U student’s killer released from life sentence

By Michael McFall, News Editor

A man who killed a U student 12 years ago has been given a second chance.

In 1996, David Valken-Leduc was suspected to have shot Matthew John Whicker, 30, at a Woods Cross Motel 6, where we working as a night clerk. Whicker was a father of two and working at the motel to pay for college and support his family. He was studying Russian and was going to graduate that spring.

It wasn’t until 2004 that Valken-Leduc was brought before a court and found guilty. He was sentenced to six years to life in prison, but Tuesday, he walked out a free man.

The Utah justice system determined that Valken-Leduc’s defense team so poorly represented him in court during his trial that it likely had an effect on the jury, according to court documents. Without the assurance that the jury was impartial in their decision, the courts could not hold him to the sentence. He was allowed to make an Alford plea to a lesser crime–the first-degree felony of manslaughter–and was released on probation.

Entering an Alford plea does not admit guilt, but that there is enough evidence for a court to convict someone of the crime.

Valken-Leduc still denies ever shooting the U student, or that he was ever in Woods Cross when it happened.

Valken-Leduc is now as old as Whicker was when he died. He told the Deseret News that he has every intention to start a new life and live it above reproach.

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