The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole has declined to set a parole date for a Utah man who was a teenager when he killed a 6-year-old neighbor 17 years ago, instead asking for an additional psychological evaluation before it decides whether Alexander James Bybee will ever be set free.
The board ordered Bybee, now 32, to undergo a psychopathy evaluation used to assess interpersonal and lifestyle characteristics associated with psychopathic behavior before it makes a final decision in his case.
Bybee received a five years to life sentence after pleading guilty to murdering Lance Guevarra in August 1996. At a parole hearing earlier this month, Bybee said he pulled on the boy’s arm "to remind him about returning a video game." Lance had broken the arm earlier while playing on a trampoline.
Bybee, who was 16 at the time, said he heard a pop after he "yanked it hard" and Lance passed out. Bybee then stepped on Lance’s windpipe until he was dead and buried his body in a shallow grave a quarter-mile from their homes, marking the site with a milk crate.
Bybee said a rush of thoughts flooded his mind after Lance "hit the ground" but one was foremost, and that was how the boy’s father would scream, yell and cuff him over the head "for nothing."
Bybee was 9-years-old when he moved with his mother to Big Water, a small town in Southern Utah. The Guevarras were neighbors. The boy’s father had been married to Bybee’s aunt, who was Lance’s stepmother.
Lance’s father "pretty much ruined my self-esteem and made me afraid of adults in general while I was growing up," said Bybee. He told hearing officer pro tem Angie Welling that he didn’t have much of a relationship with Lance.
"It was just a neighborhood kid like any other of the rest of them, pretty much," he said.
In a letter to the board written in 2009, Lance’s mom described him as a typical 6-year-old who loved swimming and fishing, was fascinated by sharks and was excited to begin first grade.
Bybee claimed he was "frightened of my neighbor to an extreme," which drove him from pulling the boy’s arm to "something else I didn’t even think was possible or that I could do."
"I didn’t know what he would do with me doing something like that," Bybee said. "That is what I believe is the main catalyst to why I did what I did, because out of fear that I thought I would be killed by him."
For nearly seven months, as the Guevarra family and law enforcement searched for Lance, Bybee kept silent. He then moved to Las Vegas to live with his father; he finally confessed to the crime in January 1997 after a failed suicide attempt.
"I don’t know if I should be kept here [in prison] forever," said Bybee, who described himself as a "failed" teenager who has "always been a good man."
"All I know is that I want to be responsible for it and I want to pay my debt to society, to the family that I hurt, to my family, to everybody and I don’t know if that is ever going to happen," he said.
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