Man gets 30 years in slaying of man, burning of body

A Grand Junction man was sentenced Monday to serve 30 years in prison in the beating and stabbing death of a man on Orchard Mesa whose body was later burned inside his own RV.

The sentence was the maximum available to District Judge Thomas Deister after accepting a guilty plea from 23-year-old Lucos Schultz, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in the June 12, 2012, death of Bill Smith, 51, at 830 Unaweep Ave.

While prosecutors alleged a conspiracy between Schultz and Julius Sutton, 27, in Smith’s death, Deister said Monday he was no closer to understanding which of the men might have hatched plans to kill Smith and later destroy evidence by burning an RV where Schultz and Sutton had left Smith’s body.

“A host was killed after offering company to two individuals he encountered that day,” the judge said before passing sentence. “Agreeing to kill someone is never acceptable.”

Schultz, who testified during Sutton’s trial earlier this month, told a jury he was drunk walking down Unaweep Avenue when he was invited by Sutton to join a party with Smith. The men were believed to be strangers to each other.

Schultz testified he was hit over the head by Smith with a liquor bottle. He claimed he never saw Sutton actually assault Smith in retaliation.

Sutton, however, implicated Schultz as the person who decided to burn Smith’s body inside his RV.

At minimum, prosecutors know neither Schultz nor Sutton sought medical attention for Smith after an assault which left the yard at 830 Unaweep Ave. dotted with Smith’s blood, Assistant District Attorney Rich Tuttle said. The prosecutor noted Smith had lived there most of his life with his 93-year-old grandmother.

“She still lives there,” Tuttle said. “There was no open casket (for funeral) with the body burned beyond recognition.”

Defense attorneys Matt Daymon and Patrick Gentzler said Schultz suffers from severe mental health and substance abuse issues and suggested he was incapable of hatching a plot to kill anyone. Schultz was the victim of physical and sexual abuse in his childhood, the defense said.

That didn’t sit well with the prosecution.

“Everyone in this case has a sad story,” Tuttle said. “Bill Smith did not go out and murder anybody.”

Sutton was convicted by a Mesa County jury Aug. 7 on charges of second-degree murder, first-degree assault and abuse of corpse, among other counts.


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