Husband's mistake, prison sentence happened for a reason, wife says

Published: Sunday, March 24 2013 8:40 p.m. MDT

When his daughter identified Serbeck's vehicle, Campos made a U-turn, pulled in front of it and braked, prompting Serbeck to stop. Serbeck testified that Campos exited the car yelling, with his gun raised. Serbeck said he tried to talk to Campos and neutralize the situation by telling him he had a gun but was going to put it on the ground. Serbeck said he knelt to place it on the ground and kicked it away from his body, but Campos opened fire.

In Campos' version of the story, he told a 911 dispatcher: "He (Serbeck) pulled a gun on me and cocked it. ... He got out of his car, pulled a gun on me, cocked it, and I let him have it."

"It was like you just can't believe it happened," Kathy Campos said. "It's like one minute your life is great and everything is going well, and in a split second decision your whole world is crashing around you. I can't explain it, it's just devastation."

She, and those in her husband's camp, still believe it was self-defense and say Serbeck's narrative about putting the gun on the ground and talking with Campos is a story that doesn't add up.

Prosecutors, however, described Campos as an enraged "man on a hunt, pursuing and later finding his prey" — a vigilante who took the law into his own hands.

"The only thing he did wrong was he confronted the people," Kathy Campos said of her husband. "He could have made a different decision, he knows that, we all know that. If he would have, this would have never happened, but he did. But the thing is, I've had a lot of dads and even wives say, 'My husband would have done the same thing.' 'I would have done the same thing in the situation.'"

Reggie Campos went to jail for seven days and was released on bail. In the near-year between the shooting and his trial, there was stress and anxiety, regret, but also a good amount of hope.

"We had the preliminary hearing and we could see that Troy Peterson's story and Serbeck's story were different and we were really hopeful," Kathy Campos said. "It seemed like things were coming together. Then girls came forward (with allegations of sex abuse against Serbeck) and I thought once they charged (Serbeck), things would change."

But Serbeck was not charged with unlawful sexual activity with a 16- or 17-year-old until 2012. The Campos family said they were confused and frustrated by the lies they believe Serbeck told at trial and the lack of information allowed into the trial about Serbeck and the sex abuse accusations against him.

"We were still hopeful" up until the day of the verdict, Kathy Campos said. "I just thought it would all work itself out."

But jurors declared Campos guilty. Even 3rd District Judge Mark Kouris called the self-defense claim "pure crap" and sentenced him to prison. Campos did not apologize during the sentencing, but reiterated that he had acted in self-defense.

Campos' family said he struggled with how to reconcile his remorse with his belief that he had just defended himself.

"I know that he never wanted to shoot anybody," Kathy Campos said. "He's not happy that Serbeck is in a wheelchair. He doesn't think he deserves that. But what's he supposed to say? He thinks it's self-defense."


The trial left the family in debt and without a breadwinner. Their "dream home" was just one of many things they sold to make ends meet. They relocated into a family home in southern Utah and Kathy Campos counts that move as the second most difficult part of the last few years since the trial.

"We didn't make really anything off of the home," she said. "We didn't make a profit, but it helped me these last couple years a little bit. It helped me to raise my family, because it's been difficult for me to find a job. I've struggled, especially down here. The economy down here is not as good as in Salt Lake and so it's been a struggle to survive these last three years."

She notes, however, that there were 30 people waiting to help them unload since they have family in the area. Campos has since found part-time work that has helped her make ends meet.

Once a month, she drives three hours to Gunnison for a two-hour visit with her husband.

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