The weeping mother looked directly at Robert Earl Wallace and told him to remember that whatever he did or wherever he went, there would be a mother crying for her murdered son.
"I pray that your mother never goes through that," Eleanor Iron Lightning said as she tried to regain her composure at Wallace’s sentencing Friday in 3rd District Court. "It’s the worst pain I’ve ever gone through."
Wallace was accused of handing a friend a knife at a downtown Salt Lake City TRAX stop and then standing watch as the friend fought 27-year-old Emmett Schad over a missing bottle of vodka.
Wallace, a 46-year-old transient, in March pleaded guilty to homicide by assault, a third-degree felony. Wallace entered an Alford plea, which means he does not admit guilt but only that a jury would likely convict him.
On Friday, Judge Vernice Trease sentenced him to serve up to five years in prison. Prosecutors asked for the sentence to run consecutive to another sentence of up to five years on a probation violation in an unrelated case. Trease agreed, and denied a defense request to give Wallace credit for the more than 240 days he has already served behind bars. He was also ordered to pay more than $8,500 in restitution to the Utah Office for Victims of Crime and Iron Lightning.
Wallace told the judge during his sentencing, "I feel for the family of the victim." He also said he and his co-defendant, 34-year-old Moses Geng, "had nothing to do with it [the stabbing]" and that he shouldn’t go to prison for something he didn’t commit.
Prosecutors in March dropped a murder charge filed against Geng in connection with the stabbing, citing "evidentiary issues," court documents show.
"I don’t know how I feel yet," Iron Lightning said after hearing Wallace’s denials. "Just to look at him makes me cry, knowing that he had something to do with taking my son’s life."
She said she is disappointed Geng hasn’t been prosecuted.
At a preliminary hearing last year, Schad’s aunt, Lorie Eagle Chasing, said she spent most of July 6 drinking with her nephew and Geng, her boyfriend. The three split a half-gallon of vodka before buying more liquor and walking to Pioneer Park, she said.
At some point in the night, Schad left the park and Eagle Chasing told Geng to look for him because she was worried. A Salt Lake police detective testified Geng was upset because Schad had taken the group’s vodka.
Wallace told police he gave Geng a knife and the two men followed Schad to the TRAX stop at 350 West South Temple. Then Wallace told investigators he turned around to keep watch for police and, when he looked back, he saw Schad fall to the ground.
"I can’t believe someone would kill my son for that," Iron Lightning said.
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