Family of murdered BYU professor Kay Mortensen disappointed in lawsuit dismissal
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The son and daughter-in-law of a slain Brigham Young University professor who were once falsely accused of killing him, expressed disappointment Monday that their federal civil rights suit has been dropped.
On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Dale Kimball dismissed the lawsuit filed by Roger and Pamela Mortensen.
"It is hard to understand that falsifying information to a grand jury, especially by law enforcement, could be tolerated. In our situation our rights to have compensation for the injustices inflicted on us by the detectives, sheriff's department and public defender has been halted," the couple wrote in a prepared statement.
The statement was issued through their attorney, Robert Sykes. The Mortensens were originally expected to attend a press conference Monday, but Sykes said "scheduling problems" prevented the couple from appearing.
Roger and Pamela Mortensen spent four months in jail and were just weeks away from standing trial for the killing of Roger Mortensen's father, former BYU professor Kay Mortensen, when new information pointed investigators in a completely different direction. Two other men were arrested and the charges were dropped against the Mortensens.
In October of 2011, they filed a federal lawsuit against the Utah County Sheriff's Office and Utah County Attorney's Office, claiming they purposely deceived a grand jury by not presenting all of the information available.
Legal analysts predicted it would be an uphill battle, noting the couple had little legal recourse. And that was before the U.S. Supreme Court in April declared that all witness statements given before a grand jury were immune to civil litigation, including those given by law enforcement officers.
Roger and Pamela Mortensen said Monday they likely weren't the only ones who felt they were wronged by the system.
"I'm sure the members of the grand jury feel duped by that process now that they know the truth," Pamela Mortensen said.
Kay Mortensen's throat was slit in his home in Payson Canyon on Nov. 16, 2009. While the alleged assailants were still in the house, Pamela and Roger Mortensen stopped by the house to visit his father.
The couple said the false accusations levied against them have affected their standings in the community, at church and their jobs.
"Our reputations have been compromised. How many times have our pictures been broadcasted as criminals compared to how many times we have been seen as innocent victims," the Mortensens wrote. "Relationships have been harmed and actually severed with some family members."
The Mortensens said they were "forever grateful" to the person who stepped forward with information that led to the arrests of the other two men. But they did not want to say anything more about the current criminal case.
"That case has still not been resolved and in order that we not jeopardize the proceedings, we will say no more about it at this time," they said.
Benjamin Rettig and Martin Bond, both 24 and from Vernal, were charged with murder in Kay Mortensen's death. Rettig pleaded guilty as part of a plea bargain that spared him the death penalty and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. He has indicated, however, that he wants to withdraw his plea and appeal. Bond rejected a plea deal, prompting his attorney to resign, and has pleaded not guilty.
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