter, a second-degree felony, in the April 27, 2011, death of Jennifer Schubach. The jury's decision came after a four-day trial before 3rd District Judge Katie Bernards-Goodman, and marked a reduction from the first-degree felony murder charge Anderson was facing.
During closing arguments, defense attorney Nick Falcone called the case "a very sad scenario" that spun out of control and was fueled by rampant drug and alcohol use. He said prosecutors overcharged his client, that there was no sign of ongoing abuse between the couple and that manslaughter was a more appropriate charge under the circumstances
"Todd loved Jennifer Schubach and he intended to be with her," he said. The two had dated over a year. "Todd had no intent to kill her and when he left, he told ... detectives he thought she was still alive."
Falcone said Schubach was unpredictable and under the influence when the couple started arguing. Eventually, Anderson initiated a "rear naked choke."
"Todd had seen this hold on television and was trying to imitate it," Falcone said. "(He) put her in this submission hold because he wanted her to be quiet."
But prosecutor Roger Blaylock said Anderson should have just walked away instead of twice using the hold — with fatal consequences the second time. Blaylock told jurors that if they didn't feel that Anderson intended to kill Schubach, they could find he acted with depraved indifference.
"Anytime you shut off blood to the brain, you're subjecting somebody to a great risk of death," Blaylock said. "She didn't have a chance. That's where it comes down."
He also questioned how much Anderson loved the woman, considering that he didn't call for help or go to her aid when he realized something was wrong.
"You could find he acted with depraved indifference, not just for what he did, but for what he did not do," Blaylock said.
Schubach's body was found lying face down in the bedroom of her apartment at 535 N. 200 West. Utah's chief medical examiner, Todd Grey, determined she died by strangulation, but there was a "toxic" level of amphetamines in her system.
Sentencing has been scheduled for Aug. 10. Anderson faces a maximum penalty of one to 15 years in prison. Had he been convicted on the murder charge, the sentence could have been up to life in prison.