SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - The caretaker of a disabled Kearns woman has been charged with murder.
Cassandra Shepard was charged with the murder of 22-year-old Christina Harms in Utah's 3rd District Court on Friday.
Harms was found dead after police and emergency personnel responded to a report of an overdose at on Friday, March 25 at 4978 South 5415 West in Kearns.
Shepard, along with Dale and Sherrie Beckering, were also booked on suspicion of Domestic Violence Abuse of a Vulnerable Adult charges.
Shepard was charged with 1st Degree Felony Murder, 1st Degree Felony Intentional Abuse of a Disabled or Elderly Adult, and 2nd Degree Felony Obstruction of Justice.
Harms suffered from a mental disability, and Shepard was her legal guardian.
Also in court Friday, the Beckerings were charged with 1st Degree Felony Intentional Abuse of a Disabled or Elderly Adult.
The Beckerings are Shepard's parents, and Shepard lived with Harms in their Kearns home.
Investigators say Christina was related to Cassandra Shepard through Christina’s adoptive mother’s father. Christina’s grandfather and Cassandra’s father were brothers.
According to police, Harms was repeatedly abused inside the Kearns home, where investigators found evidence that she had been tied to a rack with nylon zip ties while having pepper placed or thrown in her eyes.
The charging document says police found evidence that Harms had suffered sever abuse prior to her death, and was forced to live most of her remaining days locked and bound in a closet that had an alarm system installed to alert the defendants should she try to escape.
The document said police found evidence that Harms' hands had been secured in a crucifix-style position inside the closet with her arms spread apart so she could not use them to make noise or escape the closet.
Children belonging to Shepard were also interviewed by police, and told investigators that Harms Shepard told them to "not talk to much" about the abuse suffered by Harms just prior to her death.
A medical examiner's report was also included in the charging document, that indicated Harms died from a homicide and "positional asphyxiation."