Shepherd to be called as witness in next Pineview boating death trial

Posted at 4:29 PM, Jan 16, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-16 21:51:41-05

OGDEN, Utah -- Two men accused of hitting a swimmer in Pineview Reservoir and leaving her to die are headed for trial.

At a hearing Wednesday, a judge here in 2nd District Court confirmed a February trial date for Colton Raines and Cole Boyer on misdemeanor charges of obstruction of justice, failure to render aid and reckless endangerment.

Prosecutors confirmed to FOX 13 they will compel Raines and Boyer's recently convicted co-defendant, Skyler Shepherd, to testify against them at trial.

"He'll be sentenced next week and when he's sentenced then we will subpoena him to testify," said deputy Weber County Attorney Dean Saunders.

Shepherd was convicted by a jury of reckless endangerment, obstruction of justice and failure to render aid in the August 2011 death of Esther Fujimoto. She was swimming in Pineview Reservoir when she was hit by a boat and cut by the propeller.

The men are accused of speeding off, leaving Fujimoto to die in the water.

Saunders told FOX 13 that even though they did not believe Shepherd's claims at trial, he would still be a valuable -- if hostile -- witness.

"Just the fact that they were together and the basic facts that they were in the boat and what happened with the victim," Saunders said. "That is evidence that's important."

Because he was convicted, Saunders said that Shepherd has no Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and can be compelled to testify. No sentencing deal is being offered for his testimony either, prosecutors said.

Shepherd faces up to 2 1/2 years in jail when he's sentenced next week. Defense attorneys for Raines and Boyer have filed motions to limit testimony at their trial, set for Feb. 11.

Outside of court, the defendants' attorney, Rebecca Skordas, said they remain open to the possibility of a plea deal.

"At this point, it appears that we're prepared to go to trial," she said. "There always room for negotiation, there's always an opportunity for discussions. But at this point in time, it's a go."