PARK CITY — A onetime NFL hopeful originally told his cellmate that two strangers had killed his wife at a Park City condo, but he let on differently one night in the Salt Lake County Jail.
That's according to testimony Tuesday during a preliminary hearing for Anthony McClanahan, who is charged with murder.
When another inmate started yelling, an annoyed McClanahan paced and threatened to cut the man's throat "like I cut that (expletive's) throat," employing a derogatory term toward women, according to his cellmate.
McClanahan later revealed he had stabbed Keri "KC" McClanahan 16 to 20 times, nearly decapitating her, using a paracord knife she carried, his former cellmate Michael Bell testified Tuesday in Park City's 3rd District Court.
"He thought that she was messing around with his family friend," Bell said.
Judge Patrick Corum ordered McClanahan, 47, to stand trial for murder after testimony from a detective and three Park City police officers who arrived at the condo to find Keri McClanahan, 28, in a pool of blood in November 2017. Corum ruled there was enough evidence for the case to advance, even without Bell's testimony.
"Clearly, without question, this was a homicide, and there is a reasonable inference Mr. McClanahan was the one who committed it," the judge said.
Bell testified that his cellmate was frustrated with his wife because she had appeared thinner like she was partying and doing drugs, and that she had borrowed money from McClanahan's dad to pay bills but used if for something else.
Bell recalled that one night, his cellmate pounded on his bunk and ordered him to tell jail employees the next day that he'd had "to put him back in bed because he had an episode." A former Washington State University football player who played professionally in Canada in the 1990s and practiced with the Dallas Cowboys, McClanahan said he would use a history of concussions "to make it look like he had all these memory problems," according to Bell.
Under cross-examination from McClanahan's defense attorneys, Bell said he hadn't received a reduced sentence or had any charges dropped in exchange for taking the information to detectives. Bell had been jailed for giving an officer his brother's name during a traffic stop while he was on probation for an aggravated robbery conviction, he said.
After the Tuesday hearing, Heather Gauf said KC, her little sister, had plans to possibly join the Air Force and had gone to Park City to end her relationship with McClanahan. She planned to file for divorce but wanted to ensure they parted on a decent note, Gauf said.
"She was just trying to help and do what's right, and she paid the ultimate price for it."
KC McClanahan had been staying with Gauf in Bellingham, Washington, and didn't party or do drugs but trimmed down with daily 5 a.m. runs, Gauf said. She visited once with a friend who'd been the best man at their wedding because he was concerned about her safety with McClanahan, but she wasn't dating him, Gauf added.
During the preliminary hearing, officers testified that they found Anthony McClanahan outside the Park Regency on Nov. 2, 2017, with blood on his face and hands, appearing to convulse.
"I thought he was trying to fake a seizure," Park City Police Lt. Vaifoa Lealaitafea testified. But officer Franco Libertini said McClanahan could have been in shock and evidently had been through something traumatic.
McClanahan told them two white men with black jackets attacked him and his wife but did not directly answer their questions, they testified. A trail of blood behind him led to the hotel.
The officers later came across a room with a door ajar and a drop blood on the threshold, and found KC McClanahan inside with a gash to her throat but still warm to the touch, they testified. They attempted to revive her but could not. They reported spotting the knife near her hand, later finding six steak knives under a chair and overturned furniture with blood on it.
McClanahan appeared in short dreadlocks and a jail jumpsuit Tuesday and chose not to testify. His attorneys declined comment.
In a police interview after his wife's death, he said she had received a phone call from a woman that upset her, so they went to the bedroom to calm down and rest when two or more intruders came in and held him down, made him cut himself and attacked his wife, said detective Clint Johnson.Comment on this story
On Tuesday, prosecutors argued that an autopsy found KC McClanahan died of sharp injuries to the neck and the only DNA in the room belonged to the couple. They emphasized that surveillance footage shows no one matching the description of the men.
McClanahan has pleaded not guilty to a separate charge of kidnapping after police say he picked up his son from school in Arizona's Maricopa County in October 2017 and took him to Salt Lake City, where police later found the child with him.
He is due back in court for arraignment on March 18.
Free and confidential help and support for victims and survivors of domestic violence is available 24/7 at 1-800-897-LINK (5465) or by visiting udvc.org.