- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 25, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A southern Utah man facing a possible death penalty pleaded not guilty to aggravated murder Wednesday in the death of a 20-year-old woman.

Brandon Perry Smith, 34, is charged with cutting Jerrica Christensen’s throat in a 2010 altercation at a St. George townhome that left another woman dead and a third person wounded.

Smith entered the not guilty plea in front of Fifth District Court Judge Michael Westfall in St. George, according to court records.

His attorneys requested a two-week jury trial in the case. They are also asking a judge to toss evidence from Smith’s police interrogation. Defense attorney Gary Pendleton says Smith wasn’t fully informed of his right to an attorney before police started questioning him.

The Spectrum newspaper in St. George reported that Smith told police he meant to knock the woman unconscious but ended up cutting her with his pocket knife, according to interview recordings.

Another man, Paul Ashton, 34, is serving life without parole after pleading guilty in the killing of the other woman, Brandie Sue Dawn Jerden, 27, in his home.

Westfall set a May 15 hearing for those arguments.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty if Smith is convicted, arguing he killed Christensen to keep her from testifying about her friend’s death.

Smith also is facing an aggravated assault charge, accused of pointing a gun at the man who was wounded in the December 2010 incident.

Pendleton has said Ashton convinced Smith to get involved, though prosecutors dispute that. Pendleton did not immediately return calls seeking comment on Wednesday’s plea.

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