ST. GEORGE — While in jail on an armed robbery case, a man nearly beat a Washington County inmate to death. He now will serve prison time for both cases.

This 2023 file photo shows 47-year-old Lazaro Ponce and lead defense attorney Nathan Reeve during a hearing in 5th District Court, St. George, March 21, 2023 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

On Feb. 20, the defendant, Lazaro Ponce, 47, of Savannah, Georgia, appeared before District Judge Jay Winward to be sentenced on a second-degree aggravated assault.

The case was originally filed on Dec. 22, 2022, as a first-degree felony aggravated attempted murder after Ponce nearly beat an inmate to death at the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility, previously reported by St. George News.

At the time of the incident, jail command staff found the injured inmate unconscious and beaten to the point staff were “concerned that the victim was going to die,” authorities said. The man was transported to St. George Regional Hospital in critical condition.

Ponce reportedly said he would not make any statement without a lawyer present and was later charged with first-degree felony aggravated attempted murder.

Less than a month before the beating, a trial was held for the aggravated robbery case for which Ponce was being held in jail. In this case, Ponce was found to be the suspect in an armed robbery reported June 3, 2022, at Durango’s Mexican Grill on Red Cliffs Drive in St. George, as previously reported by St. George News.

This 2022 file photo shows a suspect, later identified as Lazaro Ponce, 47, being arrested by St. George Police officers after an alleged robbery at Durango’s Mexican Grill, St. George, Utah, June 3, 2022 | Photo courtesy of Misa Rdrgz, St. George News

During the incident, Ponce reportedly told an employee he had a 9 mm handgun and demanded money from the register. After the employee complied, Ponce was tackled by the restaurant manager and detained until officers arrived. Ponce was taken into custody and officers recovered more than $1,400 in cash.

Ponce denied robbing the employee and told officers he wanted to press charges against the restaurant based on allegations “he had been jumped and stuck with a gun,” the report states.

He was charged with first-degree felony of aggravated robbery, second-degree felony of receiving a stolen vehicle and disorderly conduct.

A trial for this case was held six months later, and it took the jury less than an hour to find the defendant guilty on all charges. On April 3, 2023, he was sentenced to serve five years to life in Utah State Prison on the aggravated robbery charge and one to 15 years on the second-degree felony charge.

It was while Ponce awaited sentencing that he picked up the first-degree aggravated attempted murder charge after nearly beating the inmate to death, which he admitted to in a written statement filed in support of his guilty plea filed last week.

During the sentencing hearing held Feb. 20, Winward sentenced Ponce to serve one to 15 years in Utah State Prison; the sentences in both cases were ordered to run consecutively.

Early Wednesday morning, Ponce was loaded onto a bus and transported to Utah State Prison.

This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

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