Bert Harris often thinks about what he will say to the man who killed his brother.
“Probably about a million times,” the southern Utah man said. “I haven’t narrowed it down yet.”
This week Harris will have a chance to speak for his younger brother, Kane County sheriff’s Deputy Brian Harris, who was shot and killed near the Utah-Arizona border in August 2010.
The two-day sentencing hearing for Scott Curley, 25, is scheduled to begin Thursday in Flagstaff, Ariz. Last month, Curley pleaded guilty to charges of murder, theft, burglary and aggravated assault. As part of the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop 10 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor for child pornography officials said they found on Curley’s computer.
He faces up to life in prison on the murder charge.
“We felt like the plea deal that they offered was good so that we didn’t have to go through the trial and bring everything back up,” Bert Harris said. “We felt the plea deal got us everything we probably would have got out of the trial.”
In August 2010, police in the border town of Fredonia, Ariz., called for help in arresting Curley, who was suspected of a burglary at a school there. The Kane County deputy responded. Harris and another officer tracked Curley on foot in the desert. Police said Curley waited with a high-powered rifle for the peace officers and fired at them when they walked over a hill.
The shooting sparked a massive manhunt for Curley. More than 300 police officers and federal agents searched the redrock and sagebrush for the shooter. Curley was caught in the early hours of the manhunt’s fifth day, trying to break into a home in Kanab with a rifle slung over his shoulder.
Coconino County Attorney Dave Rozema has said his office plans to present “powerful evidence” of the deputy’s “ambush assassination.”
“We don’t want to see this man out where he could hurt someone else or ever be a danger to someone else,” Bert Harris said. “We feel good about having him in there as long as possible.”
Curley, whose legal proceedings had been delayed because of questions about his mental health, has admitted guilt to mental health experts, according to The Associated Press. Curley has reportedly described hiding under a tree and firing at someone who kept moving after Curley demanded he freeze.
“I’m guilty,” he told one mental health expert who asked him about the possibility of a plea deal. “If I didn’t take an offer, I’d be a fool.”
Curley’s mental state has been called into question, and his attorneys previously filed notice that they might use an insanity defense at trial. A judge, however, ruled earlier this year that Curley was competent.
Bert Harris agreed with the judge’s findings.
“Definitely he knew what he was doing,” the man said, “and he had every intent to do what he did.”
Efforts to reach Curley’s family were unsuccessful. The head of the Coconino County public defenders declined to comment.
The 6-foot-7 Brian Harris was big both physically and in his community, his older brother said. Harris, a 1987 graduate of Valley High School, was a Gulf War veteran. He served as the president of his local Lion’s Club for seven years, where his favorite task was organizing — and occasionally winning — the annual demolition derby, his brother said.
He was the third of his parents’ seven children. The 41-year-old left behind a wife and two daughters of his own.
“Each day goes by and you still miss him, and you can’t replace him,” Bert Harris said. “We’re still functioning, but there are areas of our lives that are still missing him, and we still struggle. I know there will always be that because he was such a big part of all our lives.”