FARMINGTON, Utah (AP) — A man accused of tying up five women in a basement took a plea deal in Utah on Monday but still faces a murder case in Wyoming, where he is charged with killing a train worker while on the run from police.
Dereck James "DJ" Harrison, 23, pleaded guilty to five counts of aggravated kidnapping for restraining and beating a woman and her four teenage daughters in May. He and his father then went on the run, snatching the rail employee and beating him to death on their way to a remote Wyoming hideout, prosecutors say.
The rest of Harrison's 16 charges in Utah were dropped. He faces at least 15 years and up to life in prison on each count, but prosecutors agreed to recommend the first four sentences run at the same time.
He also won't fight extradition to Wyoming after his sentencing, set for Oct. 24. He faces murder and kidnapping charges there that carry the possibility of the death penalty. Wyoming prosecutors will decide whether to pursue capital punishment after Harrison arrives.
Lincoln County Attorney Spencer Allred said he's ready to move forward, having "done a thorough investigation."
"We still are receiving evidence back on a daily basis," Allred said.
Harrison appeared in court outside Salt Lake City in a striped jail jumpsuit, his hands shackled in front of him and shoulders rounded. He quietly answered a judge's questions about whether he understood the charges and his guilty pleas. His lawyer declined to comment after the hearing.
His father, Flint Harrison, also was charged in both cases but killed himself in jail in July.
The Harrisons were accused of luring the five women to a house with an invitation to a barbecue, then tying them up and beating them before they managed to escape. The men had been using drugs heavily and thought the mother had reported them to police, authorities said.
The pair got away and laid low in Salt Lake City, encountering Kay Ricks, 63, during his shift maintaining rail lines, police said. They are accused of forcing the man into his work truck and taking off for a hideout near Flint Harrison's Wyoming home.
They stopped in the southwestern Wyoming countryside along the way and killed Ricks, beating him so severely that he was unrecognizable when his body was found, prosecutors said.
Flint Harrison surrendered following a five-day manhunt, and he and his son were arrested.
Ricks' family is relieved that Dereck Harrison will be sent to Wyoming to face murder charges, spokesman Richard Massey said.
"There is no way that anything he says or does, cooperatively or not, will make us feel any better about the loss of Kay," he said. "We only hope that he never sees the light of day again."
The family plans to attend his sentencing in Utah. They also plan to sue Dereck Harrison and his father's estate to get additional information about Ricks' death, he said.