Gerry D’Elia is among the kookier characters to make an appearance on Murder Among the Mormons. While his job was immensely serious – homicide prosecutor for Salt Lake City – he doesn’t take himself too seriously. Today, his is still practicing law. Now he has a private practice, Park City Law Dawgs, or, more professionally, D’Elia & Associates.
D’Elia took on the prosecution of Mark Hofmann, who was convicted of murdering two people in separate bombings as a part of a coverup for forging documents that upended the Mormon faith. The victims, Steve Christensen and Kathy Sheets, were murdered October 15, 1985. D’Elia and others on the case secured a guilty plea in an unusual plea deal. Hofmann pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated murder in January 1987, avoiding the death penalty in exchange for revealing information on his forgery techniques and on his knowledge of Mormon history. The three-part docuseries examines the strange case and the motives behind the Salt Lake City murders. The three-part series was released Wednesday, March 3, 2021.
In D’Elia’s practice today, he is known for reversing the conviction on a marijuana case. Many of his criminal defense cases center around allegations of marijuana trafficking.
Here’s what you need to know:
D’Elia Works in Private Practice in Park City, Utah, & Is Known for Reversing a Conviction in a Marijuana Case
D’Elia told his story on Murder Among the Mormons, saying he moved to the Salt Lake City Area in 1974. He introduced himself as a person who failed out of college and balanced his high-profile law career with drinking and skiing, with a strong emphasis on the latter.
“I’d been thrown out of college already as an undesirable with a 0.6 GPA,” he said on the documentary. “And I moved out here to ski. And that was just my raison d’etre. It was more like I was a skier who happened to be a lawyer as opposed to a lawyer that happened to ski. So it’s just me drinking wine in the evening and having to run two miles so I could get to work can at least be a little bushy tailed.”
It wasn’t clear whether D’Elia’s story was a part of his unique personality or the truth. D’Elia’s website said he did obtain two degrees in Utah, one in law and one in mathematics. Before his move from New York City, he worked in construction.
Salt Lake City Investigator Michael George described D’Elia on the documentary as “quite a character.”
“He doesn’t fit the Salt Lake City mold,” he said.
D’Elia Has Worked in Private Practice Since 1987 & Holds Degrees in Mathematics & Law
D’Elia left the Salt Lake City District Attorney’s Office shortly after Hofmann’s verdict. He opened his private practice, D’Elia & Associates, which includes criminal defense work and personal injury lawsuits. His cases include criminal and civil cases, including homicide, kidnappings, drug offenses and domestic violence. Among his cases was a successful appeal to the Utah Court of Appeals in 2013 for a marijuana conviction.
“During the last ten years Gerry has had significant success at defending persons transporting large amounts of marijuana and other drugs on I-80 in Park City. Many of his cases have been dismissed due to police improprieties during stops and detention,” his website says.
Hofmann’s forgeries were intended to embarrass The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in hopes of extorting the church for money. He expected the church would want to keep the fake documents private. His first victim, Steven Christensen, was a Mormon bishop and document collector who threatened to expose the forgeries. Sheets was the wife of Gary Sheets, Hofmann’s former business associate. Hofmann called the bomb that killed Sheets “a pure diversion” in a letter to the Utah parole board.
On the day of the bombing, D’Elia said he came into work after a night of drinking, and heard on the radio about a bombing. He assumed it would be assigned to him because he worked in arson, and bombings fell under that banner.
“It’s a beautiful day for a bombing,” he recalled saying.