A Las Vegas man will serve the rest of his life in prison for his part in the murders of three people in a southern Utah bar during a 1984 Valentine's Day robbery, the Utah Board of Pardons has decided.

Douglas Edward Kay, 41, whose criminal history began at age 13, told the board the three were killed to leave no living witnesses behind."With your criminal history and the nature of the crime, it's a decision that can't be made otherwise," board member Gary Webster said, after teh panel voted to keep Kay in prison the rest of his life.

Kay is serving three life terms for capital homicide, three 5-to-life terms for aggravated robbery and three 1-to-5-year terms for firearm enhancement, all sentences to be served consecutively. He avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty to the crimes.

Kay and two others entered the Playhouse Bar on the outskirts of Cedar City about midnight on Feb. 14. They locked the door and announced a robbery was in progress.

When one customer objected and told the robbers they would have to shoot him, Kay's accomplice, Norman Lee Newsted, obliged. Using a .22-caliber handgun, Newsted also shot another male customer and a female employee.

Kay then shot all three people in the head, "execution style," with a .357-caliber handgun. He told the board he did not know if anyone was still alive when he began shooting.

Kay said he had never shot anyone before the Cedar City killings, and gunplay was not part of the plan that night. When Newsted began shooting, Kay said he was "shocked," but he made a "quick, snap decision...to eliminate the

witnesses." "All the time I've been incarcerated- all the way back to age 13- criminal ways were drove into my head," Kay told the board. "Kill the witnesses, is the understanding I had."

Following the killings, Kay, Newsted and Cindy Brosemer returned to their motel, split the stolen money and went to a truck stop for a meal. Kay was arrested several days later in Las Vegas.

Newsted fled to Oklahoma where he shot and killed a cab driver on Feb. 21, 1984. Newsted later was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder for the Cedar City killings. He is on death row in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in the cab driver's death.

Brosemer was granted immunity for turning state's evidence.

Webster said Kay was first incarcerated in an Oklahoma reform school for vandalism at age 13. Kay's adult life has been interrupted by four previous prison terms, and he has never been free more than 18 months at one time.

At the time of the Cedar City killings, Kay was free on parole from a Nevada prison where he served time for armed robbery. He had been out of prison less than 60 days when the triple murder occurred.