Admitted murderer James Sherard told the Utah Board of Pardons Friday that he accidentally stabbed a woman in January 1987 when he was surprised by her during a burglary.
Police officers found 52-year-old Madeline Beltran's naked body lying across her bed. She had been repeated stabbed and slashed in the throat, chest, legs and lower abdomen. Her blood-soaked nightgown was found in a corner of her bedroom. Evidence of sexual abuse was found on her body.The discrepancies between Sherard's story and the condition of his victim led the board to deny him parole, said chairwoman Victoria Palacios. Sherard also has a substance abuse problem and a lengthy juvenile record and has received disciplinary action in prison for fighting. Palacios said letting him back out on the streets would be too much of a risk, as he hasn't learned to control his inner anger.
"All those kinds of things indicate you're still the same angry, young man.
"Mr. Sherard, it's never easy to do this," Palacios said. "We racked our brains looking for reasons to do something else, and we just couldn't find one. It's our decision that you'll serve your natural life in prison."
After the decision, Palacios asked a prison social worker to put Sherard on the suicide watch list.
Sherard, 20, pleaded guilty in October 1987 to murder, aggravated sexual assault and theft. He was sentenced to life in prison and also received consecutive sentences of five years to life, 15 years to life and one year to 15 years.
Sherard said some of his difficulties are a result of being of mixed racial descent, being black and Hispanic, and because he was abused by his parents as a child.
"I'm working on my problems. I'm trying to cope with my anger more. I know what I've done is wrong," he said.
In other action Friday, the board pushed back the rehearing date for an inmate after he threatened a reporter during the board's executive session.
The board originally had set a parole rehearing date of May 1991 for Patrick Wayne Estep, 22, who was convicted of attempted sexual abuse of a child, a third-degree felony, and received a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
After a prison social worker reported Estep's hostile encounter with a newspaper reporter, the board recalled him and extended his rehearing date by six months to November 1991.
"I'm the nicest guy in the world," Estep said. "A person can only take so much."
The board ordinarily doesn't grant a parole date to a convicted sex offender at the prisoner's first hearing, according to board member Paul Boyden. But Boyden told Estep the board was concerned about his attitude. "Looking at your record, I don't see anything that got you in here other than your own actions," he said.