KSL INVESTIGATES

Man who claimed self-defense sentenced for stabbing his ‘best friend’ to death in 2019

Sep 8, 2022, 10:40 AM

SALT LAKE CITY — A jury didn’t believe Jesse Bruce’s story about what happened on March 21, 2019, the night he stabbed Cory Haney to death.

In his own words Wednesday, Bruce called the killing he’s convicted of “a horrendous tragedy.”

“Two men’s choices and actions affected dozens and dozens of people negatively,” he said during his sentencing hearing.

Those two men – Bruce, now 44, and Haney, 40 – were living as roommates. Cory Haney’s family said he took Bruce in when Bruce needed a place to stay. Then, Bruce took Haney’s life.

Cory Haney, 40, was murdered in March of 2019.

According to charging documents, Bruce told investigators early on that he’d acted in self-defense and, “I killed my best friend for 25 years.”

“Cory did what he did, and I did what I had to do,” Bruce told the court Wednesday.

But that’s not how members of the jury saw it when they found him guilty of murder in June, and Third District Judge Richard McKelvie said Wednesday that he agreed with them.

“I don’t see any remorse here,” said McKelvie, “and I certainly don’t see any self-defense.”

McKelvie read aloud one of Bruce’s statements included in a pre-sentence report that he found to be especially telling:

“The defendant said, ‘I got a knife and was able to stand up on one leg. He (meaning Mr. Haney) came back into my room, raised his arms when he saw me standing there, so I stabbed him in the chest. We fell to the floor, and I stabbed him until he stopped moving.’”

McKelvie said he understood the statement to mean Haney raised his arms in a surrendering manner before Bruce stabbed him dozens of times. He sentenced Bruce to serve 16 years to life in prison.

“He didn’t just stab him, he butchered him,” said Kay Lynn Stafford, Haney’s mother.

Stafford prepared a victim impact statement to read during the hearing, but when only one representative from Haney’s family was permitted to make a statement, she urged Haney’s brother to speak instead.

She had planned to reference the medical examiner’s report which noted more than 60 sharp and blunt force injuries found on Haney’s body.

“It was a brutal, rage inflicted murder,” she told KSL.

For Haney’s parents, Wednesday’s sentencing felt like another blow.

“I do not feel the closure that I was hoping for for today,” said Marvin Bret Haney, Cory’s father.

Cory Haney’s parents, Kay Lynn Stafford and Marvin Bret Haney, speak with KSL after a sentencing hearing for Jesse Bruce.

He described Cory as a man who had a “real keen sense” of what he could control and what he could not. While he might be disappointed in how things have played out, his father said Cory would not have focused on issues beyond his reach.

“Cory knows that we’re here for him,” he said.

“I’m mad,” Stafford said. “I’m mad that Cory’s gone, that he’ll never be here.”

Stafford said outside of the jury’s guilty verdict, she’s felt let down by Utah’s justice system at almost every step. That includes a several-month delay in the case after Bruce attempted to use a new Utah self-defense law to get his charges dismissed without going to trial.

The KSL Investigators first reported on unintended consequences of the 2021 law for victims of crime.

But that law doesn’t apply to domestic violence cases, and prosecutors successfully argued the nature of Bruce and Cory’s relationship – as roommates – disqualified the case from the new legal process Bruce had hoped to use.

Still, Stafford has remained a critic of the law.

“It prolonged the process for us,” she said. “And it was very harmful to our family.” Bruce is also facing felony charges for allegedly threatening members of Cory’s family in November while he was out on bail. His next court hearing in that case is set for October.

KSL 5 TV Live

KSL Investigates

Matt Luers says the "No Soliciting" sign at his Sandy home is hard to miss, but solicitors continue...

Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage

What are the rules & your rights when ‘No Soliciting’ signs don’t keep salespeople at bay?

While many Utahns put up signs to keep solicitors from knocking on their doors, a man in Sandy says the knocks keep coming. He decided to Get Gephardt, who explores what those signs really mean.

12 months ago

Car driving...

Matt Gephardt

How you can lower your car insurance costs even as rates continue to climb

It would be a good time to double check with your insurance agent and make sure you are getting all the discounts available to you. Auto insurance rates are catching up with the costs of, well, everything that has gone up thanks to inflation.

12 months ago

For months, the KSL Investigators have examined why only a small fraction of reported sexual assaul...

Daniella Rivera and Keira Farrimond

The challenge of consent: Utah’s rape law & low prosecution rate

“Listen up,” Rayley Wadsworth pleaded with social media users in a video filmed inside a stationary car last month. “If you’re in Utah, or a woman in Utah, please listen for just a second.”

12 months ago

(KSL TV)...

Matt Gephardt and Cindy St. Clair

Layton woman struggles to claim money owed to her from her dissolved business

Utah's Unclaimed Property Division has millions of dollars that it wants to reconnect with the rightful owner. But for a Layton woman, getting her money back has been easier said than done. So she decided it was time to Get Gephardt.

12 months ago

Hopes that were lost as part of a land collapse. (KSL TV/Chopper 5)...

Mike Headrick and Cindy St. Clair

Draper City: Building laws make it hard to say ‘no’ to risky development

The question was posed to KSL Investigators — how could Draper City allow development on hazardous land? It turns out, saying “no” is a difficult option.

12 months ago

(KSL TV)...

Matt Gephardt and Sloan Schrage

Get Gephardt helps Utahn get refund for not-delivered TV

If you pay hundreds of dollars for a new TV, you expect to GET the TV. But when a West Jordan woman couldn't get her TV or a refund, it was time to Get Gephardt.

12 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Stack of old laptops with dark background...

PC Laptops

Old Laptop Upgrades You Need to Try Before Throwing it Away

Get the most out of your investment. Try these old laptop upgrades before throwing it out to keep it running fast and efficient.

Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...

BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.

Close up of an offset printing machine during production...

Les Olson IT

Top 7 Reasons to Add a Production Printer to Your Business

Learn about the different digital production printers and how they can help your company save time and money.

vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...

Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.

Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...

Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.

notebook with password notes highlighted...

PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.

Man who claimed self-defense sentenced for stabbing his ‘best friend’ to death in 2019