SALT LAKE CITY — After 17 years of legal proceedings and attempts to restore his competency, a Salt Lake man has been sentenced to prison for murdering his wife.
William Hartnell Booty, 67, was sentenced last week to one to 15 years at the Utah State Prison. He pleaded guilty and mentally ill to an amended charge of manslaughter, a second-degree felony, last year.
"I could not be more proud of our office and our prosecutors for sticking with this matter," Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said Monday. "Sometimes the wheels of justice are slow. But their justice was finally delivered and there can be some closure for the family to this matter."
On July 23, 2000, Booty was found inside his car with a hose running to the exhaust pipe, parked in the parking lot of the Children's Museum. While crews were treating Booty, he told police "that he was trying to kill himself and that he had killed his wife," according to court documents.
The body of Melody Ann Booty was found on her bed in their apartment, 224 W. 500 South. "Her face and head were covered in several layers of Saran-type wrap. It was evident that she had been dead for quite some time," court documents state. The cause of death was determined to be strangulation and asphyxia.
For the next 16 years, however, Booty's case was put on hold as doctors attempted to restore his competency so he could stand trial. He was civilly committed to the Utah State Hospital in 2009, according to court records.
According to a sentencing memorandum prosecutors submitted to the court last week, Booty "is diagnosed as schizophrenic, but he is stable and competent at this time due to medication and his stable environment. He has been at the Utah State Hospital where he has received treatment since 2002."
Booty has a history of not being able to deal with stress, has trouble interacting with people and can't handle conflict, the memorandum states. When that happens, he typically runs away.
Doctors said he also "has a history of 'paranoid ideation' and has previously believed he was being poisoned and he has a history of fear of harm from others," according to the prosecution's letter.
Melody Booty frequently smoked cigarettes and drank with the couple's two gay neighbors, according to prosecutors.
"This really bothered (William), who thought the gays were going to turn Melody gay and he thought they had a negative influence on Melody," court documents state. "(William) apparently believed that the gays were out to get him or that Melody was going to move in with them."
Later, she told her husband that she was going to leave him, which angered him, according to prosecutors.
During one of his early competency examinations after Melody Booty's body was discovered, a doctor noted that Booty "understood his role in the death of his wife, but did not feel that he … had murdered her," the letter states.
By 2012, Booty's competency had been restored, but prosecutors noted he was still "very fragile" to the point that the stress of being returned to jail or a courtroom would cause him to be incompetent again, according to court documents. The latest sentencing report noted that Booty "would never be able to function on his own."
To get the plea deal done, the judge instructed the state to make sure there was a "calm setting" at trial, court records state.
After he pleaded guilty, the state argued that prison was an appropriate sentence in this case even though Booty was mentally ill.
"Although he was likely mentally ill at the time of the offense … he was cognizant of what he did," according to the state's sentencing memorandum. "This is the typical domestic violence related homicide that (Booty) intended to be a murder-suicide, but he was rescued before he was able to kill himself."Comment on this story
Family members told prosecutors that while Booty "was weird, he was always functional when the family had seen him, and that (he) is an intelligent person. (A son-in-law) believes that (Booty) has been using and manipulating the system for many years and feels that (he) should go to prison and this would give the family closure and provide justice to them and to Melody," prosecutors wrote.
"It took us 17 years to bring accountability, but there was accountability and justice and some closure," Gill said.