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Questions linger for family of slain Heber City mother as manhunt continues

julie burns.jpg
Julie Burns

As local, state and federal authorities search for homicide suspect Michael Asman, the victim’s family members are grappling with her death. They’re also asking why the suspected killer was free, despite his recent violent record and threats that he would take her life.

As of Monday afternoon, Asman, 35, was still at large. Heber City Police, the Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Marshal’s Office and other agencies were assisting with a multi-state search. Authorities said he should be considered "armed and dangerous."

The search for Asman began Thursday after 36-year-old Julie Burns was found dead in her home in Heber. Police said they’ve received lots of tips, but none leading to finding him.

Burns’ sister Angela Edmunds said she and two other sisters are focusing on helping their 10- and 6-year-old nieces, who are Asman and Burns’ daughters.

She said they’re waiting until the girls are “surrounded by love instead of in the custody of the state” to talk more about what happened.

One of the children told an investigator they were in the house and heard a gunshot the night of the mother’s death.

Edmunds said after Asman was arrested for domestic violence last month on June 11, she was concerned when he was granted $5,000 bail, then got out of jail days later.

“It was absolutely the wrong decision,” Edmunds said, “especially with her telling the police that he said to her, ‘I'm going to kill you if you press charges on me.’”

In June, Asman was arrested on charges including 3rd-degree felony aggravated assault and domestic violence in the presence of a child. According to court documents, Asman was accused of punching Burns in the face and dragging her from a moving car while she held on, trying to get her kids out of it.

Edmunds also questioned why law enforcement officials didn’t confiscate Asman’s guns after he was released. He was under a protective order that made it illegal for him to have guns.

Heber City Police Department spokesman Phil Kirk said protective orders do not allow police to search homes or take property, such as guns, unless someone has a gun when they’re arrested.

When it comes to those restrictions, Utah law relies on people who are out on bail to police themselves.

“They are not allowed to possess the weapons, but that is something that is put on them,” said Wasatch County Deputy Attorney Mckay King, the prosecutor of Asman’s case in June. “They're not allowed to go to those weapons. It's not that at that point, someone comes and takes the weapons away from them.”

King said state law protects people’s rights to own guns, even when they’re forbidden to have them in their possession. He said that in order to take a gun from Asman, police would have needed probable cause to believe Asman had a gun while the protective order was in place.

Police did not specify whether Asman owned any guns legally but said being a registered gun owner was not considered probable cause for possession.

“What is it going to take for everybody to realize that domestic violence is very serious, and we need to change the laws on it?” Edmunds said. “They put an ankle monitor on him and thought that was going to save Julie, by tracking where he's going. It didn't. So, I think that they need to reevaluate the laws in Utah, and everywhere else if it's this bad.”

Unlike other states, Utah has no red flag laws, which allow police to ask courts to order guns to be taken from people believed to be dangerous to others.

Last month, the federal government passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which provides financial incentives for states to adopt red flag laws. It also adds convicted domestic violence abusers, whether married or not, to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney voted for the bill, while Sen. Mike Lee voted against it. Each of Utah’s four representatives also voted against the bill.

Police said Asman is 5 feet 6 inches tall, 195 pounds, with blond hair and blue eyes and could be driving a white 2005 Chevrolet pickup truck with license plate T287M. Anyone who may have seen Asman or the white Chevrolet is asked to call the Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office at 435-654-1411, or 911.

Suspect Michael Grant Asman.jpg
Heber City Police Department
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Police have asked for help finding 35-year-old Michael Grant Asman, a suspect in a Heber City homicide last week.

Ben Lasseter reports for KPCW in Wasatch County. Before moving to Heber City, Ben worked in Manti as a general assignment newspaper reporter and editor.
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