This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
For allegedly kidnapping and killing Joyce Yost nearly 30 years ago to keep the woman from testifying against him in a rape case, Douglas Anderson Lovell has already been sentenced to death once before.
This week, a jury will be tasked with deciding once again whether Lovell is guilty of the 1985 crime and whether he should be put to death for it.
Jury selection in the four-week trial begins Monday, with opening statements expected Wednesday.
Lovell, who is now 57, pleaded guilty in 1993 to aggravated murder, admitting that he kidnapped Yost from her South Ogden home on Aug. 11, 1985, then took her to the mountains east of Ogden and strangled her to death.
An Ogden judge sentenced Lovell to death by lethal injection in 1993 a ruling the defendant has been fighting for years.
After several failed appeals, the Utah Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that Lovell could withdraw his guilty plea because he should have been better informed of his rights during court proceedings.
And now, jury selection is expected to begin Monday in 2nd District Court as part of a four-week capital murder trial for Lovell.
During his 1993 sentencing hearing, Lovell took the stand and detailed how he sexually assaulted Yost, and later kidnapped and murdered the 39-year-old woman to keep her from testifying at a rape trial, according to court records.
Despite her disappearance, prosecutors had used Yost's testimony from a preliminary hearing to convict Lovell of the rape, for which he is serving a 15-year-to-life sentence at the Utah State Prison.
Though Lovell was the primary suspect in the woman's disappearance, the investigation stalled for six years until Lovell's ex-wife, Rhonda Buttars, agreed to cooperate with police shortly after their divorce.
In 1991 and 1992, Buttars wore a recording device while visiting her ex-husband at the Utah State Prison and, according to court records, Lovell made several incriminating statements, including "I committed a first-degree felony to cover another felony. It's the death penalty. ... I planned to kill Joyce."
Buttars was granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for her cooperation. She told investigators that her ex-husband had tried and failed twice to hire someone to kill Yost for him. She also admitted to driving Lovell to Yost's home on the night of the murder, then returning the next day to help him dump the body and dispose of the dead woman's car and clothing.
According to a 1999 Supreme Court opinion, Lovell followed Yost home from a restaurant in April 1985. He asked her out for a drink, and when she refused, he forced her into his car and took her to his home in Clearfield, where he raped her.
While awaiting his preliminary hearing in the rape case, Lovell allegedly offered $600 to a friend to kill the rape victim, according to the opinion. After that friend failed to carry out the murder, Lovell offered between $600 to $800 to another friend for the murder. That friend didn't kill Yost, and instead used the money to buy heroin.
Lovell then decided to murder the woman himself, the Supreme Court justices wrote in the opinion, and on Aug. 10, 1985, he allegedly went to Yost's apartment.
"He went to Ms. Yost's bed where she was asleep, put his hand over her mouth and held a knife over her," the 1999 opinion reads. "Ms. Yost [startled] when she awoke and cut her hand on the knife. Her blood soaked the sheets and mattress."
Yost pleaded for her life, and allegedly told Lovell that she would drop the sexual assault charges. The suspect allegedly told Yost that he would not kill her, gave her some Valium, and then began cleaning the blood on the bedding and mattress, according to the opinion.
"He packed a suitcase to make the police believe Ms. Yost left of her own accord," the opinion reads. "Lovell then drove Ms. Yost to a canyon outside Ogden and strangled her."
Lovell's guilty plea was part of a deal to spare him the death penalty: Prosecutors agreed not to seek his execution if Lovell could lead authorities to where Yost was buried. But despite several trips to the area around Snowbasin Ski Resort to search for the body buried eight years earlier under only leaves, brush and handfuls of dirt, according to court testimony Lovell, accompanied by police officers, was unable to locate the woman's remains prior to his sentencing date.
At his July 1993 sentencing hearing, Lovell pleaded for his life, telling the judge that he was not the same man who had killed Yost eight years earlier. He said he wanted to find her body so she could have a proper funeral and be "laid to rest."
"I took the life of one of God's most precious creations, and it has haunted me for the past eight years," he said at the hearing. "And it will haunt me for the rest of my life."
Lovell explained his crime-ridden life as being partially the result of his parents' divorce when he was 14 or 15. "It left me shattered,'' he said.
Another traumatic loss came to him, he said, when "my protector and best friend," his brother Royce, died suddenly in 1977.
Lovell had opted to let then-2nd District Judge Stanton Taylor decide his fate death or life in prison without parole instead of a jury. The condemned man later tried to withdraw his plea in a handwritten letter, claiming his defense attorney at that time, John Caine, was "adamant" that Taylor would never impose the death sentence.
But Taylor did, saying: "This is the hardest decision I've ever had to make, and it should be."
The judge found the aggravating circumstances far outweighed the mitigating circumstances.
"It wasn't even close," Taylor said at the 1993 sentencing.
Lovell's trial will be the first death penalty case to go to trial in Utah since 2008, when Floyd Eugene Maestas, now 59, was sentenced to die for stomping 72-year-old Donna Lou Bott to death during a 2004 break-in and robbery at her Salt Lake City home.