T. GEORGE - A 5th District Court judge scheduled a preliminary hearing date Wednesday for one of the suspects accused of slaying two women shortly before Christmas in a downtown neighborhood.
Brandon Perry Smith, who will turn 30 on Sunday, is charged along with Paul Clifford Ashton, 32, in the aggravated murders of Jerrica Christensen, 20, of Leeds, and Brandie Sue Dawn Jerden, 27, of St. George on Dec. 11, 2010. Ashton is also charged with attempted aggravated murder in the shooting of James Fiske, 28, during the incident at a 600 South residence.
Judge James Shumate scheduled the hearing in Smith's case for Nov. 3 and 4, at which time the Washington County Attorney's Office will be required to present enough evidence from the investigation to show it has a credible reason for pressing forward with the prosecution.
If the prosecution succeeds in advancing to trial, Smith will then enter a formal plea to the charges and the county attorney's office will have 60 days to determine if it will seek the death penalty as a potential punishment.
Deputy County Attorney Brian Filter said some of the forensic evidence in the investigation is being held up by motions filed by the defense in Ashton's case relating to lab tests and how the tests can be carried out.
"We're ready to go even if that (evidence) is not available by that date," Filter said.
The prosecution filed a response to 24 defense motions in the Ashton case Wednesday and the defense has 15 days to file a counter-response with the court.
A hearing on the motions in Ashton's case will be scheduled sometime after Sept. 20 to allow the attorneys to present their sides on the issues.