Teen admits to rape, murder of counselor; jury to decide penalty

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FARMINGTON - Robert Cameron Houston on Tuesday admitted he raped and murdered a female staff member of a Clearfield home for troubled teens last year.

Houston pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, a capital crime. But because Houston was 17 and a minor when he murdered 22-year-old Raechale Elton, he is not eligible for the death penalty.

A 2nd District Court jury will determine during a penalty phase trial, set to begin April 9, whether Houston should serve life in prison with or without the possibility of parole.

After Tuesday's hearing, defense attorney Dee Smith said that Houston, now 18, pleaded guilty because he wanted to "accept responsibility for what he had done."

Smith added, "He felt he had to step up . . . rather than put the [victim's] family through a trial."

During the upcoming penalty phase, a jury of 12 will weigh aggravating versus mitigating factors in deciding Houston's sentence.

They will hear testimony about Houston's childhood, upbringing, juvenile crime record and psychological make-up.

"We believe there are a lot of mitigating factors," Smith said, adding that "one or more" of Houston's family may also testify on his behalf.

McGuire said he will present testimony from "people who have dealt with [Houston] before."

Some of those may be people who work in the juvenile court system. Houston had been referred to the company Elton worked for, Youth Health Associates, following juvenile court referrals for aggravated sexual assault in 2001 and 2004.

Jurors will also hear a condensed version of the crime, which McGuire outlined on Tuesday for Judge Glen Dawson as part of the plea entry.

On the night of Feb. 15, 2006, Elton gave Houston a ride to the youth home following a basketball game, according to McGuire.

When they arrived at the home, no one else was there.

Houston informed Elton she needed to sign him in. But once they were inside, he put a pocket knife to her throat, took her to a bedroom and forced her to disrobe, McGuire told the judge.

Houston then forced Elton to have sexual intercourse with him.

"He then stabbed her and cut her throat, causing her death," McGuire said.

Houston was running outside while pulling up blood-stained pants as another employee drove up to the home, according to testimony at a June 2006 preliminary hearing.

After failing to prevent Houston from driving away in Elton's car, the employee went into the home and found Elton unconscious and naked, with stab wounds in her back and her throat slit.

Houston was arrested after crashing Elton's car into a nearby home. He later gave a detailed confession to a police detective.

In exchange for Houston's plea, prosecutors dismissed charges of first-degree felony rape and aggravated sexual assault.

An honor graduate of Tooele High School, Elton was studying criminal justice at Weber State University, working at the group home to help pay her tuition. Her family said she choose her profession because she wanted to help troubled individuals.