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Andrew Beck recalled slipping over ice in his stocking feet, a hood tied over his face, as two men led him to the mountain overlook where he would be held at gunpoint and ordered to shoot his best friend.
"I figured we were both gonna be dead," Beck told a jury in 3rd District Court on Wednesday during the first day in the trial of Christopher Leech, who prosecutors say was the ringleader in the 2013 execution-style slaying of 34-year-old Cleat Knight on a hilltop near Snowbasin ski resort in Weber County.
Leech is charged with aggravated murder, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of aggravated robbery and obstructing justice all first-degree felonies.
A jury in April convicted 43-year-old Viliamu Seumanu, one of the men Beck said led him and Knight to the overlook. Two other people are awaiting trial in Knight's death.
With a dearth of physical evidence Knight's body was found more than a month after his death, under 6 feet of snow prosecutors have built the cases around witnesses who had ties to a West Valley City drug dispute that investigators say led to the shooting.
That testimony amounts to "a tangle of lies of contradictions and falsehoods," defense attorney Lacey Singleton told jurors Wednesday, noting that Beck himself has been part of a white supremacist gang in prison, is accused of lying to investigators after Knight's death and has been charged with obstruction of justice, a first-degree felony.
"They're all self-serving liars," Singleton said. "To Andy Beck, lying is just like breathing."
But prosecutors said Beck has provided a consistent account of what happened in the mountains above Ogden before dawn on Nov. 23, 2013.
Beck said he and Knight were kidnapped after Knight disappeared for several hours while he was making a meth run for a transaction involving contacts of Beck's ex-girlfriend, Tina Soules, who also is charged in the case. Knight told Leech that he had obtained the drugs, Beck said. Leech, 37, replied: "It's too late for that."
Beck said Leech ordered him and Knight to lie down, and someone in the group bound their hands and tied their hoods shut so they couldn't see. They were ushered to a truck and got inside with Leech, Seumanu and driver Theron Myore, who also faces charges in the case.
Beck said he began to fall asleep during the drive to what he later learned was Weber Canyon.
"I was just giving up. I don't know how else to explain it. I was shutting down. I thought I was going to be dead," Beck said. "When I heard rocks underneath the tires, I became more aware of what was going on. I figured we were out in the middle of nowhere."
Beck said he was forced to sit on a rock next to Knight when one of the men cut open their hoods, unveiling the moonlit mountain panorama.
That was when Leech fired the first shot, Beck said. Knight fell to the ground.
"I was waiting for the next shot. I tensed up [and] stared off ahead of me," Beck said. "This is it. I was just waiting to feel the shot."
Instead, Beck said, he felt his hands being cut loose. He said Leech grabbed him by the hoodie and pulled him to his feet. Knight was motionless on the ground, he said.
"There's your homeboy," Beck recalled Leech saying. "Finish it, or you're next."
"I didn't say anything. And then at some time I told him, 'All right,' " Beck said tearfully.
Beck said Leech gave a gun to him and held another gun to Beck's head, telling him, "Don't get any stupid ideas."
Beck said he shot Knight once.
In the weeks that followed, Beck conceded, he made numerous false statements to FBI agents and West Valley City police who were investigating Knight's disappearance. Wojciech S. Nitecki, Leech's defense attorney, pointed to interview transcripts that show Beck offered several conflicting details in his accounts of the drug deal and how he was kidnapped.
Beck said that at the time, he was trying to protect Soules.
"I've told them so many stories, I don't remember any of them," Beck said. "The only way I can explain it is that I've been a criminal most of my life, so it's hard to tell the police the truth."