PROVO In numerous visits to the Utah County Jail over the past several months, attorneys for Riverton's Seth Broomhead tried to persuade him to agree to serve the rest of his life in prison for murdering two people in Orem in June 2003.
Prosecutors sought the death penalty and had assembled a pile of damning evidence against Broomhead in the brutal, execution-style slayings. In addition to a fingerprint, footprints and tire tracks that tied him to the murder scene, prosecutors also had an eyewitness and Broomhead's own confession.
They offered Broomhead a deal life without possibility of parole and he finally pleaded guilty in February. But he was intimidated by the prospect of 60 or more years in prison and, until he was sentenced Monday, attorneys on both sides worried he would withdraw the plea.
Instead, Broomhead stood in a black suit and white shirt and apologized to the families of Maritza Aguilar and Pablo Montoya.
"I know sorry isn't anything close to enough," he said, turning to look over his shoulder at Aguilar's parents and brothers. "I am sorry I can't do anything. If I could, I would."
Fourth District Judge Samuel McVey sentenced Broomhead to life in prison without parole. Utah law requires the Board of Pardons to imprison him until it determines he no longer is a threat to anyone.
"We don't ever expect him to see the outside of a prison," said Tim Taylor, a deputy Utah County attorney.
The likelihood Broomhead will spend five or six decades in the state penitentiary and potentially all of it in maximum-security, minimum-privilege areas forced defense attorneys Tom Means and Richard Gale to work overtime to persuade their client the plea bargain was a better choice than a trial. They believed a jury would choose life without parole anyway. If parole were allowed, they said, Broomhead likely would serve just as long anyway.
The Board of Pardons has recommended that eight of the nine inmates convicted of double homicides never be pardoned, Gale said.
"We didn't think the risk of him getting the death penalty and going to death row was worth it," he added. "You're risking a lot to gain very little or nothing."
"It is the best resolution, frankly," Means said.
They presented information to Broomhead that his life in prison would be better away from death row. On Monday, the judge counseled him to make the best of that life.
"I hope you'll put your time here on earth to good use," McVey said. "Others serving life terms have made important contributions to society. . . . I hope you'll use your time well instead of getting involved in the gang activities that don't contribute anything to society."
Broomhead shot Aguilar, 22, and Montoya, 20, during a drug deal on June 13, 2003.
Broomhead, 19 at the time, called Aguilar that day and asked her to help him buy a kilo of cocaine. Montoya and Aguilar met Broomhead and his friend, Jeremy Gerton, in an orchard behind Cook's Farm and Greenhouse. Broomhead climbed into the back seat of Montoya's Honda Accord without money to pay for the drugs.
Gerton testified at a preliminary hearing in 2004 that Broomhead shot Montoya in the side of the head and then, as Aguilar screamed, shot her in the head, too.
"It's about the worst shooting we've seen, really," said Sherry Ragan, criminal division chief of the Utah County Attorney's Office. "There was no provocation, and the two people killed were people he was acquainted with."
Investigators found a footprint and tire tracks in the mud around the Accord and Broomhead's fingerprint on the inside of one of the car windows, Taylor said, but police struggled to find the killer until Gerton was arrested for robbery and implicated Broomhead.
Aguilar's older brother, Angel, attended every Broomhead court hearing but broke down Monday and sobbed as he attempted to read a statement to the judge during the sentencing hearing, which lasted less than 20 minutes. His younger brother David read it for him, calling the killings a "selfish and brutal act."Comment on this story
After the hearing, Angel Aguilar praised the sentence but expressed sorrow that Broomhead robbed his sister of a chance to straighten out her life."She got mixed up with the wrong people who took advantage of her," he said. "She really was a nice person. She didn't deserve that."