SALT LAKE CITY — In a plea deal that spares him the death penalty, a Kearns man pleaded guilty Thursday to killing a Magna mother and attempting to suffocate her daughter.
Jason Alan Black, 26, pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, a first-degree felony and a capital offense, in the death of Natalia Casagrande, 24, and attempted aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, for trying to kill Casagrande's 5-year-old daughter by suffocating her with a throw pillow.
Black also pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated burglary, a first-degree felony, and one count of obstructing justice, a second-degree felony.
In exchange for Black's plea, prosecutors agreed not to seek a death penalty for the aggravated murder charge. At a sentencing hearing Feb. 26, Black will be ordered to serve at least 25 years and potentially life in prison for that charge, according to plea documents.
There is no agreement on whether sentences for the remaining convictions — at least five years and up to life for the first-degree felonies and one to 15 years for the second-degree felony — will run consecutively or concurrently.
On May 31, 2016, Casagrande's husband came home to find her shot to death. Their daughter, with marks to her face and neck, was lying on the living room floor crying, according to charging documents. The girl told her father "that 'J. Black' did it."
Black, who police say had been at the house before to purchase marijuana, allegedly showed up unscheduled. Investigators say he killed Casagrande and then tried to kill the 5-year-old before running off with stolen marijuana, cash and guns.
The Violent Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team of the U.S. Marshals Service tracked Black to his parents' South Jordan home on June 2, 2016. An officer shot Black, who was armed. The shooting was found to be legally justified.6 comments on this story
An alleged accomplice, Estephania Sanchez-Mendoza, 25, of West Jordan, was also charged with obstructing justice, a second-degree felony. She pleaded guilty Oct. 13 to a reduced charge of wrongful appropriation, a class A misdemeanor.
Police say she was at Casagrande's home waiting in the driveway as a getaway driver at the time of the killing. After the shooting, she rented a hotel room for Black in Sandy and bought him new clothes, according to charging documents.
Sentencing for Sanchez-Mendoza is scheduled for Dec. 8.