Liam Gale found guilty of aggravated murder in Christmas Day 2020 killing
OGDEN — After a weeklong trial, Liam Gale has been found guilty of aggravated murder and four other counts in the Christmas Day killing of a Riverdale man in 2020.
Weber County prosecutors and Gale’s attorney presented closing arguments in the case in 2nd District Court in Ogden on Monday morning before handing the case to the eight jurors. The jurors came back later Monday afternoon with guilty verdicts on all counts he faced, according to online court filings.
One of the key questions wasn’t necessarily whether Gale was culpable in the killing of Trevor Martin but if he should be convicted of aggravated murder or lesser charges of murder or manslaughter. Jurors opted to convict Gale of the most serious offense.
The jury also found Gale guilty of attempted aggravated murder of Angela Rowley, Martin’s girlfriend, and three other counts. Rowley was shot in the jaw in the incident but survived.
Officials weren’t immediately available for comment late Monday afternoon. But earlier in the day during his closing arguments, Branden Miles, a Weber County prosecutor, argued for an aggravated murder conviction, noting, among other things, what he said was Gale’s central role in the Dec. 25, 2020, incident at Martin’s home in a Riverdale mobile home park. He alluded to the role of Rayburn Bennett in the incident.
“He was 16 years old,” Miles said, then turning his attention to Gale sitting at the defense table and pointing to him. “He was working at the behest of one person who’s now sitting there.”
Bennett, who cooperated with investigators and testified against Gale in the trial, pleaded guilty to murder, among other charges, as part of a plea deal and received a sentence last May of 15 years to life imprisonment.
Bill Morrision, Gale’s lawyer, argued for a conviction of his client on the lesser charge of manslaughter. The language of the Utah statute spelling out manslaughter defines it as “recklessly” causing the death of another.
Involving Bennett in the matter is “totally reckless,” Morrision said. He also noted that Bennett “finished off” Martin and that those involved in the case never said at any time that their intent in going to the Martin home that night was to kill the man, but rather to rob him.
Gale didn’t testify in the trial and the defense called no witnesses.
The trial started on July 31 and Gale was the last of three defendants in the case — including Bennett and Brittany Rogers, Gale’s girlfriend — to face judgement. Rogers, who drove Bennett and Gale to and from the scene of the shooting, was found guilty in a jury trial last April of murder and four other charges and sentenced last May to 21 years to life imprisonment.
Gale had lived with Martin and Rowley for around four months earlier in 2020. Subsequent to that, according to testimony in the trial, Gale concocted a plan to rob Martin, ultimately recruiting the help of Bennett, who didn’t know Martin or Rowley. In his closing arguments, Morrision alluded to bad relations between Gale and Martin and money Martin had purportedly earned from drug dealing, the supposed focus of the planned robbery.
Around 3 a.m. on Dec. 25, 2020, Rowley was wrapping Christmas presents at the mobile home she shared with Martin, when Bennett — accompanied by Gale — knocked on her door, seeking Martin. She turned Bennett back, but the two returned minutes later, again knocking on the door. Rowley opened it, and Bennett and Gale forced their way inside.
In the struggle that ensued, Gale — facing a defensive attack from Rowley — fired a 9mm gun on Martin, striking him twice. Bennett, who had been struggling directly with Martin, subsequently fired his 40-caliber gun at Martin, striking him three times, according to testimony in the trial. As he was fleeing the mobile home, Bennett then fired on Rowley, striking her in the jaw. She survived, and Gale faced an attempted aggravated murder charge in her shooting stemming from his role in spearheading events that day.
Others — Bennett and Rogers — were involved in the Christmas Day incident. “But make no mistake about it — this was the defendant’s plan,” Thomas Pedersen, a deputy Weber County attorney, said in his closing arguments Monday, alluding to Gale.
Martin had been fending off Bennett’s physical assault, but Gale’s gunshots, Pedersen said, weakened Martin, allowing Bennett to fire on the man and get the better of him.
Indeed, Pedersen alluded to Gale’s apparent satisfaction with how things turned out that evening.
“The defendant was happy about what had gone down, was happy about what had happened,” Pedersen said. He said Bennett, by contrast, ultimately cooperated with prosecutors, aiming to help secure a semblance of justice for Rowley and her surviving family.
Aside from the eight jurors, an alternate juror also listened to the case, presided over by Judge Camille Neider.
The jury Monday also found Gale guilty of aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary and obstructing justice. Online court records didn’t contain a sentencing date.