SALT LAKE CITY — Cody French asked his brother, "Did you do it?"
His brother, Shaun Patrick French, replied “Yes,” and “that he slit her throat,” Cody French testified from the witness stand Monday.
The testimony came during a preliminary hearing for Shaun French, 25, accused of murdering 15-year-old Baleigh Bagshaw in her Salt Lake home on May 7, 2018, shortly after arriving home from her classes at West High School.
He is charged with aggravated murder and aggravated burglary, first-degree felonies; plus obstructing justice and sexual exploitation of a minor, second-degree felonies.
Late last week, prosecutors also filed two additional charges of witness tampering, a second-degree felony, after French allegedly told his brother and mother during phones calls from the Salt Lake County Jail to “run and not testify,” the charges state.
French’s defense asked the judge to postpone the preliminary hearing because they had anticipated the new charges would be filed as a separate case and they did not feel fully prepared to cross-examine witnesses. Third District Judge Royal Hansen denied the motion, noting that for the purposes of the preliminary hearing it would be OK to proceed. He also pointed to the state’s contention that it has been 15 months since Baleigh’s death and the case had not progressed much.
French's defense team said if the case is bound over for trial, they will file a motion asking that the witness tampering charges not be included, as well as the charge of sexual exploitation of a minor.
Cody French was the first witness called to the stand. Prosecutors noted that French did not want to be there.
“Not too pleasant testifying against your own brother,” he said.
During his testimony, Cody French said his brother, Shaun French, was obsessed with Baleigh and he described how he had discussed committing suicide after breaking up with her.
Shaun French used to live with Baliegh’s family from December 2016 until July 2017. Just before her death, Baleigh told her mom that she had engaged in a sexual relationship with French during that time when she was 14.
On May 7, Baleigh arrived at her house, 1624 W. 500 North, and called her mom to let her know she was home from school. While she was on the phone, Baleigh started screaming. A neighbor who heard the screams looked inside Baleigh’s door and called police after seeing blood.
Salt Lake police officer Chris Poteracki testified Monday that when he arrived at the house, he could see what appeared to be a shoe print in blood. When he opened the door, which was slightly ajar, he found “a large amount of blood” pooling at the edge of the kitchen and a young female’s body on the floor. A knife was later recovered in the the backyard.
When Cody French later talked to his brother on the phone and asked him if he had killed Baleigh, he said Shaun French compared it a deer’s throat he had slit during hunting season.
After the killing, Shaun French and another man started driving, and were allegedly headed to South Carolina. They stopped at a gas station in Evanston, Wyoming, where French threw his bloody clothes and a backpack into a dumpster, according to court documents.
Salt Lake Police Lt. Kory Checketts described the 9 ½ hours that 20 to 25 officers spent at a Wyoming landfill looking for the backpack. They found it, and inside discovered clothing with blood stains, a knife, rubber gloves, duct tape, latex gloves and a ski mask, charging documents state.
French was arrested on U.S. 50 near county Road 13 in southeast Colorado by the Otero County Sheriff's Office following a two-day manhunt.
Salt Lake police detective Tiffany Seyes testified that before Baleigh was killed, French had a friend create a fake Facebook account under another person's name, and then used that account to send nude pictures of Baleigh to her mother.Comment on this story
During cross-examination, however, Seyes said she could not prove whether French or the friend sent the pictures to Baleigh's mother. The defense further pointed out that all of the pictures submitted as evidence were originally selfies taken by Baleigh and sent to French, and that he did not take the pictures himself.
French, with a shaved head, beard, glasses and a yellow jumpsuit, sat quietly next to his attorneys on Monday, occasionally writing things on a piece of paper for them to read.
Many of Baleigh’s family members sat in the front row behind prosecutors in the courtroom. Some had tissues in their hands and wiped away tears as police described finding her body.
The preliminary hearing is expected to last at least two days.