Park City killing could become death penalty case
September 16, 2016
Summit County prosecutors in the summer enhanced the charge in a February shooting death in Park City from murder to aggravated murder, a more serious count that allows them to seek the death penalty upon conviction if they opt to do so.
James Henfling had been charged with a count of murder with a dangerous weapon enhancement since a gun was used to kill Jose Fernandez. Joy Natale, a Summit County prosecutor assigned to the case, said in an interview a recent Utah Supreme Court case allows the count to be enhanced to aggravated murder as a result of the shooting occurring as part of a separate suspected offense of aggravated burglary. Natale said Henfling's entry into the apartment where the shooting occurred became unlawful when he fired the gun, prompting the enhancement of the charge to aggravated murder.
A preliminary hearing in the Feb. 22 shooting is scheduled in October. The judge will decide afterward whether to order Henfling to stand trial in the case. The judge uses a lesser standard when deciding whether to bind someone over for trial than a jury does when considering whether to convict someone.
If Henfling is bound over for trial, prosecutors will have 60 days to file a notice of intent with the 3rd District Court to seek the death penalty if he is convicted. Natale said the Attorney's Office has not decided whether it will seek Henfling's execution if he is convicted. Summit County Attorney Robert Hilder will ultimately make that decision.
Prosecutors have also charged Henfling with a first-degree felony count of discharging a firearm with serious bodily injury and a count of aggravated burglary with a dangerous weapon enhancement, which is also a first-degree felony.
In a charging document, the prosecutors say the Park City Police Department was called to the 7-Eleven on Park Avenue after a woman described as distraught went to the convenience store and then told the police Henfling, her boyfriend, shot a person. Henfling went to the store soon after, ordered out of a vehicle at police gunpoint and detained, the prosecutors said.
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Officers responded to a condominium on Empire Avenue and found Fernandez on his back and bleeding from a gunshot to the head, the charging document says. He was taken to a hospital and died on Feb. 26.
Henfling's sister was at the condominium and saw the shooting, the prosecutors said. The charging document said Henfling admitted to the police he shot Fernandez with a .40-caliber pistol.
Fernandez worked at the No Name Saloon & Grill and Boneyard Saloon & Wine Dive. He was 37 years old.
Henfling, who is 28 years old and from Midvale, is incarcerated at the Summit County Jail, where he has been held since his arrest in February. Bail is set at $250,000, cash only. Henfling's attorney did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.