Man who claimed self-defense sentenced for stabbing his ‘best friend’ to death in 2019

Sep 8, 2022, 10:40 AM

SALT LAKE CITY — A jury didn’t believe Jesse Bruce’s story about what happened on March 21, 2019, the night he stabbed Cory Haney to death.

In his own words Wednesday, Bruce called the killing he’s convicted of “a horrendous tragedy.”

“Two men’s choices and actions affected dozens and dozens of people negatively,” he said during his sentencing hearing.

Those two men – Bruce, now 44, and Haney, 40 – were living as roommates. Cory Haney’s family said he took Bruce in when Bruce needed a place to stay. Then, Bruce took Haney’s life.

Cory Haney, 40, was murdered in March of 2019.

According to charging documents, Bruce told investigators early on that he’d acted in self-defense and, “I killed my best friend for 25 years.”

“Cory did what he did, and I did what I had to do,” Bruce told the court Wednesday.

But that’s not how members of the jury saw it when they found him guilty of murder in June, and Third District Judge Richard McKelvie said Wednesday that he agreed with them.

“I don’t see any remorse here,” said McKelvie, “and I certainly don’t see any self-defense.”

McKelvie read aloud one of Bruce’s statements included in a pre-sentence report that he found to be especially telling:

“The defendant said, ‘I got a knife and was able to stand up on one leg. He (meaning Mr. Haney) came back into my room, raised his arms when he saw me standing there, so I stabbed him in the chest. We fell to the floor, and I stabbed him until he stopped moving.’”

McKelvie said he understood the statement to mean Haney raised his arms in a surrendering manner before Bruce stabbed him dozens of times. He sentenced Bruce to serve 16 years to life in prison.

“He didn’t just stab him, he butchered him,” said Kay Lynn Stafford, Haney’s mother.

Stafford prepared a victim impact statement to read during the hearing, but when only one representative from Haney’s family was permitted to make a statement, she urged Haney’s brother to speak instead.

She had planned to reference the medical examiner’s report which noted more than 60 sharp and blunt force injuries found on Haney’s body.

“It was a brutal, rage inflicted murder,” she told KSL.

For Haney’s parents, Wednesday’s sentencing felt like another blow.

“I do not feel the closure that I was hoping for for today,” said Marvin Bret Haney, Cory’s father.

Cory Haney’s parents, Kay Lynn Stafford and Marvin Bret Haney, speak with KSL after a sentencing hearing for Jesse Bruce.

He described Cory as a man who had a “real keen sense” of what he could control and what he could not. While he might be disappointed in how things have played out, his father said Cory would not have focused on issues beyond his reach.

“Cory knows that we’re here for him,” he said.

“I’m mad,” Stafford said. “I’m mad that Cory’s gone, that he’ll never be here.”

Stafford said outside of the jury’s guilty verdict, she’s felt let down by Utah’s justice system at almost every step. That includes a several-month delay in the case after Bruce attempted to use a new Utah self-defense law to get his charges dismissed without going to trial.

The KSL Investigators first reported on unintended consequences of the 2021 law for victims of crime.

But that law doesn’t apply to domestic violence cases, and prosecutors successfully argued the nature of Bruce and Cory’s relationship – as roommates – disqualified the case from the new legal process Bruce had hoped to use.

Still, Stafford has remained a critic of the law.

“It prolonged the process for us,” she said. “And it was very harmful to our family.” Bruce is also facing felony charges for allegedly threatening members of Cory’s family in November while he was out on bail. His next court hearing in that case is set for October.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

KSL Investigates

Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage

Get Gephardt: What can you do if you pay someone to do work but they disappear with your money?

Imagine paying a deposit only to have them take your money and ghost you.
2 days ago
Photo illustration (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)...
Matt Gephardt

Get Gephardt: Your credit card can up your interest rate without telling you

If your credit card company raises your interest rate even just a little bit, it could have a significant impact on how long it takes you to get out of debt. A relatively new law means your credit card company can do just that and they do not even have to give you the heads up.
3 days ago
UDOT says it spend over $1.5 million on fixing potholes in the last fiscal year, FY 2022....
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

Submitting a claim to the government for pothole damage? Good luck with that

A pothole can do serious and expensive damage to your car. But as Get Gephardt found, if you hit a bad spot on a Utah road, don’t expect the city or state to rush to pay for your repairs.
4 days ago
Matt Gephardt and Cindy St. Clair

Get Gephardt: No, really, why are Utah gas prices still higher than the national average?

Why are gas prices in Utah so much higher than other parts of the country?
8 days ago
Daniella Rivera

Tracking Transparency: Why prison surveillance videos are rarely released to the public

Since this investigation aired last night, we've heard from some of you wondering why the state is withholding these videos from the public. Here's some of the transparency issues.
8 days ago
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

Get Gephardt helps Farmington traveler get reimbursed after getting bumped from her flight

A woman paid Delta Airlines $617 to upgrade her seat. But when she arrived at the airport, she found she had no seat at all.
9 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Types of Computer Malware and Examples...
PC Laptops

5 Nasty Types of Computer Malware and Examples | Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Computer and Family Safe

Here are the different types of computer malware and examples that could potentially infect your computer.
tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Man who claimed self-defense sentenced for stabbing his ‘best friend’ to death in 2019