A 43-year-old father in Utah has been sentenced to life in prison after admitting to the horrific murder of his wife in front of their two young children. John Weston Erickson Jr. pleaded guilty to first-degree felony murder for stabbing and slitting the throat of his wife, Utahna Halona, in October 2020. The younger child was also injured while trying to save her mother from the brutal attack. The sentencing was handed down by Third District Court Judge Richard McKelvie, who ordered Erickson to serve a minimum of 15 years to life behind bars.
A press release given by the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office revealed additional details about the incident. Officers reportedly responded to a 911 call that they received about a stabbing at the family’s home. Upon arrival, they discovered Halona lying on the floor in the master bedroom, with large amounts of blood throughout the residence. Erickson was also found in the bedroom, having inflicted deep cuts to his own neck and arms. He claimed that he was attempting to take his own life.
The couple’s 7-year-old daughter, who was covered in blood, recounted the horrifying events to investigators. She stated that she rushed into the bedroom upon hearing her mother’s screams and witnessed her father attacking her with a knife. When she tried to intervene, her hand was cut by the knife. The young girl then sought help from her older brother, who ran to a neighbor’s house to call the police.
During the sentencing, the courtroom was filled with people who loved Utahna and paid tribute to her life and dedication to her family. Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill expressed his condolences for the loss and the impact it has had on the children. Shirlee Silversmith, Halona’s mother and the guardian of the surviving children, addressed the court. She highlighted the lasting trauma experienced by the children as a result of witnessing the brutal murder.
Judge McKelvie condemned Erickson’s actions, stating that they were unconscionable.