UTAH STATE PRISON — A man who committed a series of crimes against young boys 15 years ago — kidnapping one, attempting to kidnap two others, and hitting one with a car — is seeking another chance at parole.
Robert Allen Kartchner, of Orem, who will turn 36 next week, was sentenced to 15 years to life at the Utah State Prison in 2004. From 2002 to 2003, Kartchner committed crimes against four boys ranging in age from 6 to 16.
In one case, he abducted a kindergartner walking home from school, bound him with duct tape, cut and stabbed him with a knife and left him in Spanish Fork Canyon.
In another case, Kartchner hit a teenage boy from behind with his van, leaving him with spinal injuries.
On Tuesday, two of those boys, now adults, Ben Bladh and Andrew Martin, attended Kartchner's parole hearing at the prison. It was Kartchner's second attempt at parole.
When addressing Utah Board of Pardons and Parole member Denise Porter, who conducted the hearing, Martin said he would support whatever decision the board makes, but asked that members consider whether they believe Kartchner would attempt to abduct another child.
"I feel that it's very important (that) the past not happen again," he said.
Ben Bladh, who was kidnapped and tortured by Kartchner, did not address the board and declined comment after the hearing. Both men, however, said that they are doing well today.
Kartchner spoke slowly and softly as he answered Porter's questions.
"I am truly sorry for my actions, for the children that I hurt and their families," he said. "All I can do is move forward and make sure it doesn't happen again."
Kartchner talked about how he had spent 4 ½ years at the Olympus facility while at the prison, which is where inmates with mental health issues are housed. It was there, he said, that he learned to deal with anxiety and depression. While stressing several times that he was not using it as an excuse, Kartchner said after the death of his grandmother he fell into a deep depression, which turned into anxiety.
"I felt socially inept," he said.
That depression turned into paranoia and the fear that everyone around him was judging him, Kartchner said.
"I was young and stupid," he said, adding that he "wanted to run away from life — then it just went downhill."
He said he became "isolated" and refused to talk about his mental problems with anyone because he "didn't want to be treated differently" and he thought admitting having a mental illness "would be seen as weakness."
Treatment at prison, he said, has taught him that seeking help when he starts to feel those feelings of depression and anxiety again is OK.
"Now I actually find friends or family that I talk to and say, 'Hey, I'm starting to think this way.'"
But while Kartchner seemed to have the right answers for most of Porter's questions, the one he had the most trouble answering was, "What was your intention?"
At one point during the hearing, Dan Bladh, Ben Bladh's father, raised his hand and asked Porter if that question could be answered. He said he wanted to know whether Kartchner was "working up the courage to kill somebody" when he cut his son.
"I think that's an important thing to consider," Bladh said.
Porter agreed and pressed Kartchner for an answer.
He took a long pause, shaking his head several times as he tried to think of the right words to reply.
"My intention was not to hurt him," he said. "It was not the intent to harm him. However, it went that way and I know I did. … I regret it with my entire heart and soul."
For a long time, Kartchner said he was able to block the incident from his mind and forget the details of what happened. But after years of therapy at the prison, he said he remembers what happened, but said "none of it really makes sense to me, what really happened," while adding that it is hard for him to verbalize what his intent was.
Kartchner, who has been on mental health medication ever since he arrived at the prison, simply said he was in a "different state of mind" at the time of the crimes.
After the hearing, Bladh said he doesn't believe Kartchner should be released.
"It just seems to me he's the same guy he always was. You know, we don't hate him or anything. We just think this is a good place for him to be. It's a safe place for him, for us, for everybody," he said.
Todd Martin, Andrew Martin's father, agreed, saying he holds no ill will toward Kartchner, he just wants the community to be safe, adding that what Kartchner did was some "pretty deep, dark serious stuff."
"You can't allow someone out who could torture little children, and maybe worse," he said.17 comments on this story
Furthermore, he believes Kartchner is still not being truthful about what he intended to do with the kidnapped boys.
"He really would not answer the question about whether he intended to kill little Ben. And I think that he did. And for him to come back after a long pause and say, 'I didn't want to hurt anyone, it wasn't my intention to hurt anyone,' that just doesn't ring true."
The full five-member board will now vote on whether to grant parole, set another parole hearing in the future, or order Kartchner to serve his entire life sentence.