SALT LAKE CITY — Derek James “DJ” Harrison was sentenced to another life term following a plea deal on federal carjacking and kidnapping charges.
Harrison made an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Brooke Wells on the charges. A few minutes later, he was ushered down a floor before U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby where he pleaded guilty and was sentenced in a pre-arranged deal.
As part of the deal, federal prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty. Harrison admitted to his role in the kidnapping of Kay Ricks, a Utah Transit Authority worker who was abducted from his job in May 2016.
In court, federal prosecutors said DJ Harrison did not kill Ricks. They blamed the murder on his father, Flint Harrison.
“That’s true,” DJ Harrison told Judge Shelby.
Prosecutors have said the Harrisons kidnapped Ricks and stole his truck while fleeing from another crime, driving to Wyoming. Ricks was beaten to death and his body was dumped there. Flint Harrison later killed himself in the Davis County Jail where he was awaiting charges.
In a tearful statement to the judge, family spokesman Richard Massey said Ricks’ widow had forgiven DJ Harrison.
“Mrs. Ricks wants to offer her condolences, DJ, for the loss of your
father,” he said.
Harrison’s grandmother, Marlene Brown, also spoke to the judge.
“These are not the Flint and Derek we knew,” she said, blaming it on drug use. “Derek is a really great kid who got caught up in a horrific crime.”
The sentence is Harrison’s third life term of imprisonment. He’s previously been convicted in Wyoming and Utah on charges related to the slaying. Federal prosecutors said they sought the additional life term in part to ensure Harrison doesn’t get parole in the state cases.
Massey told reporters outside of court the family was glad for the plea deal and noted the number of life sentences.
“It’s a life that’s ended too short. Kay’s was ended too short. Flint’s was ended too short. Now DJ is going to have to spend the remainder of his life at such a young age, the rest of his life in prison. That’s another life too short, taken away,” he said.