One-legged man charged in brutal murder of Utah massage parlor worker

Posted at 10:37 AM, February 2, 2024

SALT LAKE CITY  (Court TV/Scripps News Salt Lake City) — A California man has been arrested and charged with murder in connection with a brutal attack at a Utah massage parlor that left one woman dead in early January and prompted police to warn employees in similar occupations to “exercise extreme caution.”

Steven Brinkerhoff

Booking photo of Steven Chance Brinkerhoff (Unified Police Dept.)

Steven Chance Brinkerhoff, 39, is facing one count of first-degree felony murder for the death of 45-year-old Yuping Jiao, who was working alone in the spa when she was brutally attacked and stabbed approximately 56 times, according to an indictment.

Brinkerhoff, who was not a Utah resident, fled back to his home state of California, where he had an extensive criminal record, including possession of a dangerous weapon, assaulting a peace officer, fighting in public, drugs, possession of stolen property and a domestic violence violation.

According to the indictment, Jaio, who had immigrated to the U.S. from China, had been working at the A+ Massage in Midvale on Jan. 4. When Jaio’s brother could not get in touch with her, he went to the parlor to check on her and found her lifeless body in one of the massage rooms, riddled with stab wounds.

The Utah State Office of the Medical Examiner found 56 stab wounds total on Jiao’s body, as well as slice marks on her fingers, prick marks on her ankles, and a small chunk of skin that had been removed, according to documents.

Yuping Jiao

Investigators sent evidence to a lab for testing, where a DNA profile connected Brinkerhoff to the case.

Video surveillance matched the description of Brinkerhoff, who only has one leg and was seen using a wheelchair to access the parlor at 12:30 p.m. and then leaving the building just before 2:30 p.m.

“Detectives were able to identify that cell phone data placed Brinkerhoff in the area of A+ Massage on the day of the incident,” said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill. “Additionally, Brinkerhoff had made contact via text messages with Jaio prior to the incident.”

After learning about Brinkerhoff’s involvement in the crime, officials enlisted the help of federal partners to take him into custody in California. He was arrested outside a California massage parlor on Jan. 19, two weeks after Jiao’s murder.

Brinkerhoff, now considered a flight risk, is being held without bail while awaiting extradition to Utah.

Melanie Porter and Chris Arnold of Scripps News Salt Lake City, an E.W. Scripps Company, originally reported this story.

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