It was around 3:19AM on the 24th of May, 2020, when police in Layton, Utah, received a phone call from 24-year-old Ethan Hunsaker. He informed them that he had murdered a person inside his residence. He asked the police to come over and shoot and kill him.
Police would rush to the man’s apartment where they found 25-year-old Ashlyn Black. She was lifeless on the floor, suffering from multiple stab wounds to her torso. Paramedics would desperately attempt to resuscitate the young woman but to no avail. She was pronounced dead at the scene.1
Police wouldn’t have the task of piecing together the timeline of events from that night as Hunsaker would made a full confession. He informed police that he had met Ashlyn the night before on the dating app, Tinder.2 Hunsaker picked Ashlyn up from her home and they went to a local bar together before Ashlyn came back to his apartment.
According to Hunsaker, it was a completely normal date. They had sex and then fell asleep. He said that when he woke up, Ashlyn was lying on his arm and he began to choke her as hard as he could for around one minute. Afterwards, he grabbed a spring assisted pocket knife with a four-inch blade and stabbed Ashlyn around five to ten times. He confessed that he had invited Ashlyn over with the intention of killing her, adding that no argument preceded the attack.3
Hunsaker once again asked the police to shoot him but instead, they put him in handcuffs.4 He was arrested without incident and was transported to Davis County Jail where he mentioned that he had been having daily thoughts of suicidal and homicidal ideations.
Meanwhile, Ashlyn’s family would release a public statement which read:
“A monster has taken away the life of our little girl in a crime as senseless as it was evil. Our hearts are broken and our lives are forever changed due to the despicable acts of another person. In just a few senseless and selfish minutes, a life of an amazing, fun loving young woman was taken, one who had a passion for being the voice of those who could not speak out for themselves. And a gift for working with those who have special needs. The lives of her friends and family are permanently altered. No time can fill the emptiness we feel, and the hole it has left in our hearts. We ask for privacy as we grieve and mourn our loss.”
Ashlyn had been a massive lover of vintage clothing shops, Nirvana and hiking. She had a soft spot in her heart for those with special needs and had planned on having children and adopting a child with Down syndrome. As per her obituary: “She would have been a wonderful mother.” For a while, she had worked at Avenues Proper, where her colleagues remembered her as kind and welcoming. She always made new colleagues feel welcome.
Hunsaker would be charged with first-degree murder and was ordered to be held without bail.5
Disturbingly, as news of the murder swept across social media, victim-blaming comments began to appear. Some suggested that Ashlyn was to blame for her murder for meeting up with a man she had only spoken to online. “Victim blaming and shaming is a real concern to me,” said Jenn Oxborrow, executive director of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition. She said that such victim-blaming sometimes prevented other victims of violence from coming forward.6
According to those who knew Hunsaker, something seemed to be off with him. His behavior had changed drastically around the same time that he and his wife, who he had a young daughter with, broke up the previous year. They said that Hunsaker was typically a “goofball” as well as a good worker at a a landscape center, but he had become sad and withdrawn. While he had been punctual, he started arriving to work late and even not arriving at all.7
After a couple of months, Hunsaker was fired after he had an altercation with a female co-worker. He had also made some “dark” comments about his co-workers and had made statements about wanting to harm women.
In June, Hunsaker appeared in court where he pleaded not guilty to the murder of Ashlyn. His defence lawyer, C. Markley Arrington, announced that he was planning on getting a psychological evaluation done on his client. He said that he had been diagnosed previously with a mental illness, but did not elaborate.8 The following month, Judge David Connors ordered a psychological examination.
The following year, however, Hunsaker appeared in court where he pleaded guilty but mentally ill to first-degree murder. Ashlyn’s family would announce that they were relieved with the change of plea. Their attorney, Joshua Egan, stated: “The family is very, very much relieved, and relieved they don’t have to go through a trial. It was also an emotional experience to hear for the first time, other than from law enforcement, what happened to their daughter. Hearing it come from the defendant was also emotionally jolting.”
In December, he appeared in court once more where it was announced that he had been deemed mentally ill. An evaluation report found that he had recurrent major depressive disorder with psychotic features, plus generalized anxiety disorder.
This triggered a process under state law which meant that the judge would have several options when sentencing Hunsaker. The judge could sentence Hunsaker to the Utah State of Hospital with the Utah Department of Corrections and the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole, to provide treatment. The judge could also send Hunsaker to treatment before sentencing him. Finally, the judge could send him straight to the Utah State Prison to serve his sentence.9
Ethan Hunsaker is still awaiting sentencing.
- Associated Press, 24 May, 2020 – “Police Arrest Utah Man Suspected of Killing his Tinder Date”
- ABC – 2 WSB 24 May, 2020 – “Utah Man Fatally Stabs Tinder Date”
- The Daily Beast, 24 May, 2020 – “Utah Man Admits to Choking, Stabbing Dating-App Date”
- Associated Press, 25 May, 2020 – “Man Asked to be Shot After Killing Date he Met on Tinder”
- The Salt Lake Tribune, 27 May, 2020 – “Utah Man Accused of Killing Woman He Met on Tinder Charged with Murder”
- Standard-Examiner, 27 May, 2020 – “Victim Blaming Decried in Aftermath”
- The Deseret News, 30 May, 2020 – “Man Accused of Murdering Tinder Date Wasn’t The Same After Breakup”
- Associated Press, 16 June, 2020 – “Utah Man Accused of Killing Tinder Date Pleads Not Guilty”
- Standard-Examiner, 10 December, 2021 – “Man Who Killed Date is Judged Mentally Ill”