Loyalty to friend charged with killing deputy sends Fillmore man to prison

Published: Friday, Oct. 29 2010 10:58 p.m. MDT

Ruben Chavez-Reyes, center, listens to proceedings during sentencing with his lawyer James Slavens, right, and court appointed interpreter Cecy Alomi.

Al Hartmann, Pool Photo

FILLMORE — Misguided loyalty to a friend accused of killing a Millard County sheriff's deputy earlier this year has cost a Fillmore man his freedom.

Fourth District Judge Donald J. Eyre sentenced Ruben Chavez-Reyes Friday to one to 15 years in the Utah State Prison for obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony. The judge also sentenced him to zero-to-five-year terms for evidence tampering and burglary of a non-dwelling, both third-degree felonies. The sentences are to run concurrently.

A jury last month found Chavez-Reyes, 37, guilty of those charges, while acquitting him of two others — possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person and burglary of a dwelling.

He told the judge that no words in Spanish or English could express his feelings for what happened to deputy Josie Greathouse Fox.

"To the family, I am really, really sorry," he said. "I'm found guilty of something, I'm willing to pay."

Fox was gunned down Jan. 5 while making a traffic stop of a suspected burglar on U.S. 50 in Millard County. Roberto Miramontes Roman is charged with capital murder in the case. He reportedly told police he shot Fox with an AK-47 because he thought she pulled him over simply for being Mexican. A trial date has not been set.

In arguing for a lesser sentence, defense attorney James Slavens asked the judge to remember that Chavez-Reyes had nothing to do with the shooting of Greathouse. And after he was taken into custody, he told investigators everything he knew.

"He held nothing back," Slavens said.

During Chavez-Reyes' trial, prosecutors called him the wrong kind of loyal because he was willing to help his friend get away with murder. The defense described him as a good person who was reluctant to help Roman and who didn't find out until later that a police officer had been killed.

But both agreed that he made a critical mistake by not alerting police when he was face to face with officers during the search of a Salt Lake home where Roman was suspected of hiding.

"If I'm Ruben Chavez-Reyes, that's my moment of truth. If I want to save myself, I say, "There's your guy,' " prosecutor Patrick Finlinson said.

Finlinson said a man who tries to help a friend who he know just killed a police officer should get the harshest sentence possible.

Chavez-Reyes told the judge he should have told police when he had the chance.

"At that time, I was worried about my life," he said.

Chavez-Reyes spent the night before the shooting at his Fillmore apartment with Roman watching videos, smoking meth and handling Roman's AK-47 rifle. He said Roman later called him and convinced him to give him a ride because his car was stuck in a snow bank west of Nephi. Chavez-Reyes said it wasn't until they arrived at Roman's cousin's house in Salt Lake City that Roman told him that he'd shot a police officer.

The two men later tried to hire a driver to take them to Los Angeles but lacked the money. They paid to go as far as Beaver, where they ended up hiding in a shed in a mobile home park. A resident discovered them in the shed the next morning and called police.

Slavens said Chavez-Reyes, who is in the country illegally, was a hard worker who sent money to his family in Mexico and helped his friends in need.

"That very character trait of his ended up being a character flaw in this situation," he said.

e-mail: romboy@desnews.com

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