West Valley man pleads guilty to stabbing woman

A West Valley man has pleaded guilty to charges that he repeatedly stabbed a woman he had been sharing a house with, then hid her body in a shed. Justin VanCleave, 20, pleaded guilty last month to murder, a first-degree felony, for his involvement in the May 2016 death of Amanda Garcia. In exchange for the plea prosecutors dropped an additional charge he was facing of obstructing justice, a second-degree felony. He will be sentenced on Sept. 29 and faces 15 year to life in prison.

VanCleave was 18 at the time of murder and was living in a house with his mother, three brothers, and Garcia, however his relationship with Garcia remains unclear at this point. Officers were called to the house May 23, 2016 and found what documents describe as "bloody drag marks on the steps and patio leading from the house to the backyard," as well as a bag which contained some bloody towels, clothing, and a knife in a shed behind the house.

VanCleave's mother informed police that she had received a phone call from Garcia about 11 a.m. while she was at work, and she could hear her son in the background. A very short while later she received a text from VanCleave saying Garcia had left the house. When his mother returned home he was in the shower cleaning off. Charging documents state that Garcia had told three friends about what he had done, and tried to solicit their aid in disposing of the body, to which they all refused. 

VanCleave eventually told police he stabbed Garcia in the bathroom, then cleaned it up, moved her body to the shed, and disposed of the clothes he'd been wearing and the kitchen knife he'd used in the murder. He later went on to give them the location of where he had dumped all of it.

Photo courtesy of Salt Lake County Jail

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