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Man wrongly accused of murder placed on probation for gun violation

Published: Thursday, June 23 2011 9:09 p.m. MDT

Roger Kay Mortensen appears in court last August. He has been placed on probation for violating a firearms law.

Ashley Franscell, Ashley Franscell,

SALT LAKE CITY — A Payson man wrongly accused of killing his father will be placed on probation for violating federal firearms law.

U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell sentenced Roger Kay Mortensen to 36 months probation and ordered him to continue participating in the veteran's court program. Campbell also told Mortensen, 49, that she will closely monitor him in light of a recent verbal altercation in which he threateningly shouted, "I just got out of jail for murder."

"I believe you can make it," she said. "But that doesn't mean I won't be watching very carefully because I will."

Mortensen suffered a traumatic brain injury in an ATV accident in 1994 that left him with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anger management issues. As a Navy veteran, he qualified for federal veteran's court which operates much like drug court. He has attended the court since being charged and is on medication and seeing a psychologist.

"It has been a big help," he told the judge. "It has been very beneficial for me to understand my own shortcomings now."

Mortensen earlier pleaded guilty to one count of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition. Federal prosecutors dropped two other gun charges as part of a plea agreement and recommended he serve 21 months in prison.

Utah County sheriff's deputies found seven handguns and rifles in a search of Mortensen's home during the investigation into his father's death. Six of the guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition were in a hidden compartment under a furnace in the garage. Another gun was found in a safe in the garage, according to court records. The guns were part of his father's estate.

Because Mortensen was convicted of felony theft in 1998 — he pleaded guilty but mentally ill — it is unlawful for him to possess firearms.

Defense attorney Wendy Lewis said Mortensen used "poor judgment" in placing the guns in the garage but did it because his young nieces were coming to stay at the house. She argued for probation saying, "there's nothing to indicate he's a future danger to society."

In March, Mortensen had a run-in with two snowmobilers who apparently felt threatened by his dogs. The men argued and Mortensen yelled at a man and his son saying he had just been released from jail for murder, prosecutor Drew Yeates said.

Lewis said Mortensen disputes the snowmobilers' account and that he handled the situation well given his anger issues. He immediately reported the incident to his probation officer, she said. No charges were filed.

Mortensen and his wife, Pamela, spent four months in jail last year on murder charges in connection with the November 2009 fatal stabbing of his father, retired BYU professor Kay Mortensen.

Utah County authorities dropped charges against the Mortensens last December after two other suspects were arrested. One pleaded guilty to aggravated murder this month; the other awaits trial.

Email: romboy@desnews.com, Twitter: dennisromboy

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