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Hearing set in cold-case killing of Utah teen

Published November 1, 2013 12:33 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A December 16 preliminary hearing has been set for a Florida man charged with murdering a Utah teen near the Provo River 18 years ago.

Joseph Michael Simpson, 46, is charged in Heber's 4th District Court with aggravated murder, a first-degree felony.

On Dec. 16, 1995, 17-year-old Krystal Lynn Beslanowitch was found near the Provo River — naked and bleeding from her head and shoulders — by Wasatch County Sheriff's deputies.

Nearby, several large granite rocks — believed to be the murder weapon — were found covered in fresh blood, according to court documents.

Despite following up on several leads, the case went cold until 2008 when better DNA testing became available. The granite rocks were tested for DNA evidence, and an unknown partial profile of a man was found on the rocks, according to court records.

A few years later, in 2011, DNA samples found on Beslanowitch's body — including a sperm sample — were tested, but a match to Simpson's DNA was not returned until January 2013.

In May, the rocks — which initially only yielded a partial DNA profile — were re-tested with new, better technology, and a "major DNA profile" was returned, and matched to Simpson again, according to court records.

To corroborate the evidence, Wasatch County investigators flew to Florida on Aug. 25 to get a new DNA sample from their suspect without his knowledge. They followed Simpson to a smoke shop, where he smoked and discarded a cigarette, according to the sheriff's office.

The test on the cigarette proved another match.

Simpson used to live in Clearfield, but has since been living with his mother and step-father in Sarasota County, Fla., for about 13 years, according to a news release. He was arrested at his Florida home Tuesday without incident.

Simpson was booked into the Sarasota County Jail under suspicion of aggravated murder. Simpson has waived extradition and will be transported to Utah within the next few weeks, according to a Wasatch County Sheriff's news release.

This is the second time Simposon is facing an accusation of murder.

He was charged with second-degree felony murder in August 1987 and pleaded guilty two months later, according to Utah court documents.

Simpson had stabbed a man named Paul J. Helminger 13 times. Police arrested Simpson on Aug. 9, 1987, after Helminger, a 26-year-old police informant, was found face-down on the lawn in front of his apartment at 103 E. Center St. in Clearfield with a butcher knife in his right shoulder.

Simpson claims he killed the man in self-defense, but neighbors saw Simpson chasing the victim and swinging the butcher knife as Helminger cried for help, according to trial testimony.

Simpson was paroled from the Utah State Prison in April 1995, and was free at the time of Beslanowitch's slaying, according to Utah Board of Pardons and Parole records. He was returned to prison briefly in 1997 for a parole violation and, subsequently, was on supervised parole until June 2003.

In Beslanowitch's case, prosecutors could opt to pursue the death penalty based on three alleged aggravating factors listed in the charging document: Simpson was previously convicted of murder; the slaying was committed in an especially heinous, atrocious, cruel or exceptionally depraved manner; and that Simpson mutilated or disfigured the victim's body, either before or after death.







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