Monday, March 29, 2010

Judge Accepts Jury's Recommendation, Sentences James Boughton To 38 1/2 Years For Murder Of LDS Missionary Morgan W. Young

On March 29th, 2010, a Circuit Court judge accepted a jury's previous recommendation and sentenced James R. Boughton Jr. to prison for 38½ years for the murder of a young LDS missionary and the wounding of another more than four years ago. They were shot, one fatally, when they stumbled into a Deep Creek neighborhood dispute while proselyting on the night of January 2nd, 2006. Killed was Morgan W. Young, 21, of Bountiful, Utah; Wounded was Joshua Heidbrink, then 19, of Greeley, Colo. Media stories on the sentencing from the Hampton Road Virginian-Pilot, WVEC Channel 13, the Deseret News, and KSL Channel 5.

The jury concluded after a three-week trial that Chesapeake resident Boughton, now 23, fired the bullets. On December 12th, 2008, that jury recommended Boughton be sent to prison for 38½ years after convicting him on first-degree murder, malicious wounding, attempted malicious wounding and three related firearm charges. WVEC provides the specific sentencing breakdown:

-- Attempted Malicious Wounding of Gregory Banks - 6 Months in jail
---- Use of a Firearm - 3 years in prison
-- Malicious Wounding of Joshua Heidbrink - 5 years in prison
---- Use of a Firearm - 5 years in prison
-- 1st Degree Murder of Morgan Young - 20 years in prison
---- Use of a Firearm - 5 years in prison

The delay in sentencing was attributable to defense machinations. The defense eas attempting to secure a new trial for Boughton, but in January 2010, a judge denied the request. But Morgan Young's parents, Mark and Kathy Young, were on hand in Chesapeake, VA for the sentencing, and they expressed satisfaction with the outcome despite the delay. "We are pleased with it," Mark Young told the Deseret News by phone. "Thirty-eight and a half years is a long time."

Morgan Young was two months short of completing his two-year service for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he was killed. The Bountiful High School graduate and Eagle Scout studied briefly at Weber State University before leaving for a mission in March 2004. He planned to study computer science at BYU upon his return. The Greeley Tribune posted a brief account of the sentencing but recorded no reaction from Joshua Heidbrink or his family. Heidbrink has long since fully recovered from his injuries.

Since I first published this post, the LDS Church has officially reacted. According to the Ogden Standard-Examiner, LDS spokesman Scott Trotter said, "We assure those currently serving missions or who are contemplating missionary service that the Church will continue to make every effort to safeguard the health and safety of missionaries throughout the world". Trotter also said that Church officials have not changed safety policies since the shooting, but constantly monitor the 348 missions where members are serving. Violence and accidents can happen anytime, anywhere, but the area where the two men were in 2006 was considered safe.

Trotter also explained that missionaries are trained in personal safety at each of the church's 16 missionary training centers, as well as at zone conferences and district meetings throughout the world. Church officials stay in contact with local church leaders and members about the safety of specific areas and neighborhoods. Missionaries are also instructed to carry only enough cash to cover that day's needs and, if accosted, they are trained to avoid confrontation and to give up whatever money they have.

Analysis: Although disappointed that the death penalty was not prescribed, it's obvious that the jury did not find that James Boughton had premeditatedly contemplated the death of Morgan Young. His initial target of interest was Gregory Banks, and the two missionaries just happened to walk into it. On the spur of the moment, Boughton shot at the missionaries simply to try to silence them. But Boughton still deserved a life sentence nonetheless.

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