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Stephen Anderson

Trisha Tower, the woman who helped escaped prison inmate Curtis Michael Allgier change clothes after he allegedly killed a corrections officer, has pleaded guilty to obstructing justice.

And Tower's lawyer said she helped out only because she feared she would lose her children if connected with such a terrible crime.

As part of a plea bargain, it is likely that Tower will spend only a few more months in jail.

Tower, 26, pleaded guilty to first-degree felony obstruction of justice on Monday before 3rd District Judge Robin Reese.

She continues to be held in the Salt Lake County Jail. She ended up there after the June 25, 2007, fatal shooting of corrections officer Stephen Anderson, 60, who had transported Allgier, 28, from prison to a Salt Lake medical clinic for an MRI.

Prosecutors contend Allgier killed Anderson with his own gun, ran from the hospital, commandeered a vehicle, raced to Tower's house to shed his orange jail jumpsuit and get other clothes, and then ended up at a fast-food restaurant where Allgier eventually was taken into custody.

Allgier is charged with several crimes, including aggravated murder, and Salt Lake County District Attorney Lohra Miller has said her office will seek the death penalty if he is convicted. Allgier is in the Salt Lake County Jail with a no-bail order.

Clayton Simms, Tower's defense attorney, said outside the courtroom that Tower, who was pregnant at the time of the Anderson shooting, hid the jumpsuit Allgier left at her house and lied about it out of fear.

"She felt if she had anything to do with it, her kids would be taken away."

She has a son, whose age was not immediately available, who now is with his biological father, and a 7-month-old daughter who is with Tower's relatives.

Tower faces a potential sentence of five-years-to-life in prison, but both defense attorneys and prosecutors are recommending that it be suspended and she instead receive a 12-month jail term, with credit for time already served.

Since she has been in jail since last June on $1 million cash-only bail, it is unlikely that Tower would spend much more time behind bars if the judge imposes the recommended sentence.

Reese ordered a pre-sentence report and set a sentencing date of March 24.

Prosecutor Vincent Meister later said his office is satisfied with the resolution for this case for several reasons: Tower has little criminal history; she did come forward regarding the jumpsuit; she has taken responsibility for her actions; and, if she fails to live up to probation requirements, the judge can always reinstate the suspended prison term.

Meister said it is possible that Tower could be subpoenaed to testify against Allgier, but the district attorney's office already has plenty of witnesses and may not need her.

Simms later said the suspended prison term is "an insurance policy" for the district attorney's office that can be used to make Tower straighten out her life.

"She certainly feels bad for Stephen Anderson's family, and she had no connection with that event," Simms said.

Although Tower's crime was serious, Simms said Tower "panicked" and simply made bad decisions that day. Simms said Allgier came into her home unannounced carrying a gun, took clothes without asking and left. "He was there less than three minutes."

Tower and Allgier were friends only, not romantically involved, and she earlier let Allgier be paroled from prison on another crime into her home so she would have a man in the house for security purposes, according to Simms.

He said Tower wants to rebuild her life and have contact with her children again. "Her goal is to become a better mother and associate with better friends," Simms said.

E-mail: lindat@desnews.com