SALT LAKE CITY — Prison has been ordered for a man who brutally stabbed a woman he shared a home with, then dragged her body to a backyard shed to hide it.
Justin VanCleave, 20, was sentenced Monday to serve at least 15 years and up to life in prison for murder, a first-degree felony. VanCleave pleaded guilty to the charge in August in exchange for dismissal of an additional count of obstructing justice, a second-degree felony.
Third District Judge Vernice Trease did not rule on whether VanCleave will be given credit for the 608 days he has spent in jail since his arrest, instead leaving the decision to the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole.
VanCleave, who was 18 at the time, lived in the house at 2960 Mountain Goat Way (7170 West) with his mother, his three brothers and Amanda Garcia, 33.
Officers were called to the house May 23, 2016, and discovered "bloody drag marks on the steps and patio leading from the house to the backyard," as well as a bag containing bloody towels, clothing and a knife inside a shed behind the house, charging documents state.Comment on this story
VanCleave's mother told police that she received a phone call from Garcia while she was at work that day, and she could hear her son in the background. Shortly after, the mother received a text from her son informing her Garcia had left the house. When the mother returned home, VanCleave was in the shower.
Three friends who went to the house told police VanCleave had told them he stabbed Garcia with a kitchen knife and showed them her body. Charging documents allege "VanCleave asked them to help him dispose of the body, but they refused."
VanCleave later told police he stabbed Garcia in the bathroom, then cleaned it up and put her body in the shed, according to the charges. Police say he then told them where to find the knife he used and the clothing he had been wearing.