St. George man pleads not guilty in murder case that could carry the death penalty


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SALT LAKE CITY — A southern Utah man facing a possible death penalty pleaded not guilty to aggravated murder Wednesday in the shooting death of a 20-year-old woman.

Brandon Perry Smith, 34, is charged with killing Jerrica Christensen in an 2010 altercation at a St. George townhome that left another woman dead and a third person wounded.

Smith entered the not guilty plea in front of Fifth District Court Judge Michael Westfall in St. George, according to court records.

His attorneys requested a two-week jury trial in the case. They are also asking a judge to toss evidence from Smith's police interrogation. They say he wasn't fully informed of his right to an attorney before police started questioning him.

Another man, Paul Ashton, 34, is serving life without parole after pleading guilty in the killing of the other woman, Brandie Sue Dawn Jerden, 27, in his home.

Westfall set a May 15 hearing for those arguments.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty if Smith is convicted, arguing Smith killed Christensen to keep her from testifying about her friend's death.

Smith is also facing an aggravated assault charge, accused of pointing a gun at the man who was wounded in the December 2010 incident.

Defense attorney Gary Pendleton has said Ashton convinced Smith to get involved, though prosecutors dispute that statement. Pendleton did not immediately return a calls seeking comment on Wednesday's plea.

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