Lying to Police Results in Felony Obstruction of Justice Charges

A Utah woman arrested for felony obstruction of justice for initially lying to police about teens’ deaths in Utah.

Lying to police

Photo by: Carmello Fernando

34 year old Morgan Reannon Henderson of Mammoth, Utah was arrested on felony charges of obstruction of justice after she finally released information regarding two Utah teens who had been missing for nearly three months. Henderson was questioned twice early on in the investigation of the teen’s disappearance but was dishonest in her response to investigators. It wasn’t until Henderson was arrested for drugs and weapon charges that she told the truth about the night the teens went missing. The whereabouts of 17 year old “Breezy” Otteson and 18 year old Riley Powell remained unknown to the teens’ families or authorities until Henderson eventually told police her live in boyfriend, Jerrod William Baum was responsible for the death of both teens. She then led them to the location of the bodies and Baum was arrested for aggravated murder.

Obstruction of Justice

Henderson admitted to police that the teens had been at her when Baum became upset at the visitors and tied them up. She saw Baum kill the teens before dumping their bodies in an abandoned mine. She then assisted Baum in hiding their vehicle while he also stashed their personal belongings. Utah Code 76-8-306 states: “An actor commits obstruction of justice if the actor, with intent to hinder, delay, or prevent the investigation, apprehension, prosecution, conviction, or punishment of any person regarding conduct that constitutes a criminal offense:

(a)provides any person with a weapon;
(b) prevents by force, intimidation, or deception, any person from performing any act that might aid in the discovery, apprehension, prosecution, conviction, or punishment of any person;
(c) alters, destroys, conceals, or removes any item or other thing;
(d) makes, presents, or uses any item or thing known by the actor to be false;
(e) harbors or conceals a person;
(f) provides a person with transportation, disguise, or other means of avoiding discovery or apprehension;
(g) warns any person of impending discovery or apprehension;
(h) warns any person of an order authorizing the interception of wire communications or of a pending application for an order authorizing the interception of wire communications;
(i) conceals information that is not privileged and that concerns the offense, after a judge or magistrate has ordered the actor to provide the information; or
(j) provides false information regarding a suspect, a witness, the conduct constituting an offense, or any other material aspect of the investigation.”

Since Henderson helped dispose of evidence and withheld information that would have led to the arrest of her boyfriend and recovery of the two teens, she was charged with two counts of obstruction of justice. Section 76-8-306 goes on to note that “Obstruction of justice is a second degree felony if the conduct which constitutes an offense would be a capital felony or first degree felony [such as murder]”. Each second degree felony is punishable by one to 15 years in prison.

A fearful choice?

Photo by: cvmz22

Although Henderson should have been upfront with authorities during her initial questioning, there is a possibility she chose to lie out of fear for her own safety. Baum had allegedly killed the teens to punish Henderson for allowing another male in the house while Baum was gone. If Baum was capable of such a heinous act, it would be reasonable to assume Henderson may be terrified to speak out against him. The fact that he threatened her life would have cemented that fear of telling the truth. It wasn’t until she was safe behind bars for another crime that she might have felt safe enough to share the truth. For that reason, lying to police or otherwise obstructing justice would have seemed the only choice to guarantee she was protected from harm. For those who are facing charges stemming from fear of domestic violence, contact a reputable criminal defense attorney. Those living in a situation where they are fearful for their safety or the safety of their family members are encouraged to call The National Domestic Violence at 1-800-799-7233.

Utah Man Arrested After Carrying Out Elderly Mother’s Wishes For Green Burial

A Utah man is facing criminal charges for attempting to carry out on his own his elderly mother’s final wishes for a green burial.

Awaiting a natural burial

Photo by: Eli Duke

66 year old Pete Foy Marker of Panguitch Utah was taken into custody when a family member alerted police that Marker’s elderly mother had died from age-related causes a couple weeks prior and that Marker hadn’t followed legal protocol after the death. Marker stated his mother had wanted a more earth-friendly burial known as a “green burial” so he planned on entombing her body in the hills near town. Marker was unable to follow through with his mother’s request due to hunters in the area so he planned on waiting until the season was over. Until then, he wrapped her body and placed it in basement room of his home where coal was stored. Before he was able to return to the woods to bury his mother however, he was arrested.

Green or natural burial

It isn’t surprising that Marker’s mother wanted a green or natural burial as many individuals are opting for earth friendly options if possible. With the surge of people choosing to be more environmentally conscious for various items in life, why wouldn’t they choose to be pro-earth in death as well? The goal of green burials is to return the body to the earth with the lowest impact on the environment as possible (while saving some money in the process). A green burial consists of preparing the body without the use of toxic embalming substances. After which the body is encompassed in a coffin of natural, biodegradable materials and planted in a natural setting. Oftentimes one of these natural coffins will be buried or “planted” with a seed or sapling of a favorite tree or one native to the area, truly giving back to the earth while preserving the natural beauty of the area. While green burials are growing in popularity throughout nation and state, residents are warned there are rules that must be followed to avoid criminal charges.

