FARMINGTON, Utah (AP) — A Utah man who pleaded guilty to tying up five people in a basement was sentenced Monday to serve at least 30 years up to life in prison, clearing the way for him to face murder charges in Wyoming.
Dereck James “DJ” Harrison, 23, is charged with killing a Salt Lake City train worker on the way to a remote Wyoming hideout with his father.
The chain of events in May started when Harrison and his father invited a woman and her four daughters ages 13 to 18 to a barbeque outside Salt Lake City but then tied them up in the basement, police said.
“You were considered a family friend,” the mother said to Harrison in court. “You knew us. You knew what family and friends meant to us because of our four girls.”
The Associated Press is not naming the mother to avoid identifying her children.
Harrison apologized in a brief statement and said his crimes were tied to a drug addiction.
“I’m so sorry for all the pain I’ve caused to all my victims,” he said.
Father and son had been using methamphetamine for days and wrongly thought the mother had reported them, authorities said. They had also talked about looking for a mother and daughter to party with, prosecutor Jeff Thomson said Monday, reading from text messages between the two men.
The men planned out the kidnapping, setting out zip ties, duct tape and a bag ready to put on the mother’s head, he said.
When the woman and her daughters escaped, the Harrisons went on the run. They kidnapped Kay Ricks, 63, from a light rail station and forced him into his work truck, authorities said.
They drove north toward the town where Flint Harrison had been living Wyoming. Ricks was brutally beaten to death at a stop along the way, authorities have said. An exact motive has not been disclosed.
If the woman and her four daughters hadn’t fought back and been able to escape they could have been killed as well, Thomson said
Both men were arrested in Wyoming after a manhunt, but Flint Harrison hanged himself in a Utah jail in July.
Dereck Harrison pleaded guilty last month to five counts of aggravated kidnapping and agreed not to fight extradition to Wyoming.
In exchange, prosecutors dropped 11 other charges against him, including drug possession and assault.
The Wyoming case could carry the death penalty, and prosecutors are expected to decide whether to pursue it after Dereck Harrison arrives in the state.
He could be extradited within days, Wyoming prosecutor Spencer Allred said.
The Ricks family is relieved that Harrison will be facing murder charges. However, hearing the graphic details of Ricks’ death is difficult, family spokesman Richard Massey said.
“You just never get used to it,” he said.