COURTS & LEGAL

Death warrant filed for Utah inmate; death by firing squad possible

Jan 17, 2024, 8:58 PM | Updated: Jan 18, 2024, 6:37 am

SALT LAKE CITY — A death warrant has been filed for an inmate who has been on death row for over 35 years and has been appealing his sentence ever since.

Ralph Leroy Menzies was sentenced to death on Mar. 23, 1988, after he had been convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping. His victim, Maurine Hunsaker, was working at a convenience store in Kearns when he kidnapped her and took her to Big Cottonwood Canyon. There he tied her to a tree, strangled her and slit her throat.

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Hunsaker’s family became frustrated after years of hearings and appeals that led nowhere legally and ultimately kept their mother’s killer alive. Criminal Appeals Director Thomas Brunker said at the time that the family was used to sitting in hearings with no resolution.

“Part of what it’s about is how long this has already taken,” Brunker said. “For the purposes of the state of Utah and the victim, it has been unnecessarily long.”

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Menzies was convicted before the 2004 law that outlawed execution by firing squad, meaning Menzies can opt to choose that method if his death warrant is signed. The last time an inmate was executed in Utah by firing squad was in 2010.

According to the Utah Department of Corrections, a hearing may need to be held for the signing of the death warrant before Menzies can be executed. The date for that possible hearing has not been announced.

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Death warrant filed for Utah inmate; death by firing squad possible