PAYSON — The son and daughter-in-law of a former BYU professor who was killed in his home last November have been indicted by a grand jury on charges of murder and obstruction of justice.
Roger Kay Mortensen, 48, and his wife Pamela Mortensen, 34, are each charged in 4th District Court with murder, a first-degree felony, and obstruction of justice, a third-degree felony. They were arrested Thursday night and booked into the Utah County Jail.
Roger Mortensen was found near their Payson home in a car with another individual, and his wife was inside the home. Officials said both were arrested without incident.
Both are being held in lieu of $500,000 cash-only bail.
The grand jury, after meeting Wednesday and Thursday in American Fork, found "clear and convincing evidence" to indict the couple in the death of Kay Mortensen, said Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman. "We believe the evidence will show that Pamela and Roger are participants in this murder," he said.
Kay Mortensen, 70, was found with his throat slit on Nov. 16. Both Roger and Pamela Mortensen called 911 from the father's Payson home that night to report his death. They said two men had tied them up when they came to the house for a visit.
In a 911 call, Roger Mortensen said that after the men left and he freed himself, he went upstairs to look for his father and found him dead in a bathtub with his throat slit.
But Utah County sheriff's investigators say the couple's stories didn't add up, and the pair were both labeled as "persons of interest" in the case in January.
"There were inconsistencies from the beginning … in their statements and the physical evidence," Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy said.
Roger Mortensen raised more suspicions when he refused to cooperate with police during the investigation, aside from an initial interview.
"We have invited all (the family) to participate, and he has chosen to never ever talk to us, participate or help," Tracy said. "At no time was he of any help with any information that would assist us."
Defense attorney Greg Skordas says, however, that his clients are innocent.
"Our clients did not commit this homicide," he said. "They weren't involved in it, they didn't commit it, and they didn't participate in it."
Skordas said he didn't know about the indictment until Thursday night, when the couple called and told him the police had come for them. He met with the Mortensens at the jail Friday. While he doesn't know what evidence the state has against his clients, he believes investigators have always focused on the couple.
"They've always felt that our clients were involved," he said, "and because of that, they haven't, in our opinion, investigated this case outside of just our clients."
Tracy and Buhman said investigators are still looking for other people who may be involved in the case. Police are still looking for several guns discovered missing from Kay Mortensen's home after he died. Tracy said while officials are not sure of a motive for the death, the guns may have been a part of a motive because they are quite valuable. In all, Lt. Mike Browers said 30 guns are still missing.
"We know there's some guns missing, so we know that other people have information that would help us in this case," Tracy said, adding that "anything's possible" when asked if other parties could also be responsible for the death.
Buhman admitted that using a state grand jury in a case like this is uncommon, but he said investigators thought it was the best move to make.
"The grand jury is an investigative body," the sheriff said. "They're able to ask questions and call witnesses. They are actually part of the investigation. It's a good tool to help us in regards to this (case)."
When cases are presented to a grand jury, only the prosecution gets to present evidence. But Buhman insisted they presented a "totality of evidence" and not just the prosecution's side. He also insisted they were not simply avoiding a preliminary hearing, where defense attorneys are allowed to question witnesses.
"We definitely tried to present the evidence we know as it exists today," he said.
Roger Mortensen was also booked into jail Thursday for investigation of possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a firearm by a restricted person. When officers arrested him, they said he and another man had a marijuana pipe with marijuana in it.
When police searched the house, investigators found a man-made hidden compartment under the furnace with six firearms in it, including an AK-47 and a 12-gauge shotgun, according to a police affidavit filed in 4th District Court. "There was also several thousand rounds of ammunition in and around this hidden compartment," the affidavit states.
A .22 caliber revolver was also found in a safe in the garage.
In 2003, Roger Mortensen was charged with assault in Spanish Fork after police said he split a bottle of tequila with his stepson and then attacked him. The charge was dismissed when he entered a plea in abeyance for providing alcohol to a minor.
He was also convicted in 2000 of violating a protective order by allegedly making harassing phone calls to his ex-wife in which he threatened to kill his stepson, according to a police report. A judge ordered him to take an anger-management class.
When Mortensen was charged with theft in 1997 for allegedly helping his roommate steal dozens of tools from an Orem hardware store where Mortensen worked as a cashier, a jury found him guilty but mentally ill. And the year before that, Mortensen was given probation after he pleaded no contest to theft and using a dangerous weapon in a fight.
In 1996, he was driving in American Fork Canyon on a four-wheeler when he passed a car full of Boy Scouts, according to an affidavit filed in 4th District Court. For reasons that are unclear, police say Mortensen became "very upset," stopped and pulled out a handgun.
He allegedly began yelling and pointed the gun at the driver's head. The driver reported the assault to authorities, who tracked down Mortensen and found him with the gun and a marijuana pipe, the affidavit states. Mortensen pleaded no contest to reduced charges of theft and exhibiting a dangerous weapon, and was given probation.
To view a previous Deseret News story about other potential suspects in the case, go to www.deseretnews.com/article/700032570/Many-leads-but-no-charges-in-Kay-Mortensen-murder-probe.html.
e-mail: [email protected]