Families protest sex offender's possible parole

Published: Monday, Oct. 10 2005 12:00 a.m. MDT

JaneEllen Ogilvie, murder victim Leon Zerfas' mother, plays guitar and sings as stepfather Bob Rodriguez holds a drawing of Zerfas Thursday.

Robert Johnson, Associated Press

UTAH STATE PRISON — Thursday was Eddie Michael Underwood's chance to show remorse for his crimes — criminal homicide, forcible sex abuse, and aggravated sexual abuse of a child.

"I sympathize with them. I understand the hurt," he said about his victims during a parole hearing. "I'm sorry for the whole complete incident."

But what irked Board of Pardons and Parole member Jesse Gallegos and the victims' families was when Underwood said he holds no malice toward those who testified against him.

"You certainly don't think you're a victim, do you?" Gallegos asked.

"Everybody is," Underwood replied.

Gallegos asked again. Same reply.

With that, Gallegos thanked everyone in attendance and closed the 1 1/2-hour hearing and Underwood likely won't have another hearing for another two years.

He's been behind bars for 20 years, originally convicted of aggravated sex abuse of a child and forcible sex abuse. But in 1985, while awaiting sentencing on those crimes, he stabbed Leon Zerfas, the brother of one of his abuse victims, to death on an Ogden street and was convicted of criminal homicide.

He has since served his time for the forcible sex abuse conviction.

Thursday, Underwood was in front of Gallegos at the state's prison in Draper to review his crimes and hear from his victims who testified, saying they are concerned about their and their children's safety if Underwood is paroled from prison.

Those who testified said they were outraged that Underwood has not had sex-offender therapy in prison.

Gallegos said it is the board's policy to order sex-offender therapy for inmates who are close to receiving a parole date, which Underwood is not.

Zerfas' mother, JaneEllen Ogilvie, showed family pictures that didn't include Zerfas to Gallegos. She pointed out the empty space where Zerfas would have stood if he hadn't been killed.

She played a guitar as she sang a song she wrote about Zerfas.

About two months ago, Ogilvie started a letter-writing campaign to the Board of Pardons and Parole. She said friends, family, neighbors and strangers have sent letters to the board, pleading with it to keep Underwood in prison. The stack of letters was three inches thick, Ogilvie said.

During the hearing, Gallegos made no mention of the letters but said he would probably recommend the board rehear Underwood's case in 2007.

Underwood said he hoped the board would grant him parole so he could leave Utah and never live near his victims again — for their comfort and his safety.

Outside, Underwood's sister-in-law, Candace Cline, said Caffal and the others who testified lied about Underwood's sexual abuse cases.

"Nothing will make me believe that (he's guilty)," she said. "Give the guy a break. He has been here 20 years."

The Board of Pardons and Parole is expected to decide within three to six weeks whether Underwood will be paroled.


E-mail: jdougherty@desnews.com

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