OGDEN — A Pleasant View man accused of killing his estranged girlfriend and dumping her body in Ogden Canyon wants to talk to his young children.
But a prosecutor and a judge said Thursday it’s not a good idea, considering Andy Dane Oketang Dennis also is charged with telling the children to lie to police before his arrest.
Dennis, 36, was arrested June 17 in the death of Lopine “Chynna” Toilolo, whose body was found May 12 by the Ogden River.
The West Jordan woman had been strangled and her body desecrated, authorities alleged.
Dennis appeared by video from the Weber County Jail in a 2nd District Court hearing Thursday, his attorney asking that he be allowed to contact the children.
“The presumption of innocence is still there,” Dennis’ attorney, Grant Morrison, told Judge Joseph Bean. “We’re asking that the children only have a short phone call.”
Dennis is the custodial parent of the children, 9 and 12 years old, who are staying with cousins in Clearfield.
“They’re in utter distress,” Morrison said. “No phone call at all.”
But Chase Hansen, a deputy Weber County attorney, objected.
“The state’s position is that they should not have direct contact,” Hansen said. “We have real concerns about the affect it could have on the case.”
He referred to the two counts of second-degree felony obstruction of justice Dennis faces, in addition to charges of first-degree felony murder and third-degree felony abuse or desecration of a corpse.
As part of the investigation, Weber County Sheriff’s Office detectives interviewed Dennis’ two children at the Weber-Morgan Children’s Justice Center. The children said Toilolo left Dennis’ residence the night of May 10 and got a ride with someone else, an arrest affidavit said.
But in a later interview, the children said their father had told them what to say to law enforcement in the first interview. They said Dennis and Toilolo had been fighting and arguing and that before they left, he took Toilolo’s phone and put it in a box in the garage.
Hansen said it would be an injustice to allow Dennis to speak to his children now.
“The state is pursuing this murder charge to the fullest capacity,” he said.
Keeping the children from talking to Dennis, Morrison countered, “would be a huge injustice as well. They don’t know what’s going on.”
Bean ruled he would allow Dennis to communicate with his children only in writing, coordinated by the Utah Division of Child and Family Services.
The judge said there is concern in such situations about “not only what is said, but the tone of voice.”
A parent’s tone and manner of speech can “tend to influence or even coerce children,” Bean said.
At a preliminary hearing Nov. 12, Bean ruled prosecutors had presented sufficient evidence to send the case to trial.
Dennis pleaded not guilty to all four charges.
His next court appearance is Dec. 17.