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Friday, Oct. 31, 2014

Jury selected in Uintah County murder trial

By Geoff Liesik, Deseret News

Published: Mon, Aug. 18 12:20 p.m. MDT

 Jesse Anthony Saenz is escorted from 8th District Court Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, after Judge Clark McClellan denied his request to withdraw his guilty plea to aggravated sexual assault. A jury is being selected to determine whether Saenz is guilty of murder in the April 21, 2013, shooting death of Elvis Olsen.

Jesse Anthony Saenz is escorted from 8th District Court Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, after Judge Clark McClellan denied his request to withdraw his guilty plea to aggravated sexual assault. A jury is being selected to determine whether Saenz is guilty of murder in the April 21, 2013, shooting death of Elvis Olsen.

(Geoff Liesik, Deseret News)

VERNAL — After more than 10 hours of questioning and interviews, a jury was impaneled Monday in the case of a Fort Duchesne man accused of killing an acquaintance in April 2013.

Defense attorney Ryan Holtan said 60 of the 68 prospective jurors were individually interviewed in Judge Clark McClellan's chambers by the judge and the attorneys on both sides of the case.

"There's more in play, more on the line," Holtan said, adding that selecting a jury in a murder case is "more delicate than picking any other jury in any other case."

Holtan's client, Jesse Anthony Saenz, is charged in 8th District Court with murder, a first-degree felony; theft, a second-degree felony; and possession of a firearm by a restricted person, a second-degree felony.

Saenz, 24, and Elvis Zachary Olsen, 22, met while they were serving time in the Uintah County Jail, according to court records.

The two men were alone at the home of Saenz's grandfather on April 21, 2013, when police say Saenz shot and killed Olsen. Olsen's body was discovered about 100 feet north of the home. An autopsy showed he had been shot in the chest and the face, court records state.

At the time of the shooting, Saenz was out on bail in an unrelated aggravated kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault case. As a condition of bail, he was ordered to wear an electronic ankle monitor.

Three law enforcement sources familiar with the homicide investigation say Saenz cut the electronic ankle monitor off after shooting Olsen. He was driving Olsen's car when he was arrested the following day by police in Glendale, Arizona.

Investigators say a motive for the shooting remains unclear because Saenz has asserted his right to remain silent.

In August 2013, Saenz admitted that he followed a Vernal woman off a shuttle bus in the summer of 2012 and attacked her, dragging her into a field where he beat and raped her.

McClellan, who presided over the sex assault case, imposed a mandatory sentence of 15 years to life in prison for Saenz's guilty plea to one count of aggravated sexual assault, a first-degree felony.

A jury of six men and four women has been chosen to hear the murder case. Eight of the jurors will ultimately decide the case, with two serving as alternates. Opening statements are expected to take place Tuesday. The trial is scheduled to run through Friday.

Email: gliesik@deseretnews.com, Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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