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Man accused in U of U student’s death pleads guilty; sentenced to life in prison

Posted at 1:18 PM, Sep 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-12 22:04:29-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The man accused of killing University of Utah student ChenWei Guo last October has pleaded guilty to several charges and learned his sentence Wednesday.

A judge sentenced Austin Jeffery Boutain to life in prison without the possibility of parole for aggravated murder.

Boutain also received a sentence of five years to life for attempted aggravated murder, 15 years to life for aggravated kidnapping, one to 15 years for aggravated assault by a prisoner and zero to five years to life for damaging a jail.

The latter two charges relate to an incident in January in which Boutain is accused of attacking a fellow inmate with a sharp weapon possibly constructed from a set of nail clippers.

According to the Salt Lake County Attorney's Office, Boutain allegedly killed Guo in Red Butte Canyon back on Oct. 30 in an attempt to rob or kidnap him and a female passenger who was in the vehicle with Guo.

He said the crime came as the couple was camping in the area and wanted to flee Utah but lacked the funds to do so.

"[Boutain and his wife Kathleen] hatched a plan that they were going to kidnap a person and a vehicle from the Red Butte Garden area and then drive this person to Tennessee," Salt Lake County DA Sim Gill said last year. "They were going to use his or her credit cards for food and gas, and once they got to Tennessee their intent was to kill that person."

Charging documents say the couple argued after Kathleen complained that it was taking Boutain too long to kidnap someone. Boutain allegedly pistol-whipped Kathleen during that fight, and she ran away and called police.

Meanwhile, investigators say Boutain approached Guo's parked car to ask Guo and his female passenger if they had seen Kathleen. Prosecutors allege that when Guo did not roll down his window, Boutain got upset and fired several shots, hitting and killing Guo.

The woman in Guo's car tried to call police, but Boutain tried to take her phone and later tried to kill her.

"And she did probably the smartest thing at that point, which is she threw the phone on the ground, and as he went down to pick it up to turn off the phone—she was on the phone with 911—she ran away, and as she was running away, Mr. Boutain filed several shots at her, as he later admitted, with an intent to kill her," Gill said.

The Attorney General's Office stated Austin and Kathleen Boutain are also suspects in the murder of a man in Golden, Colorado.

Boutain had been on probation for felony convictions in Marion County, Alabama, including failure to register as a sex offender and car theft, court documents show.