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Craig Roger Gregerson was charged Thursday with aggravated murder and child kidnapping in the death of 5-year-old Destiny Norton, but prosecutors have not decided whether to pursue the death penalty.
Gregerson, 20, is accused of luring Destiny from her nearby back yard into his home at 518 E. Elwood Place (715 South), suffocating her, sexually abusing her body and disposing of it in a plastic storage container in his basement on July 16.
Aggravated murder is a capital crime, punishable by death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The case was charged as a capital crime because of the kidnapping and because of the alleged sexual desecration of a corpse, said Deputy Salt Lake County District Attorney Robert Stott.
It is believed to be the first capital case charged under the desecration statute, which was only recently added to the circumstances for aggravated murder.
But the DA's office has not yet decided whether to pursue the death penalty, Stott said.
The child kidnapping charge carries possible sentences of 6 years, 10 years, and 15 years to life in prison.
Gregerson, an unemployed high-school dropout originally of Orem, is scheduled to appear Friday morning before 3rd District Judge Robert Hilder via closed-circuit TV from the Salt Lake County jail.
Gregerson is being held in lieu of $5 million bail. The case has been assigned to Judge Robin Reese.
The charges are based partly on Gregerson's confession. According to a criminal complaint filed in court Thursday, Gregerson told FBI agent Steven Fillerup on Monday that he saw Destiny playing in her back yard on July 16. Gregerson then approached Destiny and persuaded her to come into his house, according to the charges.
Once inside Gregerson's home, Destiny wanted to leave and "became very vocal," according to the charges. Gregerson then placed his hand over her mouth and allegedly squeezed until she went limp.
Gregerson told the FBI agent that he took Destiny's body into his basement and later engaged in sexual activity with her body, the charges state.
Police found Destiny's body in a plastic storage container in Gregerson's basement on Monday night, prosecutors said.
An autopsy found that Destiny was smothered and sexually assaulted after she was dead.
At a press conferences announcing the charges, Stott and Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank praised police officers and the FBI.
Burbank said that during the course of the investigation, the officers "fell in love with Destiny."