'You got away with murder,' judge tells Roberto Roman, acquitted of killing Millard Co. sheriff's deputy
SPANISH FORK — When it came time to sentence the man accused and acquitted in the shooting of a Millard County sheriff's deputy, Judge Donald Eyre didn't mince words.
"At least in my opinion, you got away with murder," the judge told Roberto Miramontes Roman on Wednesday in 4th District Court. "Because of that, I think it's appropriate … that you receive the maximum penalty for the charges you were convicted on."
The judge then sentenced the man to consecutive sentences of zero to five years in prison for tampering with evidence and possession of a dangerous weapon, both third-degree felonies, in connection with the Jan. 5, 2010, shooting that killed deputy Josie Greathouse Fox, 37. The judge also recommended that Roman pay $591 in restitution.
"Given the great pain and anguish you've caused … my only concern is that I couldn't give you more time," Eyre said, adding that he will write a letter to the Board of Pardons asking that Roman serve the full term in prison.
Roman, 40, was charged with aggravated murder in Fox's death and could have faced the death penalty, but he was found to be "mentally retarded" before the trial began and the punishment was no longer an option under law.
Though he once confessed to killing Fox during a traffic stop, Roman took the stand in his own defense during the trial and said it was actually the deputy's brother, Ryan Greathouse, who shot her. He said Greathouse didn't realize it was his sister until after the shooting and then threatened Roman, forcing him to confess.
It was undisputed that Greathouse and Roman were smoking methamphetamine together the night Fox was killed. The AK-47 used in the shooting had Roman's fingerprints on them, but he said it was because he had handled the weapon before Greathouse reached across him and pulled the trigger.
Greathouse, 40, died of an accidental drug overdose 4½ months after his sister was killed. Prosecutors sought to admit a written statement Greathouse prepared on the night of his sister's death, which they say would have corroborated their theory and disproved Roman's, but it was deemed inadmissible as hearsay evidence.
Jurors later said the lack of evidence on Greathouse made it difficult to convict "beyond a reasonable doubt" and acquitted Roman of the murder.
Millard County chief deputy attorney Patrick Finlinson said the verdict shocked him, given what he felt was plenty of evidence to convict. The judge's sentence, though, did provide "some consolation."
"We're still a little bit disappointed about the results of the jury trial," Finlinson said Wednesday. "I'm absolutely convinced (Roman) shot deputy Josie Greathouse Fox, and I do live with (the jury's) result, but I am happy with what Judge Eyre did today."
The belief in Roman's guilt was reiterated by Fox's daughter, Hunter Winn.
"Everyone knows (Roman) killed my mom," Winn said after the sentencing. "Everyone knows that."
During the hearing, Winn and Fox's husband, Doug, each stood before the judge and asked for a harsh sentence.
"We have to suffer for the rest of our lives with the fact that we've lost two family members," Winn said. "This is something that's torn each and every one of us apart. We've been beaten down to nothing. … Why shouldn't (Roman) have to suffer as long as we do?"
She said her mother was a "great person" and a role model to many. Doug Fox also spoke of his wife's character.
"Josie tried to do everything she could and helped out so many people," he said. "She can't do that anymore. (Roman has) taken that away."
Doug Fox said he believes the decisions made in the case against Roman were not the right ones, and he asked that Eyre not disappoint with the sentence.
"(Josie) didn't really trust the justice system," he said. "You don't need to let her down. … You've got one more decision. I hope you make the right one because he doesn't deserve to get out at all."
Assistant Attorney General Patrick Nolan outlined Roman's history for the judge, noting that Roman was arrested for a DUI at age 18, had been charged with a felony by age 20 and was ordered to prison by the time he was 25 for drug- and gun-related charges. He also said Roman has a history of avoiding accountability for his crimes.
"Fifteen years have passed, and look where we are," Nolan said. "Drugs and guns got us here. Drugs and guns have led to the deaths of two people in Millard County. … He continues to blame other people. … Never yet has he taken responsibility for any of his conduct."
Defense attorney Steve McCaughey asked that Eyre sentence his client to concurrent sentences. McCaughey took issue with the consecutive recommendation in a presentence report that, at one point, questioned why Roman never talked with police and told them his version of events.
"As his attorneys, we told him not to talk to police," the attorney said, before asking Eyre to consider the nearly three years Roman has spent in custody already. "He's done three years of hard time. That ought to be considered by the court."
But Eyre said he felt Roman's criminal history, "the severity of the crimes" and "the gravity of the surrounding circumstances" warranted consecutive sentences.
McCaughey said after the hearing that the sentence was one he had expected. He also said he advised Roman against speaking at the hearing due to possible federal charges.
"That's enough for me to tell him not to say anything," McCaughey said. "We expected (the sentence). We told him going in he'd be getting consecutive sentences."
McCaughey said an appeal is planned and that the judge's comment about Roman getting away with murder could come up.
"He could have said it differently, I think," he said.
Millard County Sheriff Robert Dekker said he agrees completely with the judge.
"I believe (Roman) got away with murder, and that's upsetting because the very system deputy Fox died protecting failed her in this particular case," the sheriff said. "But it's still a great nation. It's still a great system. It doesn't always work right, and that is what happened in this case."
Dekker said he was happy with the sentence but that those who knew and loved Fox will continue to struggle with her death and what happened in the trial.
"This was a great and terrible loss," he said. "It affects (Fox's family) forever, as it does all of us."
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