LOGAN — A judge has ordered Stacy “Rob” Willis to be held without bail while prosecutors determine whether or not to seek the death penalty on allegations that the 41-year-old Hyrum man beat a California woman to death.
Willis was arraigned in 1st District Court Monday afternoon by video from the Cache County Jail. He sat slouched in a chair as Judge Kevin Allen read the nine charges filed against him, including capital murder, three counts of obstruction of justice and possession of a dangerous weapon, all second-degree felonies, and four misdemeanors.
State attorney Tony Baird requested Willis be held without bail. He told the court the suspect has a history of trying to escape from authorities and there have been threats made against several of the witnesses in the case.
The capital murder charge means Willis could be sentenced to death if convicted. Baird explained to the court, though, the county attorney had not made a decision yet on whether or not to ask for the death penalty.
Police arrested Willis last week on suspicion of killing Merrilee Cox-Lafferty last month. The woman had reportedly traveled to the area to help a friend move and meet up with Willis. Her body was found Friday in a make-shift grave, eight-miles east of Hyrum in Blacksmith Fork Canyon. Her family had reported her missing August 21st, three days after several witnesses saw her and the suspect fighting.
Police allege that Willis took Cox-Lefferty to a campsite in Left Hand Fork Canyon on the afternoon of the 18th. He then beat her to death and buried her body in a rocky area, under a tree. He later told a friend that he pulled her from his car after she backed into a tree, breaking the vehicle’s rear-window. He killed her with elbow blows and took the friend to the campsite where her body was buried.
A second acquaintance told officers Willis asked him to drive Cox-Lafferty’s car to Boise, Idaho and leave it in a hotel parking lot. The car was later found by officers and returned to Logan City investigators.
Willis spoke only briefly during Monday’s video arraignment, telling the court he didn’t have any questions regarding the charges filed against him. He was assigned two public defenders to represent him and ordered to appear again October 1st.
Willis was recently released from prison. He was convicted of shooting at a couple outside the North Logan Walmart in July 2014.