By Brooke Naylor
An Orem man has pleaded guilty to shooting his girlfriend in the backyard of their home last October.
Keith Morton, 50, admitted in 4th District Court to the aggravated murder of his girlfriend, Tonja Marie Nash. Morton shot Nash twice in the back with a shotgun as she and her 8-year-old son Ryan were trying to run away.
The incident began as an argument in the backyard of the couple”s home and escalated when Dakota, Nash”s 12-year-old son, tried to call the police.
Donna Kelly, prosecuting attorney, said once Morton shot Nash, “he kicked her and began striking her with the butt of the gun,” according to an article in the Deseret News.
Morton was arrested Oct. 16, 2006, and is being held on a $750,000 cash-only bail.
In their quest for evidence, the prosecution collected Morton”s hard drive and records of all phone conversations to and from Morton while he was in custody in Utah County jail.
The court also ordered Morton to have absolutely no contact with the children of the victim. Both children witnessed the shooting.
Judge James Taylor asked Morton several questions to ensure he understood he was forfeiting his right to a fair trial.
According to court documents, Morton said that he has an 11th grade education, understands English, and was not under the influence of any substances at the time he entered his plea. These requirements were important to Taylor because Morton is admitting to a capital offense.
As part of his deal with prosecution, Morton pleaded guilty to aggravated murder. A sentencing hearing is set for April 19, where Morton is expected to receive 20 years to life in prison.
The family of the victim did not push for a trial or ask for the death sentence, which Morton would be eligible for if found guilty. The Nash family said they do not believe in the death penalty.