Despite pressure from law enforcement officials, the Utah Board of Pardons has approved the release from prison of a 36-year-old man who shot a Utah Highway Patrol trooper to death 15 years ago.
Emery Dean Beck will have served 12 years at the Utah State Prison when he leaves on parole Aug. 8.Beck, 22 years old at the time, fatally shot Trooper William Antoniewicz, 28, the night of Dec. 8, 1974, near Echo Junction on I-80 when the trooper stopped him for speeding.
Afraid he would be arrested for a break-in at the Evanston, Wyo., jail earlier that night, during which Beck took evidence to be used against him in a narcotics case, Beck pulled a gun, shooting the trooper twice.
"It was an act of desperation," Beck told the board Friday.
Letters from the the state Public Safety Department, Corrections Department, Utah Highway Patrol and Sheriff's Association complained that to release Beck after only 12 years in prison was a "depreciation of the crime."
But board members said Beck is a "model inmate" who has graduated from the University of Utah with honors in psychology and saved $25,000 while working at prison.
In addition, letters from prison caseworkers and psychologists touted his intellectual ability, his sincerity and his exceptional prison record.
Beck noted that between 1982 and 1984 he was frequently out of prison in the community on speaking engagements and community service projects for senior citizens.
"With the changes I've made in my life, I doubt I'll ever commit another crime in my life," Beck said.