OGDEN — An Ogden teen accused of murder pleaded not guilty to charges Tuesday after prosecutors dropped one of three felonies against him.
Xavier Soto, 18, entered not guilty pleas to one count of murder, a first-degree felony, and one count of possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person, a third-degree felony.
Prior to the Tuesday preliminary hearing, prosecutors dropped one count of obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony. Soto was present in court Tuesday, and appeared alongside his attorney, Randall Richards.
Branden Miles, chief criminal deputy for the Weber County Attorney’s Office, addressed in his opening statements that the state had dropped the obstruction charge, and went on to describe Soto’s alleged actions in his opening statements.
Miles said that the victim, 28-year-old DJ Parkinson, was stabbed twice on the evening of Feb. 2: once in the back near his right shoulder blade and the other through his heart, killing him.
The first witness called was Kevin Withers, who said he was friends with the family who lived at the home where the incident between Soto and his girlfriend began.
Withers said he heard an argument take place between Soto and the woman, and physically demonstrated that he saw Soto sitting on top of the woman and yelling at her to give something back of his. He also testified that he heard the woman yell something about a knife.
Withers went outside and told the two to knock it off, and told the two he would call the police.
“I don’t like violence, I just wanted to deescalate the situation,” Withers said.
He testified that he then walked into a detached garage to work on a car, and minutes later heard police sirens blaring.
The next to testify was Summer Tacconi, who said she was Parkinson’s girlfriend at the time of his death. Tacconi said she was with Parkinson that night, and said they could both hear an argument outside before Parkinson went outside.
By the time Parkinson went outside, Tacconi said the altercation between the man, believed to be Soto, and the woman had calmed down.
She said that Parkinson went up to the man and “nudge him” just before Parkinson took off running, with the other man giving chase. She said she didn’t see where the two went, and walked back to her mother’s nearby apartment building, thinking Parkinson would be there. Later in the night, she walked out of the building to see the nearby street filled with police.
During her time on the witness stand, Tacconi said she had never seen the man who chased after Parkinson before that night. She did not directly identify Soto as the man who chased after Parkinson during her testimony.
The final witness for the day was Travis Kearl, who was a homicide detective for the Ogden Police Department at the time of the murder.
Kearl said he was notified of the stabbing that day and was called to the scene. He testified that police located a surveillance camera installed on a nearby house showed two people running from the home. The video, played in court, showed one person from behind make a “stabbing motion” downward toward the person in front.
Kearl said the video was consistent with the stab wound Parkinson sustained to his back right shoulder blade area.
In a closing statement, Miles argued that the video and Tacconi’s testimony of seeing the man chase Parkinson away from the home were sufficient evidence to have Soto bound over for trial.
Richards, on the other hand, said the state had failed to meet their burden of proof. He argued that the “blurry” surveillance video did not make it clear who was chasing who, and added that Tacconi did not directly identify Soto as the man she saw chasing after Parkinson that night.
“There are so many unknowns in this case that the probable cause threshold has not been met,” Richards said. “We ask for the charges to be dismissed.”
Judge Joseph Bean ruled there was, in fact, enough for the case to move forward, and ordered Soto be bound over for trial. Richards then entered not guilty pleas to both charges on behalf of Soto.
Richards also requested that Soto be given a bail amount, as he has been held without bail since he turned himself into police custody in February. Richards acknowledged that Soto has had some felony convictions as a juvenile, but said the fact that Soto turned himself into police was “monumental” in his opinion. He said that Soto also has no adult criminal record.
Miles countered by listing off Soto’s convictions in the juvenile system, which included burglary, car theft and assault against a school employee, according to Miles. Miles also argued that there was an “extensive” investigation to try and locate Soto before he turned himself into police custody.
The Ogden Police issued a press release in the effort to locate Soto on Feb. 6, according to previous Standard-Examiner reporting. Soto turned himself into the Weber County Sheriff’s Office on Feb. 13.
Ultimately, Bean decided to keep Soto in jail without bail, saying Soto’s past record is one of violence, and “this crime is one of significant violence.”
Soto’s next court hearing is scheduled to take place May 30 at Ogden’s 2nd District Court.