Two Moab residents are recovering from a violent encounter near the Mill Creek Parkway on Saturday. Police say a 38-year-old man attacked the pair after they passed him at an illegal campsite. The suspect is in police custody and charged on suspicion of second-degree attempted murder, aggravated assault and associated charges. 

Police say the Moab pair, who have requested to remain anonymous, were walking their dogs on the morning of April 22 when they saw a man who appeared to be camping with an open fire. Police say that the dogwalkers told the man that campfires are illegal in Moab City limits, after which the man became aggressive. The dogwalkers called 911 before the man approached them and began attacking them.

Reports say the man used a stun gun on both the 68-year-old woman and her companion, a 53-year-old man. The assailant also allegedly stabbed the woman several times before being distracted by the man and fleeing a short distance, where he was taken into custody by Moab City Police officers and Grand County Sheriff’s Office deputies. 

“His action effectively kept the assailant away from his friend,” Moab City Police said in a press statement. “It is likely she would not have survived the attack if her friend hadn’t reacted so quickly and heroically.”

The woman was transported to Moab Regional Hospital and flown to Utah Valley Regional Hospital. She is reportedly in stable condition. 

“There should never be an instance where someone is walking their dog or enjoying our area and they’re attacked,” said MPD Chief Jared Garcia at the April 25 Moab City Council meeting. 

Garcia said that there are numerous incidents of illegal camping in city limits, many of whom are travelers in vans or RVs who move to a legal area when approached. However, some people are experiencing homelessness and may have nowhere else to go—a very different situation from a van life visitor. 

Garcia said the department has been “working with stakeholders to find meaningful solutions for people who are experiencing homelessness or have substance abuse issues.” 

Police reports say the suspect, Alex Kensell, had fled Oklahoma where he was on parole for similar crimes. 

“The Moab City Police Department recognizes the negative impact an event like this has on our community,” the press statement said. “We have recently increased our enforcement of camping in the city and will increase our future enforcement efforts related to this topic.”

A criminal charge is merely an accusation and defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.