Three years ago, Jerry Auble was a Weber County paramedic busy saving other people's lives.
Today, Auble sits in a prison cell at the Utah State Prison, serving an indeterminate prison term for the 1985 shooting death of his wife, Claudette.The Board of Pardons last year gave Auble a May 8, 2001, parole date. But Auble was back before the Board of Pardons Wednesday seeking a new hearing based on new psychological evidence. Just as war experiences continue to traumatize Vietnam veterans, Auble's traumatic occupational experiences may have played a significant role in the violent outburst that led to the death of Claudette Auble.
The board rejected Auble's most recent plea for an earlier parole date.
Auble, 34, has been undergoing psychological therapy at the Utah State Prison since his incarceration in May 1986. Experts there report that Auble appears to suffer from "delayed stress syndrome," a mental condition aggravated by high-stress occupations.
Among the evidence presented in Auble's behalf were studies conducted by Dr. Jeffrey Mitchell of the University of Maryland that suggest individuals in high-stress jobs, particularly paramedics and police officers, suffer higher and more acute cases of the mental disorder.
Delayed stress syndrome is highlighted by violent outbursts, aggressive behavior, personality changes, paranoia and other disorders. "If the symptoms are ignored, the condition expands," Auble said, citing the study.
On Nov. 24, 1985, the stress reached the point that Auble shot his wife in the head twice with a rifle.
Through talking with friends and family, Auble has been reconstructing his behavior in the months before the homicide and says he now sees how he withdrew from those he was close to, particularly his wife. He also "felt a paranoia for not coping well with the stress," and he feared punishment from his employers when the stress affected his job performance.
Many of Auble's memories have been blocked from consciousness, but they've weighed heavily on his subconscious. Under hypnosis, Auble is regaining his memory of events leading up to the homicide, as well as the homicide itself.
"When I first appeared before the board, you told me, `Only you know what happened in that room,' " he told the board. "I thought to myself: I don't. I wish I did."
His wish has become "like a nightmare. You wake up and you don't think it is real," he said. "There's a feeling of, `Stop this! Stop this!' "
While acknowledging that delayed stress syndrome may have played a role in Auble's mental condition during the killing, board members said Auble raised that defense at his trial, although not strongly, and that the jury rejected that argument.