SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Two people accused of abuse in connection with the death of a Kearns woman appeared in court on Friday.
Dale and Sherrie Beckering attended a preliminary hearing in Utah's 3rd District Court, where evidence was presented to a judge who ruled that their case will be bound over for trial.
The Beckerings are accused of abusing 22-year-old Christina Harms, a woman who suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome and could not care for herself.
Harms' primary caretaker, Cassandra Shepard, was charged with her murder, and did not appear in court on Friday. A court date for Shepard had not been scheduled.
Harms was found dead after police and emergency personnel responded to a report of an overdose on Friday, March 25 at 4978 South 5415 West in Kearns.
Shepard, along with Dale and Sherrie Beckering, were also charged with Domestic Violence Abuse of a Vulnerable Adult.
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.
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 severe 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 Shepard told them to "not talk too much" about the abuse suffered by Harms just prior to her death. The children told investigators that Harms was often tied up with her arms spread across a metal pipe and was forced to eat inside the closet.
A medical examiner's report also included in the charging document indicated that Harms died from a homicide and "positional asphyxiation."