A Utah man accused of fatally shooting his wife five times in the back before admitting to the crime in a phone call with his son was found dead in his car Thursday night after an apparent crash, authorities said.
The Weber County Sheriff’s office said 53-year-old Scott William Russell, who has been on the lam since he was charged with his wife’s Tuesday murder, was found at around 6 p.m. on Thursday after deputies received a call about a car crash off Highway 39. An officer came upon a wrecked black Toyota Land Cruiser more than 300 yards from the highway and noted the driver was dead from injuries consistent with a car crash.
Russell’s fatal crash came just two days after police issued an alert for an “armed and dangerous person of interest” when his wife was found shot five times in the back in her Weber County home. On Wednesday, authorities charged the 53-year-old with eight crimes, including felony murder, discharge of a firearm with injury, and possession or use of a controlled substance.
The 53-year-old is believed to have fled the scene shortly after the alleged murder and was heading toward Colorado before his fatal crash. The identity of Russell’s wife has not been released.
“We want to thank the public for assisting us in our effort to locate Scott,” the sheriff’s department said in a statement. “Our condolences go out to all those that were affected by this tragic incident.”
According to court documents first obtained by the Salt Lake Tribune, deputies responded to Russell’s home, about 45 minutes outside of Salt Lake City, around 9 p.m. on Tuesday after receiving a call from an unnamed individual. That person told emergency dispatchers they had received information from Russell’s son, who lives in a different state, claiming his father shot his mother after “acting very erratic.”
When deputies entered the house, they found Russell’s wife in the master bedroom with five gunshot wounds “in the back of her body, including one at the base of her skull,” according to the court documents. Several bullet holes were found in the wall and authorities recovered a handgun “embedded into the drywall” of another bedroom in the home.
Several other guns, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia were also found inside the house, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
In conversations with police, the 53-year-old’s son stated that his father’s “erratic” behavior on the phone included him “repeating statements.”
“Scott repeatedly told his son that he was going to come to his state to give him a hug and other strange statements like how Scott’s ‘soul was on the line,’” according to court documents, which noted the son described his father’s behavior as “very strange and out of character.”
The court documents state that when Russell’s son asked his father about his wife, Russell allegedly called out to her and his son could hear the couple talking. At one point, Russell also admitted that he was high.
Moments later, authorities say the son heard Russell “making noises and he stated that some of these sounds he believed to be the sound of “ammunition and a gun cocking” before a door slammed. The son stated after a few moments of silence mixed with incoherent statements, Russell picked up the phone again.
“Scott’s son was very concerned at this point as Scott’s erratic behavior increased and he continued to repeat incoherent statements,” the court documents state, according to Deseret News. ”Scott again spoke about coming to meet his son and told him that he was going to do so because he would be going to prison. Scott’s son asked him about the victim again and Scott told him that he shot the victim.”
Authorities say that Russell then retracted his comment, saying he was not serious before quickly repeating his murderous confession.
“Scott’s son told Scott that he loved him and Scott replied that he loved his son too and then ended the phone call by telling his son, ‘I’ll see you in hell!!’ the court documents state.
Shortly after the incident, security footage from a nearby home showed Russell leaving his house. Authorities believe Russell’s car slid off the highway on Thursday afternoon and rolled over several times down an embankment. While investigators are working with the medical examiner’s office to understand exactly what happened, early evidence suggests the 53-year-old was speeding or the weather was a factor in the crash.