IDAHO FALLS — The death penalty is off the table for the Idaho Falls man accused stabbing his girlfriend to death.
In a notice filed Friday, the Bonneville County Prosecutor’s Office informed the court it wouldn’t seek the death penalty against 33-year-old Philip Schwab.
Police say sometime on June 23, Schwab violently stabbed his girlfriend, Kaylynn Blue, and buried her in a shallow grave in the backyard of their home. Schwab pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder earlier last week.
Under Idaho law, anyone charged with first-degree murder “shall be punished by death or by imprisonment for life.” That decision on whether to seek the death penalty is left up to the prosecuting attorney after reviewing aggravating and mitigating factors.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Alayne Bean writes in Friday’s notice that the office believes there are aggravating factors in the killing, namely “utter disregard for human life.” He called the evidence in the case “overwhelming.”
“At the same time, the state is aware of significant mitigating evidence on the issue of punishment including that the defendant has no prior criminal conduct, that the defendant has 22q11 deletion syndrome, and evidence that (the) defendant has full-scale IQ of 76,” the notice reads.
Earlier court documents show Schwab struggled to understand the legal proceedings because of the disability, so the Public Defender’s Office asked Magistrate Judge Jason D. Walker to allow Philip Schwab’s mother to visit him in person at the Bonneville County Jail. Walker approved the request.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the symptoms of 22q11.2 deletion syndrome — also known as DiGeorge syndrome — vary widely from person to person. An estimated 1 in 4,000 people are diagnosed with the disorder. They are at an increased risk for developing mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.
Bean writes in the notice that under Idaho law, 22q 11.2 Deletion Syndrome and his IQ don’t affect Schwab’s legal competency. Additionally, Idaho law passed in 1982 states, “mental condition shall not be a defense to any charge of criminal conduct.”
Prosecutors also visited with Blue’s family, who indicated they don’t want the state to seek the death penalty against Schwab. Although family wishes are considered, the burden of intent to seek the death penalty falls to the prosecutors, according to Idaho law.
“Understandably, these individuals are suffering immensely, and their suffering will continue, likely long after this case ends,” according to the notice. “The state is mindful of the family’s desire for closure and thoughtfully considered the family’s wishes.”
A jury trial for Schwab is scheduled for March 9 at the Bonneville County Courthouse before District Judge Bruce Pickett.