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In man's '03 death in Utah, Nevada woman found guilty of manslaughter

Published November 26, 2013 10:51 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Elko, Nev. • A Nevada jury found a woman guilty of voluntary manslaughter in her retrial in the death of a ranch hand whose body was found in Utah almost 10 years ago.

Linda Fields' attorney, Brian Green, characterized Friday's verdict in the death of Jaromir Palensky as a victory for Fields, who had been charged again with murder.

Fields could face up to 10 years in state prison at sentencing in Elko County District Court, the Elko Daily Free Press reported. A date has not been set.

Fields had been convicted of murder in 2007 and sentenced to life without parole, but in 2012 the Nevada Supreme Court ordered a new trial.

Palensky was last seen alive in December 2003 on a ranch where he worked for Fields. His body was found in January 2004 in the Jordan River near Salt Lake City. An autopsy examination revealed he suffered four significant hits to the back of his head with a blunt object, which proved to be fatal.

Fields' husband, Vern, was convicted in 2007 of murder and conspiracy to murder in Palensky's death.

Deputy District Attorney Rob Lowe argued that Linda Fields carefully plotted Palensky's death to cash in on a $300,000 insurance policy for which she was the beneficiary.

"The defendant is guilty of first-degree murder," Lowe said.

But Green argued during the trial that voluntary manslaughter was the appropriate verdict if jurors believed the testimony of Fields' sister-in-law, Niqua Walker Fields, who said Fields admitted to killing Palensky because he molested her grandchild.

In 2002, Palensky was sentenced to prison on a drunken driving offense. Before he was incarcerated, he gave Fields power of attorney so she could take care of a few of his financial obligations.

Lowe said Palensky was the ideal victim. He was a European immigrant, a gambler and a felon whom no one was looking out for but had some assets.

"No nearby relatives looking for a heated investigation," he said. "Just some old drunk who would not be missed."