Millard County deputies testify about finding fallen officer
Spanish Fork • One by one, Millard County sheriff's deputies took the witness stand Tuesday, fighting back tears as they recounted the night one of their own was shot and killed.
"It just makes it feel like it just happened, like it was yesterday," Sheriff Robert Dekker said outside the courtroom, during the second day of trial for Roberto Miramontes RomÃ¡n, the man accused of killing Deputy Josie Greathouse Fox in January 2010. "It's fresh again."
First to testify was Fox's sergeant, Rhett Kimball, who saw two cars stop briefly on a rural road near McCornick, and ordered Fox to follow the Cadillac. And it was Kimball who, when there was a question about whether the owner of the car had an outstanding warrant, gave Fox the go-ahead to make the traffic stop just outside Delta.
"10-4," Fox said over the radio just after 1 a.m. on Jan. 5. "I'll be over by the ballpark."
Those were her last words anyone, prosecutors say, other than what RomÃ¡n heard the 37-year-old deputy say.
According to testimony Tuesday in 4th District Court, RomÃ¡n became angry when he saw Fox's truck following him, believing he was being tailed because he was Hispanic.
He later told police he heard Fox, "in a mean voice," say, "License and registration."
That's when RomÃ¡n fired at least two shots from an AK-47, killing the deputy, officials say.
Nine minutes after Fox's last radio transmission, Kimball was kneeling over her body. The flashlight she clutched in her right hand was still on.
The scene was captured by the dashboard camera of Deputy Michael Peacock, who had joined the Millard County Sheriff's Office just months after Fox and had worked as part of her four-person team since his arrival. Peacock cursed and screamed.
More than two and a half years after Fox's death, the footage seemed to shake him Tuesday in court.
"Everybody is affected," Dekker, who had avoided watching the footage until the days just before trial, said, "and you're affected forever."
While the deputies' testimony was the most emotional Tuesday, it was the testimony of two Utah County detectives who interviewed RomÃ¡n after his arrest that was most damning.
RomÃ¡n now claims he is innocent of the murder charge against him. But in speaking with police after his arrest, RomÃ¡n purportedly confessed to the shooting even drawing a map of where he threw his weapons and offering to help police find them if they could not do so on their own.
Utah County sheriff's sergeants Matt Higley and David Oliver detailed RomÃ¡n's hours before and after the shooting. According to the sergeants, RomÃ¡n started the night at a friend's house, smoking methamphetamine, playing video games and showing off his AK-47.
When he left the house, he put the gun in the trunk of his car. But a short time later, RomÃ¡n stopped, took the gun out of the trunk and placed in the passenger seat.
Then RomÃ¡n met up with Fox's brother, Ryan Greathouse, on the road near McCornick.
As Kimball watched from a raised spot on an old railroad line with his lights off, RomÃ¡n and Greathouse smoked methamphetamine and talked about shooting an officer if they were stopped, though police said RomÃ¡n later stated that the remark was made out of bravado.
Then RomÃ¡n left and headed toward Delta, where he was followed by Fox.
According to testimony, RomÃ¡n fled north to Nephi and later to Salt Lake City, following the shooting. From there, he and another man, Ruben Chavez-Reyes, rode buses and TRAX trains south. They took a limousine around Utah County and later a cab to Beaver for $300. There they hoped to find a friend who could help them flee to Mexico, police said.
The men, unable to find their friend, hid out in a shed, burning burlap and gasoline to stay warm. In the morning, they were awakened by police and arrested.
During cross examination, defense attorneys Stephen McCaughey and Jeremy Delicino focused on the interview, which they had hoped to have suppressed before trial. They asked police about the poor recording quality, which made the interview almost inaudible.
The defense attorneys also asked about the lack of a translator for RomÃ¡n, who has listened to the trial through a translator. They also questioned whether RomÃ¡n received treatment for a head wound he suffered while being arrested.
RomÃ¡n, 40, is charged in 4th District Court with first-degree felony aggravated murder and felony counts of evidence tampering and illegal possession of a dangerous weapon.
Prosecutors had intended to seek the death penalty, but Judge Donald Eyre ruled last month that RomÃ¡n's IQ was below 70. That, by legal definition, means RomÃ¡n is mentally retarded and prosecutors cannot seek the death penalty. With death off the table, only 10 jurors were picked to hear the case.
If convicted of murder, RomÃ¡n faces possible sentences of 20 years to life or life without parole.