Reporting a dead body

Photo by: Fe llya

It is not known at this time if Pete Foy Marker of Panguitch was at all responsible for his mother’s death, but regardless he is facing multiple charges related to his actions following the discovery of her body. One law he failed to obey was letting authorities know his mother had died. Utah Code 26-4-7 & 8 states it to be a class B misdemeanor to not report “a deceased body if it appears that death was:

• By violence, gunshot, suicide, or accident;
• Sudden death while in apparent good health;
• Unattended deaths (…);
• Under suspicious or unusual circumstances;
• Resulting from poisoning or overdose of drugs;
• Resulting from diseases that may constitute a threat to the public health;
• Resulting from disease, injury, toxic effect, or unusual exertion incurred within the scope of the decedent’s employment;
• Due to sudden infant death syndrome;
• Resulting while the decedent was in [police or state custody];
• Associated with diagnostic or therapeutic procedures ;(…)”

All signs so far point to the very elderly woman dying naturally in her sleep, but because she was alone in her bed when she passed and no one was around to witness it, is was a crime not to report it.

Desecration of a dead human body

Marker is also facing a third degree felony charges for his decision to conceal the body in his basement before he could have it buried. Utah Code 76-9-704 states “A person is guilty of abuse or desecration of a dead human body if the person intentionally and unlawfully:

• Fails to report the finding of a dead human body (…);
• Disturbs, moves, removes, conceals, or destroys a dead human body or any part of it; or
• Disinters a buried or otherwise interred dead human body, without authority of a court order;
• [or dismembers, damages, or commits sexual act on the dead human body].”

Desecration of a dead human body is a serious charge that is usually seen with individuals trying to conceal a wrongful death or for those who flagrantly show no respect for the dead. Unfortunately for Marker and others who move, conceal, or secretly bury a family member, they are likely to face felony charges for desecration of a dead human body even if they have no criminal intent.

Laws for the dead

Photo by: Matt Walker69

Those wishing to carry out green burials must follow the law regarding proper notification and handling of a dead human body. After reporting the death, family members must obtain a death certificate prior to burial (Utah Code 26-2-13). Then, they may either locate a cemetery that permits green burials or check with local zoning laws if the burial is to be carried out on private property. Failure to follow these laws for the dead can result in charges, putting another negative twist on an already somber event. For more information regarding this and other Utah State laws, contact a reputable attorney.

Parental Kidnapping in Utah

A father of four in Utah was arrested for parental kidnapping after being on the run with his four children for over two months.

Doomsday prepper

33 year old John Coltharp, a doomsday prepper belonging to a new religious group named Knights of the Crystal Blade was arrested for kidnapping along with his accomplice and leader of the group, 34 year old Samuel Shaffer. Some in the community questioned Coltharp’s kidnapping charges since the children kidnapped were his own and with him for over two months before authorities got involved.

The delay to search

The mother of the children, 28 year old Micha Soble of Springville, Utah started the public search for her children with posts to her personal social media account as well as public yard sale sites throughout Utah over two months after her children were abducted by their father. When questioned as to why she waited so long to find them, she blamed the Utah Court system.

Custody order takes time

In fear of losing her children, Soble asked the 4th District Judge Pullan to grant her a temporary restraining order. Judge Pullan denied the request in September after which Coltharp disappeared with all four children, ages ranging from 4 to 8 years old. Over the course of the divorce and custody hearings, Soble remained in the dark as to where her children were. Finally, near the end of November, Judge Pullan granted the mother full custody and the search for the Coltharp children began.

Parental kidnapping

The Coltharp children were all found after a lengthy search from law enforcement and volunteers, with two of the children hospitalized from exposure to the cold and weather. In this case, the children were in immediate danger and parental kidnapping charges seemed fitting. In many other cases however, Utah residents are confused as to how a parent can be charged with parental kidnapping and not just custodial interference.

Custodial interference

Utah Code 76-5-303 states “A person who is entitled to custody of a child is guilty of custodial interference [a class B misdemeanor] if, during a period of time when another person is entitled to visitation of the child, the person takes, entices, conceals, detains, or withholds the child from the person entitled to visitation of the child, with the intent to interfere with the visitation of the child.” Or “A person who is entitled to visitation of a child is guilty of custodial interference if, during a period of time when the person is not entitled to visitation of the child, the person takes, entices, conceals, detains, or withholds the child from a person who is entitled to custody of the child, with the intent to interfere with the custody of the child.” In the case of the Coltharp children, their father was not granted custody or visitation. His removal of the children and failure to return then then constituted kidnapping.

Child kidnapping by a parent

Utah Code 76-5-301.1 states that “an actor [or parent without any parental rights] commits child kidnapping if the actor intentionally or knowingly, without authority of law, and by any means and in any manner, seizes, confines, detains, or transports a child under the age of 14 without the consent of the victim’s parent or guardian, or the consent of a person acting in loco parentis.” Child kidnapping is considered a first degree felony in the state of Utah and punishable by 15 years to life in prison. It is important for divorced parents to fully understand their court ordered arrangements to ensure they are staying within the law regarding their divorce and custody ruling.