FILLMORE — A judge has ruled that basic information prosecutors used to justify a criminal charge against a man allegedly connected to the slaying of a sheriff's deputy should not be made public.
The information, contained in a document known as a "no warrant arrest fact sheet," was sealed Wednesday by 4th District Judge Donald J. Eyre at the request of the Millard County Attorney's Office. Eyre's decision prevents the release of the fact sheet or probable cause statement filed in the case against Ruben Chavez-Reyes. Such a document — typically considered public — includes information justifying the reasons why charges have been filed.
Chavez-Reyes, 36, was charged late Tuesday with obstructing justice, a second-degree felony, in connection with the death of Millard County sheriff's deputy Josie Greathouse Fox.
In making their request, prosecutors argued that public release of information contained in the probable cause statement would "hinder a capital murder investigation, which is ongoing, and would have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing" the cases against Chavez-Reyes and Roberto Miramontes Roman.
Roman, 37, is charged with capital murder in Fox's death and tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony. If he's convicted, prosecutors have said they intend to seek the death penalty.
The Deseret News, through attorneys Jeff Hunt and David Reymann, has voiced its opposition to Eyre's decision in a letter sent to the judge Wednesday. The letter requests a hearing on the judge's order to seal the fact sheet. The News has also asked to be notified of any further attempts to seal court records.
"It's one of the most important documents in a criminal case because it's the state's justification for taking away someone's liberty," Hunt said, referring to the probable cause statement.
"There's a compelling public interest in access to this document," said Hunt, who called the prosecutor's request to seal the record "unorthodox" and "extraordinary."
Millard Chief Deputy County Attorney Patrick Finlinson issued a press release on Jan. 8 first thanking the media for helping distribute information in the search of the suspects. The statement then announced that prosecutors would not discuss additional evidence in the case and said "all records relating to the investigation" would not be made public. Any "requests for such records will be denied," he said.
Prosecutors did not ask Eyre to seal the probable cause statement used to obtain a warrant for Roman's arrest on the day Fox was killed. In that document, they allege Roman fired the single shot that left Fox dead on the side of U.S. 50 east of Delta on Jan. 5.
Fox had stopped Roman at the request of Millard County Sheriff's Sgt. Rhett Kimball, who had observed suspicious behavior in an area where several burglaries had occurred, according to the sheriff's office.
When Kimball reached Fox's location several minutes after she initiated the traffic stop, he found her dead. Her gun was still in its holster.
Following the shooting, investigators questioned Fox's brother, Ryan Greathouse, who told them he had bought drugs from Roman shortly before his sister was killed, court records state. Greathouse told detectives Roman was driving a Cadillac when the alleged drug deal took place, and provided police with Roman's cell phone number. Authorities said the Cadillac Roman was driving when Fox stopped him is registered to Chavez-Reyes. A Corvette discovered in Salt Lake City hours after the shooting, with one of the license plates from the Cadillac, also may have belonged to Chavez-Reyes, investigators said.
The discovery of the vehicles touched off a statewide manhunt, with SWAT teams swarming homes in Salt Lake and Nephi, where the Cadillac was found.
The search ended Jan. 6 when Roman and Chavez-Reyes were found sleeping in a shed behind a mobile home in Beaver.
Authorities still have not said how the men met up with one another following the shooting, how they reached Beaver, about 93 miles south of Delta, or how the Corvette and Cadillac wound up in Salt Lake and Nephi, respectively. They have also declined to comment on Greathouse's connection to the death of his sister beyond the information contained in court records.
"We're just not discussing evidence of any kind right now," Millard County Sheriff Robert Dekker said late Wednesday.
Chavez-Reyes will make his first court appearance Jan. 20. Roman is slated to be in court that day as well for an update on the state's progress in appointing an attorney qualified to represent him in a capital case.
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