In this May 7, 2013, file photo, Charles Anthony “Tony” Nelson (foreground) and Brody Blu Kruckenberg (background) appear in 7th District Court in Moab. Nelson, who prosecutors say helped get rid of the body of Gregorio Salazar Campos, was sentenced in September 2013 to the highest-security juvenile detention facility. The 21-year-old man pleaded guilty on Jan. 9 to unrelated weapons theft charges, and was sentenced to six months in jail, with credit for time served. [AP Photo / Deseret News, Geoff Liesik / File]

A Moab man who was convicted in 2013 for his role in helping a local teenager hide the body of a murder victim was sentenced last week to six months in jail on unrelated weapons theft charges.

Charles Anthony Nelson, 21, faced a potential penalty of up to 35 years in state prison, after he pleaded guilty on Tuesday, Jan. 9, to two second-degree felony charges of theft of a firearm, and third-degree felony “restricted person in possession of dangerous weapon.”

But under the terms of a plea agreement, 7th District Judge Lyle R. Anderson suspended two indeterminate prison terms of one to 15 years – and an additional term of zero to five years –placing Nelson on supervised probation for three years. The judge also gave him credit for time served in the Grand County Jail, and ordered him to perform 100 hours of community service, among many other conditions.

In exchange for Nelson’s pleas, prosecutors dismissed the remaining charges against him, including one second-degree felony theft charge, and two third-degree felony weapons charges.

Nelson, who was originally scheduled to appear at a continued arraignment on Jan. 9, gave only brief remarks to the court. After he inquired whether the victim in the case was present in the courtroom – the man wasn’t – Nelson vowed to comply with the terms of his sentence.

“I just thank you for considering the deal, your honor,” Nelson said. “And I will honor that deal if it does come down, and that’s all I have to say.”

Authorities say that Nelson stole an AR-15 rifle, a .40-caliber Smith and Wesson handgun and a .45-caliber Kimber Custom II handgun from a Moab man’s vehicle between the dates of Nov. 23 and Nov. 24, 2017.

According to the Moab City Police Department, a citizen reported the theft of the weapons on Nov. 24 and identified a possible suspect. The responding officer and Moab City Police detectives pursued the man’s lead and gathered enough information for a warrant to search Nelson’s residence.

On Nov. 26, officers began surveillance of the residence and made contact with Nelson as he left the home. Nelson admitted to the theft and then led officers to the stolen firearms, which were located in various places in the home, and buried in the backyard, the police department reported.

As a convicted felon, Nelson is prohibited from having guns in his possession – a condition that Grand County Attorney Andrew Fitzgerald made clear to the court.

“He’s a young person (who) has a substantial (criminal) history from when he was a juvenile, and that’s one of the reasons he can’t have guns,” Fitzgerald said. “And so it’s a little shocking that he’s actually in possession of guns and seems to be either selling those, or stealing them.”

Fitzgerald urged the judge to place Nelson on supervised probation, and to impose the recommended jail sentence, to send the defendant a message.

“I think some amount of jail that we’ve recommended is warranted, and I think that Mr. Nelson needs to know that … if he gets another charge in the future that involves guns, I don’t think the state is going to want to grant him any sort of leniency at that point,” he said. “I think the recommendation will be very harsh from this side.”

Judge Anderson, in turn, raised questions about Nelson’s criminal history, leading Fitzgerald to bring up the March 2013 murder of suspected drug dealer Gregorio Salazar Campos.

“Judge, when (Nelson) was a juvenile, there was an incident where he and another juvenile shot a guy while he was sleeping,” Fitzgerald said. “There’s more to it than that, obviously…”

At that point, Grand County Public Defender Don Torgerson stepped in and clarified that Nelson was not the shooter in that case, despite initial reports to the contrary from law enforcement.

“But he was involved in the aftermath,” Torgerson said.

In that case, prosecutors originally suspected that Nelson shot Salazar Campos in the head three times because Nelson bragged about the shooting, telling friends that he pulled the trigger. However, sheriff’s detectives subsequently learned that Nelson’s friend, Brody Blu Kruckenberg, actually killed the 33-year-old man, who had been dating Kruckenberg’s mother.

Surveillance video showed that Nelson and Brody Blu Kruckenberg bought rope together after the murder; prosecutors have said that Nelson also helped destroy some evidence, and looked for possible sites where Salazar Campos’ body could be dumped.

“There were some issues with drugs and various things, and this individual (who) was killed was apparently giving these juveniles drugs and was also violent toward one of the other boys’ mothers,” Fitzgerald said. “(It) was likely that the individual that was killed was a cartel member, so there’s lots of context and history to that.”

After the information about Nelson came to light, Judge Anderson signed an order in 2013 to dismiss an original charge of first-degree murder, and the then-17-year-old teen’s case was transferred from district court to juvenile court. Nelson subsequently pleaded guilty to second-degree felony obstruction of justice, and was then sentenced to an indeterminate term in Utah’s highest-security juvenile detention facility.

“We really haven’t heard much from him, thankfully, in the last four years,” Fitzgerald said. “So this is disappointing that he’s getting felony-type behaviors involving guns … That’s why we have a recommendation of some jail time, and I think it’s essential that he is supervised.”

Torgerson told the court that his client has been cooperative with the state, meeting with investigators several times, and has been forthcoming about his involvement in criminal matters. Nelson is “quite bright,” he said, and has stayed out of trouble since his previous conviction “until now,” Torgerson said.

“I think he’s starting to get in with the wrong crowd again, though, and supervision would be to his benefit,” Torgerson said. “He does well while he’s been supervised; he’s completed his high school diploma … I think he’s someone who can be successful on probation. I think he also understands the dangerousness of all of this … and I think he’s ready to turn things around and not allow this thing to become something that ruins his life forever, so he’s certainly aware of the state’s concern.”

Convicted felon avoids prison, gets credit for time served in jail