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Orem killer says prison has taught him about coping, consequences

Published: Thursday, Sept. 4 2014 2:10 p.m. MDT

An inmate holds the bars at the Utah State Prison.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News archives

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UTAH STATE PRISON — A man sentenced to prison nearly 20 years ago for setting his roommate on fire, killing him, had his first parole hearing in more than 15 years this week.

Scott Austin Causey, 41, was found guilty but mentally ill in 1995 of murder and aggravated arson and was sentenced to two consecutive terms of five years to life.

On Sept. 5, 1994, Causey doused his Orem home and Glen Cowden, a man who had befriended him and was allowing him to stay in his house, with gasoline and ignited it.

During his trial, Causey was diagnosed by psychiatrists with bipolar disorder, phobias and post-traumatic stress syndrome. At sentencing, Causey told the judge he didn't mind going to prison if it meant receiving treatment for his illnesses.

Causey, making his first appearance before a member of the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole since 1998, was in tears Tuesday as he recounted the day an argument over taking off his shoes in Cowden's house escalated into him committing murder.

"I guess I just, at that point, I had enough abuse. I wasn't really equipped or knowledgeable about how to deal with the situation better than I should have. I should have just left, I don't know why I didn't. I was just so angry," he said. "I was enraged, became further enraged. I said, 'No one's going to hurt me again.' I'm not sure if I threw the match first or the gas first."

Causey recounted how he had been abused as a child, something that was brought up during his trial. He admitted that in the weeks leading up to Cowden's death he had a lot of rage building up inside.

"I never got out from underneath that and was never able to deal with it in an appropriate way. I was constantly angry because of that," he said.

"All the men in my life were very mean to me, and I couldn't understand what was wrong with me at the time that they couldn't love me," Causey said, pausing to wipe away tears. "I couldn't understand how parents couldn't love their child and why they wanted to abandon me all the time and why they were physically and verbally abusive to me."

Since being in prison, Causey has undergone counseling and therapy sessions. He has also learned life skills that he could use to get a job if he is released. Board member Jesse Gallegos, who conducted the hearing, noted that he had no doubt Causey felt sorry for what he did and overall had done well in prison despite a few violations when he first arrived, and was not considered a behavioral problem.

Causey said he was not currently on any medications for mental health treatment. He said the biggest thing he has learned in prison is how to deal with past abuse.

"Regardless of what happened to me, you can't use that as a facility to behave in any manner that you want to," he said. "The biggest thing is just knowing you could move on from that. Even if for some reason I couldn't have a relationship with my family today, that's all right. Everyone makes choices and there's consequences for those choices."

When asked how much time he believed he should serve, Causey said that really isn't up to him to decide.

"There's really no amount of time you can put on that. Basically, I'm at the grace of society. I don't believe that I could do enough time to make up for that. I don't think there is any amount of time you could do. It's not like you stole $2,000 and can pay it back. I took a man's life. There's nothing I can do to make up for Glen, absolutely not."

Because he was determined to be mentally ill and guilty, Gallegos said a full mental health evaluation would have to be completed first before the board could consider a possible release date.

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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