Draper • Don Blanchard asked the question several times, the words varying slightly each time.
"Do you feel like you got away with murder?" asked Blanchard, a hearing officer for the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole. "Did you get away with murder?'
Roberto Miramontes RomÃ¡n, 39, who was acquitted last August of aggravated murder in the death of Millard County Sheriff's Deputy Josie Greathouse Fox, remained stone-faced Thursday during his first board hearing, as he stuck to a stock answer.
"I've been advised not to talk about my case right now without the presence of my attorney," RomÃ¡n said, at one point adding that the advice came from the Mexican counsel.
Blanchard, a former board member, gave a methodical recitation of the events leading up to and following Fox's shooting in 2010, as members of the slain deputy's family, RomÃ¡n's family and representatives of Millard County listened.
Fox's father spoke at one point during the hearing at Blanchard's invitation.
"I was just wondering ... I don't know if he understands what you're saying," Russell Greathouse said. "During the trial, he was 'No comprendo.' "
Said Blanchard: "He understands."
Russell Greathouse said the sequence of events have been "devastating on my family. He's wrecked our lives. We lost two children over this. I'm still puzzled at the jury at the way they came out on this thing."
RomÃ¡n initially confessed to killing Fox after she pulled over his vehicle around 1 a.m. on Jan. 5, 2010, but later recanted and claimed Ryan Greathouse, Fox's brother, was a passenger in the car and fired the fatal shots. Deputies had been tailing the two for several hours that evening as part of a drug investigation.
During his trial last August, RomÃ¡n told a 4th District Court jury that he and Ryan Greathouse spent the hours before the encounter selling and smoking methamphetamine. They were on their way to Hinckley when Fox stopped them. At trial, RomÃ¡n said that Ryan Greathouse picked up an AK-47 and shot Fox twice in the chest.
Explaining his confession to police, RomÃ¡n said he agreed to take the blamebecause he feared for his children at the hands of Ryan Greathouse. Ryan Greathouse returned to his home, while RomÃ¡n headed to Salt Lake City with a friend, Ruben Chavez-Reyes, then went to Beaver, where they were arrested Jan. 6 after being found sleeping in a tool shed.
Ryan Greathouse was found dead from a drug overdose in a Las Vegas hotel room four months after his sister's shooting; Blanchard said it wasn't clear whether the overdose was accidental or a suicide.
"I guess Ryan's death gave you a bit of an out at the trial," Blanchard observed. "You suggested at trial that he was hiding in your vehicle and shot his own sister as she approached."
The jury acquitted RomÃ¡n of a murder charge, a verdict that shocked many in what prosecutors had described as an "open-and-shut case."
RomÃ¡n, 40, was found guilty of two lesser third-degree felonies tampering with evidence and possession of a firearm by a restricted person and was sentenced in October to two consecutive zero-to-five-year prison terms.
Chavez-Reyes, 38, who helped RomÃ¡n flee after the shooting, was convicted by a jury of second-degree felony obstruction of justice and third-degree felony counts of burglary and tampering with evidence. He is serving up to 15 years at the Utah State Prison.
But Blanchard said the story RomÃ¡n told at his trial varied greatly from his "open and forthright" comments given initially to investigators about Fox's death after his arrest.
That included a description of how he'd held the AK-47 either upside or sideways over his shoulder and fired in order to "scare" off the approaching officer, Blanchard said.
Blanchard said RomÃ¡n was also told investigators he was "mad and upset" as he saw the police lights come on and realized he was being stopped. RomÃ¡n told investigators he thought he'd been pulled over because he was Mexican something that would have been impossible for Fox to have observed, Blanchard noted.
Blanchard said RomÃ¡n described pulling over, firing out the window, being surprised by the loud sound and then knowing the female officer had at least been wounded. Blanchard reminded RomÃ¡n that he had even said he thought about calling 911 as he took off.
Fox, who was 37, was found laying on the road, still clutching her flashlight, by two deputies who arrived to back her up.
At one point, RomÃ¡n dumped the AK-47 in a snowbank; three shell casings from the rifle were later found in his car, Blanchard said.
After recounting the case, Blanchard asked RomÃ¡n if he had anything to offer to the board as it weighed how long to keep him in prison.
"Nothing," RomÃ¡n said.
He answered "no" to questions about whether he had any expectations for the hearing or plans upon release. If he is eventually deported to Mexico, RomÃ¡n said he'd "stay in Mexico."
Blanchard said he was inclined to assign a negative inference to RomÃ¡n's unwillingness to answer questions during the hearing. He told RomÃ¡n that he likely will serve the full 10-year sentence, "and that will still be a break."
All the evidence, Blanchard said, supports the conclusion that "you got away with murder."
"You've lost freedom and your family has lost contact with you, but that doesn't begin to compare to what the Greathouse family has lost out of all these events," Blanchard said.