1 of 4
August Miller, Deseret Morning News
Stephanie Arris-Poulos hugs her mother, Billie, as her brother, Nick Poulos, left, looks at a flag that was raised in the yard of their father's home Thursday. They described their father's killers as "ruthless," "mixed up" and "evil."

The mother of a Utah woman killed in a Kansas shootout with police says her daughter's suspected crime — not her death — gives her more reason to grieve.

Alicia Wingate, 26, had been sought for questioning in the shooting death of World War II hero Steven J. Poulos, found slain in his Holladay home on Jan. 14.

Wingate and her companion, Aaron Millenson, 18, were killed Wednesday by police in Kansas after a high-speed chase that ended in an armed confrontation.

"We are far more grieved at the crime she was involved with than her death," Anne Wingate said Thursday, fighting back tears as Alicia's father, T. Russell Wingate, sat stoically in a chair in the couple's Rose Park home.

Anne Wingate says she feels for the officers who had to take part in the shootout and is haunted by her daughter's suspected involvement in the Poulos shooting.

"She didn't pull the trigger. I don't think she thought a murder would be committed," she said of the slaying. "It was a murder of a good, kind, noble, living man that breaks our heart. Every one of us wants to tell the Poulos family how sorry we are."

She believes her daughter wanted to be shot by police. At the conclusion of the high-speed chase, she said, Millenson "jumped out of the car shooting. She came out, waved a knife at the officer. He was forced to kill her at point-blank range. We grieve for him. He was only doing his job."

Sobbing in a reclining chair, Anne Wingate blamed a lot of her daughter's troubles on Alicia's mental illness.

"She was a very loving young girl. In her right mind, she'd never have done such a horrible, horrible thing," Wingate said. "If she'd stayed on her antidepressants, this wouldn't have happened."

Salt Lake County sheriff's investigators originally said they simply wanted to question Alicia Wingate and Millenson in connection with Poulos' death. On Thursday, detectives called the couple "suspects" in the homicide but still were not ready to positively link them to the crime.

Salt Lake County Sheriff's Sgt. Paul Jaroscak said detectives need to compare evidence, some of it possibly forensic, collected at the scene with the car Millenson and Wingate were driving.

Poulos' family, however, has no doubt that the two were responsible.

They used words such as "ruthless," "mixed up" and "evil" to describe their father's killers during a family gathering to answer media questions and to also raise an American flag presented to his wife by military comrades during the funeral. Steven's son, Nicholas S. Poulos, believes the killers would have shot other family members had there been a confrontation.

"It didn't matter who was in their way," he said.

But members of the Poulos family also said they are not vindictive and that the shooting deaths of Wingate and Millenson were a "waste of two young people's lives, also."

Additional details of the crime were revealed Thursday that the Poulos family said were told to them by police.

Alicia Wingate's name was found written on a piece of paper on Poulos' table, Nicholas Poulos said. She had called Steven Poulos twice inquiring about his car that was being advertised for sale in Salt Lake's two daily newspapers.

Nicholas Poulos said it was the fifth car ad they had responded to that morning.

Neighbors saw a couple in Steven Poulos' driveway believed to be Wingate and Millenson the day of the killing. At one point, the man drove off in Poulos' car and left the woman in the driveway. She even talked with neighbors before the man drove back and picked her up, Nicholas Poulos said.

As of Thursday, investigators had not found the maroon, four-door 1997 Subaru Legacy with California license plate 4KOB631 that Poulos was selling. Jaroscak said investigators believe the car may be in Colorado, where they had tracked Wingate before the shootout Wednesday in Kansas.

The Poulos family also said that one of Steven Poulos' daughters may have been in the house at the same time as the killers.

Steven Poulos' home was the center of activity for his tight-knit family. His five children and their families were always dropping by to say hi.

Stephanie Arris-Poulos had stopped by for a cup of coffee on the day Steven Poulos was killed. She said she found his room "a mess" but she thought maybe somebody had been looking for something that had been misplaced.

As she called Steven Poulos' name without hearing an answer, she started down the stairs to see if he was there. She was talking with her uncle on a cell phone at the time, took two steps down and then realized something wasn't right. Steven Poulos, because of health problems, never went into the basement.

Based on all the suspicious circumstances, her uncle told her to get out of the house.

"They would have killed her . . . without a doubt," Nicholas Poulos said of what would have happened if there had been a confrontation.

Family members now believe even in death, their father continues to be a hero and was watching over them that day.

"Maybe he took the bullet for us," said Vickie Poulos, who was the first to find her father's body.

Vickie said she found her father in the dark basement, lying on his side. There were no traces of blood, she said. What she did not notice while performing CPR was that Poulos had been shot in the back.

The Thursday event was emotion-packed, with Poulos' wife, Billie, saying that at one point, she didn't think she could ever return to her home of 26 years.

"It seems horrendous to me my husband would go in this terrible, tragic way," she said.

Meanwhile, Alicia Wingate's parents also mourned Thursday, struggling to cope with her death and the circumstances that led her down that path.

We lost her," Anne Wingate said. "We did everything we could do to keep her on the straight and narrow."

Wingate said she adopted Alicia from her sister when the girl was 7. Growing up, Alicia liked to paint, write poetry and wanted to become a police officer.

Wingate said Alicia married once and had two children; a 6-year-old girl who lives with her father and a toddler she gave up for adoption. But Wingate said her daughter spiraled into a severe depression, refusing to take her medication and getting mixed up in drugs and gangs.

She brought out a small framed painting that her daughter painted when she was 16 years old. "She didn't put in the sun," Anne Wingate said, "but she has the shadows of the mountains all right."


E-mail: [email protected]; [email protected]