UTAH STATE PRISON — If Frank Gene Powell had just served his original sentence, he would have been released from prison 15 years ago.
Instead, Powell — an American Fork man who has spent the majority of his adult life incarcerated — is making what could be his last chance to be released from the Utah State Prison for a crime he committed more than three decades ago as a young adult.
On Nov. 29, 1987, the 19-year-old Powell was at a house party in Pleasant Grove where alcohol was being served. Glen Candland, 20, was also at the party. The two got into an argument, which spilled over into a parking lot.
The two were arguing over whose truck was faster.
Powell and Candland were arguing and threatening each other during other the entire party, according to witnesses. Toward the end of the night the two were again threatening each other in the parking lot. When Powell got into his truck to leave, he ran over Candland, killing him.
Originally, Powell claimed it was an accident. Several witnesses, however, said otherwise. And Powell admitted many years later he had intentionally hit Candland.
Powell, who was charged with second-degree murder, took a plea deal in 1988 and pleaded guilty to reduced charge of manslaughter. He was sentenced to one to 15 years in prison. Even if he had served the maximum, he would have been released in 2003.
But in 1990, he claimed he did not fully understand the terms of his agreement and asked to withdraw his guilty plea. He said the prison term was more than he was led to believe it would be. The Utah Supreme Court eventually allowed Powell to take back his plea and stand trial on the original charge. But this time, in 1992, Powell was convicted of the more severe murder charge and was sentenced to five years to life in prison. He again tried to appeal to the Supreme Court, but was rejected.
While awaiting his second trial, Powell was sent back to the Utah County Jail, where he sexually assaulted an inmate. He pleaded guilty to two reduced charges of attempted forcible sodomy and was sentenced to two concurrent terms of one to 15 years in prison, which would later be ordered to run concurrent to his five-years-to-life sentence.
The sentence for his sex crime has long since expired. And he has even served more time for his murder conviction than the state sentencing guidelines recommend for his crime.
On Nov. 7, Powell, who recently turned 49, went before the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole to again ask for his release. During his last hearing in 2013, the board told him he needed to complete sex offender and substance abuse treatment first. Powell has now completed both of those.
In a recording of his recent parole hearing, board member Angela Micklos asked Powell what sex offender treatment taught him and whether it has helped.
"I don’t even know if I can really put into words how helpful it was or how much it helped me to understand about criminal thinking, criminal mentality, triggers, my history, high risk situations, interventions, positive ways to deal with issues that are really negative at times. Having an understaing of the way I thought and the way I was feeling towards some things that had happened in my life was a great deal of relief to understand why all the thinking errors were there and why I made such poor choices for so many years,” he said.
When Powell first arrived at the prison in the 1980s, he said it was a much "rougher" place and he "came to prison with the expectation of either fighting or be killed," he said.
Powell said that "hardcore" attitude led him to believe he could do whatever he wanted to people. That's why he abused another inmate, because it was about power, he said.
"I had thought that was just the way things had to be, there was no other way around it. And I learned through the (treatment) program that that's not how things have to be, and I don’t have to be that person. … I can be a person who stands up for myself and I can use other avenues besides criminal thinking,” he said.
"I think the biggest thing that I learned was you have to have empathy for people. And you can’t just do stuff to people, you have to be held accountable for your actions. You cannot do those types of things to people,” Powell said. "I don’t think anybody should ever be hurt again. And that’s the biggest thing I learned is all the hurt and pain I caused everybody."
Powell said he still has "issues" that he'll have to deal with his whole life. He said he has to make a "plan" each day about what to do if faced with a scenario that could trigger him to be involved in bad behavior again. As recently as August, he got in trouble at the prison for agreeing to help another inmate pass pills, he said.
But Micklos, who conducted Powell's parole hearing in 2011, said she noticed more maturity in Powell today as opposed to a few years ago. She also complimented him for completing his treatment classes.
Candland's family, however, believes Powell should still remain behind bars.
Glen Candland's sister, Laura Candland, told Micklos that for "30 long years," her family has struggled over what happened.
"At least he’s able to physically see (his family) when they visit him. Its been 30 years since any member of my family has looked into Glen’s eyes, heard his voice or even touched his hand,” she said.
Candland said for 30 years, her family has been "haunted" by questions such as, "Why did it have to happen? And what did Glen do to Frank to cause him to feel such a large amount of hatred to the point of taking his life?'”
Laura Candland said her brother's girlfriend gave birth to Glen's son about six months after his death. Due to family issues, Glen Candland's family never got to know the boy. But recently, Laura Candland said her nephew now an adult with a wife and two children — reconnected with his father's side of the family.
"What a joy it has brought to us to feel a part of Glen again in our lives,” she said. "Glen would be so proud of how well his son has been doing in his life."
But the fact that her brother is not here to see the man his son has become is another reason why Laura Candland doesn't want Powell to ever be released.
"Anyone that takes another person’s life for whatever reason, they should give their own life through their freedom,” she said.
Powell said he agreed with Candland that 30 years ago, his macho attitude and selfish actions caused irreparable harm. All he can do now is change his life and become a different person so that never happens again, he said.31 comments on this story
"An action of a 19-year-old kid that cost somebody else their life is not something I should have ever taken lightly. And I did not think of what my actions were going to be or what the outcome of that was going to be. I only thought of the anger, as she said. And that was something, as a young kid, I made a terrible mistake. I can’t take it back. I can’t change it,” he said.
The full five-member board will now vote on whether to grant Powell parole. Micklos admitted, it "will be a difficult decision."