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Utah State Prison
Jasson Hines

BEAVER — A man who shot a Panguitch Lake lodge operator, leaving him paralyzed, will stay in prison for at least another 26 years.

The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole this week set an August 2037 rehearing for Jasson Hines, 28. He pleaded guilty to attempted murder in 2008, saying he heard voices telling him to shoot Tracy Armstrong.

Now housed in the state prison in Gunnison, Hines struggled at his first parole hearing in March to explain the shooting. He said he thought Armstrong "was going to hurt my nephew and that's why I shot him."

Hines was on vacation with his family on Aug. 3, 2007, when he stopped at a Cedar City gas station and smoked marijuana. His girlfriend told police Hines became emotional and started crying as they continued up to Panguitch Lake.

At the lake, Hines' father entered Armstrong's office to ask about renting a cabin. As he filled out papers, Jasson Hines took a gun from his car, pointed it at Armstrong's son, then walked in the office.

He shot Armstrong three times before his father pushed him outside. Hines then went into a nearby trailer and fired two shots through a shower where he believed Armstrong's son was hiding.

As Armstrong lay critically wounded, Hines taunted him, calling himself God and saying he needed to kill him. Police said he then wandered the campground, yelling nonsensically and trying to grab a child.

Hines bought the gun because he was paranoid, he said at the March hearing. He knew he had mental health problems but was too "embarrassed" to seek treatment.

"It's a tragedy you didn't take measures to medicate it or get it under control, so it led to this," said hearing officer Jan Nicol.

While in prison, Hines has undergone mental health therapy, but he said the medications he's tried have not worked.

At the hearing, Armstrong said he believed Hines was "possessed by a devil" that summer day. He and his wife, Lynn, described in detail the "constant nightmare" the parents of 12 have lived since the three bullets made him a wheelchair-bound paraplegic. Their 10-year-old daughter still cries every time she hears sirens because of her traumatic memories of that day.

"There's not a moment I am not in pain … I suffer every single minute that I'm awake," Armstrong said. "I'm miserable except when I'm with my children, and even then I'm not that good of a father because I'm grumpy and full of pain."

His wife added, "Every day is hell … I can't see a light at the end of the tunnel because I don't think there is one."

Initially, the Panguitch community rallied around the family. But since then, the Armstrongs said they have lost all their friends and are now shunned.

"People look at us like we're freaks," Lynn Armstrong said. "(They) don't know how to relate to a man in a wheelchair. … It does hurt for people to gawk at Tracy. It hurts his feelings."

Financial support from the community has tapered off, too, and Tracy Armstrong can no longer work either at the lake or in his real-estate business. He is trying to pass both ventures along to his son.

"At this point, we're lucky we still have our home," Lynn Armstrong said.

She said she does not believe Hines should ever be released.

"Tracy will never walk again. Tracy will never be free," she said. "I want to be able to sleep every night knowing (Jason's) not out walking the streets."

Pointing to reports he had made insensitive comments in prison about the incident and that he had been cited for gang-related writings in a journal, Nicol told Hines he might never get out of prison.

"This crime is just so heinous that it's hard to justify release," she said.  "I'm not sure if you can manage your mental illness in the community."

Hines apologized to the Armstrongs, saying he wished he could take back what he did.

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"I would like to get out one day, but that's not my place (to decide)," he said. "I'm genuinely sorry for what I've put you and your family through. Please know if I could trade places with you, I would in a heartbeat."

In an interview Thursday, Tracy Armstrong said he was "extremely pleased" by the board's decision not to release Hines any time soon.

"Knowing that he won't be out to do this to anybody else is very satisfying," Armstrong said, adding that he doubts Hines' condition will ever improve in prison. "My feeling is if he gets out he'll (try to) kill again."

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