MAGNA — A Kearns man who went to a Magna house to buy marijuana shot a mother of two in the head, killing her, and then tried to suffocate her 5-year-old daughter, police say.
Jason Alan Black, 26, was charged in 3rd District Court Tuesday with aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, in the May 31 death of Natalia Casagrande, 24, and attempted aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, for allegedly trying to kill the child by suffocating her with a throw pillow.
Police say after killing the woman, Black ran off with stolen marijuana, cash and guns.
Black "regularly" purchased marijuana from Casagrande's common-law husband, Steve Arceo, charging documents state. Black was supposed to make a purchase on May 30, but failed to show up.
The next day, after Arceo left for work, he received a text message from Casagrande at 6:50 p.m. asking what marijuana she should give to Black, police say. Arceo became suspicious after his wife stopped returning his texts and he went home, 7715 W. Jefferson Road (3685 South), to check on her.
Arceo discovered his 5-year-old daughter lying on the living room floor crying and noticed marks on her face and neck. The child told him "that 'J. Black' did it" and pointed to the stairs when asked where her mother was, the charges state.
He then went downstairs and found Casagrande's body in a pool of blood.
Areco also noticed several drawers in the house were open and disturbed. About 3-4 pounds of marijuana was missing, as well as $600 to $800 in cash and two handguns, according to the charges.
The child said her mother had let Black into the home and both went into the basement. "Black came back upstairs and told (the girl) to come to him. Black then held a throw pillow against (her) neck," the charges state.
She said he "pressed his hands on the pillow and she was choking."
An 18-month-old daughter was also in the home at the time, but she was unharmed.
The next day, police were called to a Holiday Inn Express, 10680 S. Auto Mall Drive in Sandy, where a maid had found suspicious items while cleaning a room.
Officers found marijuana, $220 in cash, bloody men's clothing, a bloody knife and one of the missing handguns. In the pocket of the bloody pants, officers found Black's Utah driver's license, charging documents state
The following day on June 2, members of the Violent Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team from the U.S. Marshals Office went to Black's parent's house in South Jordan at 10254 S. Temple View Circle (2340 West). The agents had a search warrant to look for items taken from Casagrande's home, according to Unified police.
Black's father told officers that his son was inside. Agents encountered Black in the hallway where he allegedly brandished a firearm. A "gun battle" erupted and Black was struck several times. He was hospitalized in critical condition.
In addition to aggravated murder and attempted aggravated murder, Black was also charged Tuesday with aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery, first-degree felonies, and obstructing justice, a second-degree felony.
An alleged accomplice, Estephania Sanchez-Mendoza, 24, of West Jordan, was also charged Tuesday with obstructing justice, a second-degree felony. Police say she was at Casagrande's home as a getaway driver at the time of the killing.
Sanchez was arrested June 2 and a white Toyota Corolla matching the description of a vehicle that neighbors reported seeing leaving the Magna home at the time of the killing was seized at her home, according to charging documents.
Sanchez told police she went with Black to Casagrande's home that night, then drove Black to a hotel where she rented a room for him and bought him clothing and shoes, the charges state.
Police say Sanchez told them she disposed of the property Black had taken out of Casagrande's house.
Both Black and Sanchez have minor criminal histories in Utah, according to court records.
Black was convicted of DUI, a class B misdemeanor, in 2012, and driving on a denied license in 2014, in addition to a handful of other traffic and motor vehicle offenses. Sanchez's only Utah court record is a DUI conviction in 2013.
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