SALT LAKE CITY — Seven years after Millard County sheriff's deputy Josie Greathouse Fox was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop, the man who prosecutors, police and Fox's family say was responsible was sentenced to prison.
"Thank heaven for days like this, that we can have them. We don’t very often get to win like this, and today’s a win, for all of us,” a pleased Millard County Sheriff Robert Dekker said outside the federal courthouse Thursday.
Roberto Miramontes Roman, 44, was ordered to serve a term of life in prison for intentionally shooting and killing Fox in 2010 in order to avoid being arrested in a drug crime. Roman also received an additional 80 years in prison for firearms violations.
Judge David Nuffer could have sentenced Roman to as little as 20 years for shooting Fox. Combined with his other mandatory sentences, Roman was facing a minimum 130 years in prison even without a life sentence.
Roman's attorney argued a life sentence plus an additional 80 years was excessive and unnecessary.
But Nuffer said in court that he would impose the sentence that fit the guidelines. In this case, the judge said because the murder was premeditated, because of the callous disregard Roman had for Fox's life, because of his prior convictions and because of Roman's characteristics in general, they all weighed in favor of life in prison.
"Criminals must know that killing a law enforcer in the line of duty means they will never go free," he said.
Before sentencing, Fox's mother, Cindy Greathouse, addressed the judge. She thanked the court for not only convicting Roman, but for also clearing her son, Ryan Greathouse — Fox's brother — who Roman claimed was the one who pulled the trigger. Ryan Greathouse died of a drug overdose four months after his sister was killed.
"Robert Roman is an evil human being," Cindy Greathouse said.
Greathouse told Nuffer that "life became almost unbearable” after Roman was acquitted in state court. She called him a coward for using her dead son's name to get out of his murder charge.
After the hearing, Fox's family declined to speak to the media. But Dekker said they finally felt relief.
"They’re pleased and they finally, finally have that relief they’ve sought. That their son was not involved in the homicide in no way shape or form. And the right man has been put in jail and put in jail as long as he can be. Life-plus is a long time for somebody looking at that end of it,” he said.
On Jan. 5, 2010, Fox was shot twice with an AK-47 after pulling Roman over on a dirt road near Delta. Fox was a hometown hero and the first female patrol officer in the Millard County Sheriff's Office. She also became the first female officer in Utah killed in the line of duty.
Roman, who had already been deported twice for illegally entering the country and selling drugs, had told friends prior to Fox's death that he would kill any officer that stopped him again, according to prosecutors. Prosecutors call Fox's murder premeditated and say Roman intended on shooting her from the moment he was pulled over.
He obtained his AK-47 from Ryan Greathouse as payment for a meth deal. Four-and-a-half months after his sister's death, Greathouse died of a drug overdose.
Prosecutors say that opened the door for Roman to put the blame on Greathouse, despite confessing to killing Fox hours after his arrest. In August 2012, a jury in Spanish Fork acquitted Roman of a state murder charge.
Less than 24 hours after that acquittal, Dekker was on the phone with federal prosecutors.
First Assistant United States Attorney Diana Hagen said with the resources available to the U.S. Attorney's Office, they put together a team that included the Utah County Sheriff's Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to construct a solid prosecution. They referred to themselves as "Team Josie."
"This case has been the highest priority to the United States Attorney’s Office,” Hagen said after the hearing.
The residents of Millard County were devastated by both the murder and the "injustice" of Roman's acquittal. Thursday, Hagen said it was appropriate that Roman was sentenced during the week set aside each year to honor fallen officers nationwide.
Roman opted not to speak in court. His attorney, Stephen McCaughey, speaking for him, said his client maintains his innocence and insists he was not the one who pulled the trigger. He said outside the courthouse that Roman planned to file an appeal.
Dekker, however, said Thursday's sentencing put an end to an ugly chapter in the history of Millard County.
"This is a great day for law enforcement. This is a great day for the Millard County Sheriff’s Office. We’re seven years-plus into this, and finally I think we feel some relief that we’ve actually laid deputy Fox to rest. We feel good about that. We feel excited about that. It’s been a long time coming,” he said. "We’re finished. He’s where he’s going to be for the rest of his life. And that’s a comfort for all of us around. And it should be a comfort to all of the people of the state of Utah and anywhere else. This was an evil man who went about doing evil business."