Accused killer of Utah deputy sentenced to 10 years on lesser charges
Spanish Fork • Hunter Winn, just 15 when her mother was killed, stood before the judge, remembering a "great role model," and recounting the pain of the last three years and the hard times that still lay ahead.
And with Roberto Miramontes RomÃ¡n sitting at a table behind her, shackled and dressed in a blue jail jumpsuit, the teenager asked 4th District Judge Donald Eyre a question: "Why shouldn't he have to suffer as long as we do?"
For the friends and family of slain Millard County sheriff's Deputy Josie Greathouse Fox, Wednesday's sentencing hearing for the 40-year-old RomÃ¡n could not have exacted justice.
RomÃ¡n was acquitted after a weeklong trial in August of Fox's murder, a verdict that shocked and angered many around the state. At issue Wednesday was only whether RomÃ¡n's sentences on two lesser felony convictions for tampering with evidence and possessing a firearm would net him a prison sentence of up to five years or up to 10 years.
"The thing that drives me, Mr. RomÃ¡n at least in my opinion, you got away with murder," the judge said in handing down the maximum penalty. He added, "Given the pain you've caused ... my only concern is that I couldn't give you more time."
Outside the courthouse Wednesday, Deputy Millard County Attorney Pat Finlinson said the sentence provided "some closure" to a family and community hit hard by Fox's death. Finlinson said he was "shocked" by the not guilty verdict in what he called an "open-and-shut case."
"I'm absolutely convinced he shot and killed Deputy Josie Fox," the prosecutor said.
Fox's family left the courthouse, some visibly angry, despite the judge's promise to request the Board of Pardons keep RomÃ¡n imprisoned for the entirety of the sentence.
"He should be going to a hanging," one man shouted at news reporters.
"Everyone knows he killed my mom. Everyone knows that," Winn said.
Dressed in the uniform he was not allowed to wear at trial, for fear of prejudicing jurors, Millard County Sheriff Robert Decker echoed those sentiments.
"The very system Deputy Fox died protecting failed her in this particular case," Dekker said. "But it's the best system we've got."
In asking the judge to impose the maximum prison term, Fox's husband, Doug Fox, told the judge, "Josie tried to do everything she could and helped out so many people, and she can't do that anymore. [RomÃ¡n's] taken that away. She didn't really trust the judicial system. I don't think you need to let her down."
Had the jury found RomÃ¡n guilty of aggravated murder, he would have faced up to life in prison.
RomÃ¡n avoided that fate by taking the witness stand and testifying that despite his earlier confession to police that he shot and killed Fox during a late-night traffic stop it was Fox's own brother, Ryan Greathouse, who wielded the gun from the passenger seat of RomÃ¡n's car.
Finlinson blasted RomÃ¡n's story, calling it "insult to injury" and a "convenient" tale that prosecutors heard for the first time at trial.
"Blame the dead guy," Finlinson said of Greathouse, who died in April 2010 of a drug overdose. "Blame the guy who can't defend himself. Blame the guy who can't respond."
Greathouse's statement to police, indicating he had driven home following a drug deal with RomÃ¡n, was deemed hearsay and not allowed at trial because Greathouse was not available to be cross-examined by defense attorneys.
When RomÃ¡n took the witness stand in his own defense, he told the jury that after selling and smoking methamphetamine with Greathouse in the early morning hours of Jan. 5, 2010, he and Greathouse drove toward Hinckley. RomÃ¡n wanted to collect money Greathouse owed him for drugs, but Fox pulled them over.
RomÃ¡n said Greathouse picked up an AK-47, placed the weapon against Fox's chest and fired twice.
Greathouse began crying and told him that he had shot his sister, said RomÃ¡n, who claimed he then drove Greathouse to his home after agreeing to take the blame for the shooting and intending to flee to Mexico.
RomÃ¡n said he initially confessed to police that he had shot the deputy, because Greathouse had threatened his family.
When defense attorney Stephen McCaughey asked RomÃ¡n why he didn't mention this following Greathouse's overdose death, which ended the potential threat, RomÃ¡n answered that the trial was his first chance to testify.
Police testified seeing Greathouse's Ford truck and RomÃ¡n's Cadillac leave in separate directions following the meeting on McCornick Road, where the drug deal allegedly occurred.
But RomÃ¡n explained that a third man who was with them someone whose name he does not remember had agreed to drive Greathouse's truck home while RomÃ¡n and Greathouse went to collect the money.
Fox's sergeant, Rhett Kimball, testified he saw two vehicles stop briefly on a rural road near McCornick. He ordered Fox to follow the Cadillac and gave her the go-ahead to make the traffic stop just outside of Delta because there was a question about whether the owner of the car had an outstanding warrant.
"10-4," Fox said over the radio just after 1 a.m. on Jan. 5. "I'll be over by the ballpark."
Those were the last words anyone, other than RomÃ¡n, heard from the 37-year-old deputy, prosecutors say.
Following the shooting, RomÃ¡n fled north to Nephi and later to Salt Lake City, according to testimony. 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.
Prosecutors had intended to pursue the death penalty for RomÃ¡n, but it was removed from consideration after Eyre determined RomÃ¡n was ineligible because he met the legal definition of mental retardation.
RomÃ¡n did not speak at sentencing at his lawyers' advice. Defense attorneys said they believe the man will face federal charges in the future.
Defense attorney Steve McCaughey said RomÃ¡n expected to receive a maximum sentence, after which he will be turned over to immigration officials for likely deportation. McCaughey said Eyre's comments could be the basis of an appeal.