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Heber • A Florida man who was convicted of brutally beating a teenage girl to death in Utah in 1995 will serve the rest of his life behind bars, a jury decided on Friday.
Before the jury found that he will never be released from prison, 49-year-old Joseph Michael Simpson had asked them to give him hope that he might one day see outside of prison walls, despite being convicted of the Dec. 15, 1995, slaying 17-year-old Krystal Lynn Beslanowitch.
"I know it's going to be 20, maybe 30 years down the road," he said, "But it's still hope that I can have another chance."
After hearing evidence of Beslanowitch's death and details of another murder Simpson committed in 1987 the 4th District Court jurors debated for less than an hour Friday before deciding Simpson should not be allowed to be paroled. On Thursday, jurors had found Simpson guilty of aggravated murder.
During his statement to the jury, Simpson told of his childhood, of playing high school football and of his adult life in Florida, where he drove semi trucks.
He spoke of a time when the economy crashed, he became depressed and his health spiraled downward, and he felt his life was over. But it wasn't until his normally gentle cat bit him and he sought medical care for an infected wound that he went to a doctor and realized he needed to change his life or he would die.
The cat, he said, died the day after Simpson was released from the hospital.
"My cat gave me a second reason for life," he told jurors. "I'm asking the same thing from you guys."
On Friday, prosecutors asked jurors that Simpson never be released, telling them he was on parole for a 1987 second-degree felony murder conviction when he killed Beslanowitch.
"Mr. Simpson stabbed a man multiple times and left him lying there with a knife still in his back," Deputy Wasatch County Attorney McKay King told jurors. "And then, when he got out on parole, he took rocks to Krystal Beslanowitch's head until she was his second victim."
Because prosecutors opted not to seek the death penalty, jurors could only decide whether Simpson would serve life in prison, with or without an opportunity to be paroled.
Beslanowitch was last seen alive on Dec. 15, 1995, by her boyfriend, when she left their North Temple motel to get a bite to eat at a nearby convenience store. When she did not return, the boyfriend called police.
Beslanowitch's body was found the same day on the east bank of the Provo River about 5 miles north of Heber by a rancher. The teen was naked and had been bleeding from her head and shoulders. Several nearby granite rocks were covered with fresh blood, according to court documents.
The case had gone cold until 2013, when newer technology produced a "major DNA profile" from the rocks, which was matched to Simpson, court documents say.
Sorenson Forensics, a private DNA-testing lab that aids Utah law enforcement, used a special vacuum to pick up "touch DNA" from two rocks that had never been tested. The vacuum, a product of M-Vac Systems in Sandy, originally was designed to suck bacteria off food but is now used to collect genetic material that is left over when someone touches or leaves saliva on a surface.
Wasatch County investigators flew to Florida and got a new DNA sample from Simpson without his knowledge by following him to a smoke shop and picking up a cigarette that he discarded, according to the sheriff's office. A test on the cigarette allegedly provided another match.
Defense attorneys acknowledged that Simpson had sex with Beslanowitch before she died, but argued at trial that DNA from an unknown male was also found on the rock, and that an unknown male's DNA was found on the victim's body.
Police said at the time of her death that Beslanowitch worked as a Salt Lake City-based prostitute.