SALT LAKE CITY — In the wake of the shocking suicide of a 16-year-old girl in Utah County, which prosecutors say was only possible through the help and encouragement of her older friend, a Utah legislator is seeking to add assisted suicide to the state's manslaughter statute.
Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, has filed HB86, which would make it a second-degree felony in Utah to knowingly provide the means for someone to take their own life by suicide or to aid in a suicide attempt.
Utah, McKell said, is 1 of just 6 states with no law addressing the issue.
"We're trying to empower prosecutors to seek justice in the most appropriate manner and have the tools to do that," he said.
Tyerell Przybycien, 18, has been ordered to stand trial for murder, a first-degree felony, after prosecutors say he bought a rope and other items used for 16-year-old Jchandra Brown to use in her suicide, drove her to a remote site in Payson Canyon and tied the noose for her.
McKell notes that he doesn't disagree with prosecutors' choice to pursue a murder charge in Przybycien case, but the tragic situation raised questions about Utah's laws when it comes to allegations of assisted suicide. The bill does not eliminate the option to file murder charges in an assisted suicide case, McKell said.
"I expect the prosecutors to be successful in the (Przybycien) case or future cases. What I'm saying is, let's provide an additional tool, an additional charge, that could be used in similar cases," he said.
McKell, who is an attorney, has worked with Deputy Utah County Attorney Craig Johnson, who is not involved with prosecuting the Przybycien case. So far, McKell said he hasn't faced any opposition to the bill.
McKell has not spoken with Brown's family about the bill, he said.
As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, McKell said he intends to start discussion on the bill early in the 2018 session, which begins Jan. 22.6 comments on this story
Meanwhile, Przybycien is due in court Tuesday as his attorneys raise questions about whether he is mentally capable of facing the charges. They maintain Brown was knowingly responsible for her own death and that Przybycien's actions don't fit the requirements for a murder charge.
Przybycien was arrested May 6 after hunters found Brown's body hanging from a tree. Among the items found at her feet was a cellphone that Przybycien used to record the girl's death, talking to her at moments and checking her pulse to confirm she was deceased before leaving her in the tree, charging documents state.
The Utah Department of Health offers suicide prevention help at utahsuicideprevention.org/suicide-prevention-basic. The national crisis hotline is 800-784-2433.