I believe the family is coping with everything the best that they can. —Todd Utzinger
FARMINGTON — The shackled 15-year-old accused of murdering his two younger brothers entered the courtroom Tuesday and sat at a table between his father and his defense attorney.
The teen’s dad is caught in the middle as a victim, the father of two dead sons and the son accused of the terrible crimes.
“I believe the family is coping with everything the best that they can,” said defense attorney Todd Utzinger.
The teen agreed Tuesday to waive his preliminary hearing in which prosecutors would have presented their evidence against him and a judge would have determined whether or not to order a trial for two counts of murder.
Wearing glasses and squinting when the judge and attorneys spoke during the brief 10-minute hearing, the teen politely responded when asked by 2nd District Juvenile Judge Janice Frost if he understood what the decision meant.
“Yes, ma’am,” he said.
Asked another question, he replied with the same two words: “Yes, ma’am.”
Alex Vidinhar, 10, and his 4-year-old brother Benjie were stabbed to death in their West Point home on May 22. The two had been left in the care of their older brother while their mother and sisters were away at a dance recital.
When the mother returned home, she discovered her boys’ bodies. The 15-year-old was found hours later several miles away and was arrested.
“We can see the state has ample evidence to proceed with the charges,” defense attorney Todd Sessions told the judge Tuesday in asking that the preliminary hearing be waived. But both Sessions and Utzinger emphasized that the waiver doesn’t mean their client is guilty.
“We’re preparing to proceed to the next stage, which is to see if he’ll be certified as an adult,” Utzinger said after the hearing.
The Davis County Attorney’s Office has indicated it wants to certify the teen to stand trial as an adult. The boy’s father, however, has said he hopes his son will stay in the juvenile court system.
"I understand that there must be justice, but life without parole would be way too harsh for a 15-year-old with no previous criminal history," he said shortly after the killings. He also said he believes emotional or mental health issues played a role in the case.
Utzinger said he will fight to keep the teen out of the adult system.
“We believe someone who just barely turned 15 should stay in the juvenile system,” he said. “A lot of the research shows the brain (at that age) isn’t fully developed.”
Utzinger acknowledged the serious nature of the crimes, but said: “The sole factor of what he’s charged with is not the determining factor” of a certification.
He said his client also understands what he’s accused of doing. “Obviously he’s aware of the gravity of the situation,” he said.
Defense attorneys are gathering information for the certification hearing and said they plan to file motions with the court beforehand, but declined to elaborate.
Frost set a hearing for Oct. 8 to discuss those motions.
The 15-year-old was being held in the Farmington Bay Youth Detention Center.