On Sept. 12, nearly one year after the shooting of University of Utah student ChenWei Guo, his killer entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole by third District Court, Judge Richard McKelvie. Austin Boutain pleads guilty to the aggravated murder of Guo as well as the attempted aggravated murder and aggravated kidnapping of Guo’s friend who was with him when he was killed. He will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Guo and his friend were in a dirt parking lot at the mouth of Red Butte Canyon near the U’s campus on the night of Oct. 30. His friend told police she was sitting in the passenger seat of Guo’s vehicle while Guo was in the driver seat. When the two heard a knock on the driver side window, Guo started to drive away but was shot after making a U-turn to head away from the canyon. The vehicle continued rolling until hitting a rock. The friend said she sat in Guo’s lap and attempted to drive the car but did not know how. She then called 911.
Boutain admitted after he had been read his Miranda Rights that he fully unloaded the handgun after shooting five times at the moving vehicle. While he was reloading the weapon, he heard Guo’s friend on the phone and believed she was calling 911. He said he walked uphill from the car and sat down for a few minutes before returning to the vehicle with the intention of killing the friend.
After opening the passenger door, Boutain instructed Guo’s friend to exit the vehicle and hang up the phone. He later confessed that he had planned to take her up the canyon and kill her so that her body would not be found in the parking lot. When the friend got out of the car, she dropped her phone on the ground. When Boutain stooped down to hang up the phone, she fled down the canyon. Boutain fired at her and missed. Her feet were injured while running on the unpaved road, but she did not sustain gunshot wounds.
Boutain was arrested in the Salt Lake City Library on Oct. 31. A librarian recognized Boutain at the entrance and immediately contacted security. They were later commended by Salt Lake City Police Chief, Mike Brown, at a press conference. Johann Gonzalez-Rubio, one of the security guards that made the arrest, told The Salt Lake Tribune that before the arrest, Boutain said, “Hey man, I just need to use the restroom real quick and then you can arrest me.”
After his arrest, Boutain admitted to killing a man in Golden, Colorado — a crime for which he still faces charges in that state. Although the death penalty is legal in Colorado, it is considered a de-facto non-capital punishment state.
Upon entering the plea deal in Wednesday’s hearing, Boutain additionally pleads guilty to aggravated assault of a prisoner and damaging of a jail cell. The charges stemmed from two incidents that occurred while Boutain awaited trial at the Salt Lake County Jail. The guilty plea states that Boutain stabbed another inmate several times with a shank and intentionally broke a sprinkler head in his jail cell.
Austin Boutain’s wife, Kathleen Boutain, awaits trial on three counts of criminal solicitation and three counts of theft by receiving stolen property. The first count of criminal solicitation of aggravated murder is a first-degree felony charge, the second count of criminal solicitation of aggravated kidnapping is a second-degree felony charge and the third of criminal solicitation of armed robbery is also a second-degree felony charge.
Kathleen Boutain also admitted to having corroborated with her husband when planning to hijack a vehicle at the mouth of Red Butte Canyon in the hours leading up to Guo’s death. The two intended to leave Utah and travel to Tennessee in the stolen vehicle. They discussed either kidnapping the vehicle’s operator and stealing their money for travel expenses or killing the person before fleeing with their vehicle. Kathleen Boutain said she scouted out vehicles for her husband to approach.
After Austin Boutain failed to perform the plan — he was allegedly reluctant to carry it out in the daylight — his wife became frustrated and called him a “coward.” The altercation escalated to violence and Kathleen Boutain fled from her husband after he allegedly pistol-whipped her. The first call to police was made from the Petersen Heritage Center, the hub for student housing at the U, where Kathleen Boutain sought medical care. She told police that her husband had killed a man, was in possession of two guns and was planning on killing someone to hijack their vehicle.
Kathleen Boutain, who is being held at the Utah County Jail, waived her appearance at her last hearing on Jul. 27 and is scheduled to appear in Third District Court in Salt Lake City on Nov. 27.