ST. GEORGE — A St. George man who was arrested in connection with the slaying of a Texas man more than three decades ago was sentenced to serve decades in a Texas prison after pleading guilty to capital murder earlier this month.

On Feb. 9, Tracey Keith Loy, 56, of St. George, appeared for a sentencing hearing held at 433rd District Court in New Braunfels, Texas, where he was sentenced to serve 60 years in the Texas Department of Corrections after pleading guilty to capital murder.

The case was filed in 2021, 35 years after the slaying of 56-year-old Charles Hardin, who was killed in 1986 at a camping area located near Canyon Lake, Texas, a town about 40 miles northeast of San Antonio.

The victim was found by campers who reportedly found a partially decomposed body inside a tent “bound hand and foot with strips of a bed sheet around his neck,” according to a 2021 article published by the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung, a local news agency in Texas that has covered the case since the beginning.

Two Comal County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the call on the morning of Aug. 26, who reported at the time that the state of the body led them to theorize the death was not from natural causes.

Stock image by HJBC/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

The autopsy would later reveal the man had been dead for nearly a week before the body was discovered and the death was then ruled a homicide by asphyxiation, according to the statement released at the time of the arrest.

The investigation turned up few leads and the case went cold for the next three decades, until March 2021, when the sheriff’s office reached out to the Texas Rangers for help. From there, evidence collected at the crime scene and stored away in the Department of Public Safety crime lab in Austin for more than 30 years was resubmitted for forensic testing.

The results led investigators to Loy and Mark Gatten, 57, of Quaker City, Ohio, who were both identified as persons of interest in Hardin’s death. Both men were in their 20s when the homicide took place.

The Texas Ranger then tracked down Loy, who was living in St. George.

Following an interview conducted in Utah on May 9, with assistance from the St. George Police Department and the Utah Department of Public Safety, Loy was arrested and booked into jail in Washington County. Three weeks later he was extradited to Comal County to face the charges in Texas.

Loy remained in the custody of the Comal County Jail in Texas while the case made its way through the 433rd District Court in New Braunfels, where three  jury trials were scheduled and canceled over the next two years.

L to R: Mark Gatten, 57, of Quaker City, Ohio, and Tracey Keith Loy, 56, of St. George, are convicted of capital murder in Texas, date, location not specified | Keith Loy, 56, of St. George, Bookings photos courtesy of the Comal County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

The most recent was slated to start on Feb. 12. Three days before the trial opened, Loy entered into a plea agreement with the state, according to a review of district court records that were filed in the case.

On Feb. 9, the defendant pleaded guilty to a capital murder by terror-threat-other felony, which means the murder was committed during the commission of another felony, such as a robbery, kidnapping, and so on. He was sentenced to serve 60 years in the Texas Department of Corrections and was given credit for the 1006 days he had already served. He has yet to be transported to a prison facility and he remains in the custody of the Comal County jail at this time.

Loy’s codefendant, Gatten, took his case to trial in October 2023 and he was found guilty of capital murder by a jury. On Oct. 13, 2021, he was sentenced to serve life in prison without parole. He has since filed an appeal in the case, according to court records.

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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