Victims of the State

6 Cases

Beaver County, UT 

Bruce Dallas Goodman

Nov 1984

Bruce Dallas Goodman was convicted of murdering his girlfriend, Sherry Ann Fales Williams. Williams, 21, was found sodomized, beaten to death and bound near an I-15 exit north of Beaver. At his trial in 1984, two separate witnesses testified for Goodman, saying he was with them in California the night the murder happened. DNA tests later exonerated Goodman of the crime. Goodman was released in Nov. 2004 after he served 19 years of imprisonment.  (IP)  [5/08]

Beaver County, UT 

Tony Hamilton

Sept 9, 1999

Tony Alexander Hamilton was convicted of the attempted murder of Sheriff's Deputy John Chambers. Hamilton was a member of a religious commune that had purchased 640 acres of land at Vance Springs, located west of Milford, UT. The commune believed that as a religious organization it possessed tax-exempt status and consequently did not pay taxes. After 5 years of non-payment the property was seized by the taxing authorities.
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Cache County, UT 

Debra Brown

Nov 6, 1993 (Logan)

Debra Brown was convicted of the murder of Lael Brown, her unrelated employer. Lael, an elderly man, was wealthy and owned numerous rental properties throughout Logan, Utah. He was known to keep large amounts of cash in his home from collected rent payments. During its investigation, police found that Debra had forged nearly $3,000 in checks to herself on from Lael's accounts. They alleged that Debra murdered Lael to conceal her financial deceit. At trial the medical examiner testified that the murder probably occurred Saturday morning between 6:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. – the only time that weekend that Debra didn't have an alibi.

However, evidence has since been uncovered evidence that the medical examiner initially declared the time of death to be midnight Saturday or early Sunday morning. They also have found evidence that suggests that the prosecutors and the medical examiner conspired to change the time of death to put Debra at the scene of the crime. Witnesses have since come forward to say that they saw Lael Saturday afternoon, eliminating the possibility that he was killed Saturday morning.

Debra's attorneys also believe that evidence about another potential suspect was never fully investigated. Bobbie Sheen was a tenant with a troubled past who had recently been evicted from one of Lael's apartments. Sheen had complained to a friend about Lael and his wealth, then mysteriously began flashing around large amounts of cash near the time of Lael's death. Sheen also had a gun almost identical to Lael's, which he refused to sell to his interested friend, but instead disposed of it in the marina. Brown told police about Bobbie Sheen's eviction and one of Sheen's friends tried to tell police about the angry comments and piles of money, but was told to stay out of it. Sheen committed suicide in August 2007.  (Deseret News)  [9/11]

Davis County, UT 

David Valken-Leduc

Oct 29, 1996 (Woods Cross)

David Jonathan Valken-Leduc was convicted in 2004 of the murder of Matthew John Whicker, a Motel 6 night clerk. Whicker, 30, was shot multiple times and died in the motel lobby. In 1996, police arrested Todd Jeremy Rettenberger in regard to the shooting. Although Rettenberger knew Valken-Leduc, for five years he never mentioned Valken-Leduc's involvement in the crime. In 2001, Scott Spjut, a Certified Latent Print Examiner, identified a bloody fingerprint found at the scene as belonging to Valken-Leduc. Rettenberger then implicated Valken-Leduc in the crime. In 2003, Spjut was shot and killed by a rifle he was inspecting at a crime lab. The bloody fingerprint was then re-examined and found to belong to Whicker rather than to Valken-Leduc.

Rettenberger, who has twice pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Whicker's death, agreed to testify against Valken-Leduc in exchange for his immediate release from jail after spending 63 months there. At trial Rettenberger testified that he drove Valken-Leduc, then 17, and another man, Elliot Rashad Harper, to the Motel 6 with plans to rob it. Rettenberger stood outside and watched Valken-Leduc and Harper confront Whicker inside. Something then went wrong, resulting in a scuffle and then gunshots. He named Valken-Leduc as the triggerman. Valken-Leduc testified that he had once had a loose friendship with Rettenberger, but that he cut contact after Rettenberger let a mutual friend take the blame for something Rettenberger had done.

Following Valken-Leduc's conviction, his defense attorney said that Rettenberger's contradictory confessions should have been introduced to the jury “to impeach his credibility.” He also objected to the prosecution making inconsistent allegations in its trials of Rettenberger and Valken-Leduc, saying he believes such discrepancies in the trials of co-defendants are unconstitutional.

Harper, who also maintained his innocence, was subsequently tried, but his trial resulted in a hung jury. In 2008, he pleaded to lesser charges and was released from custody. Valken-Leduc said he told his mother before she died that he takes some responsibility: “I chose to be acquainted with Todd Rettenberger. That's a mistake I made and I have to live with it.”

On June 16, 2009, Valken-Leduc's conviction was vacated and he was released from custody after entering an Alford plea in which he did not have to admit guilt. He will be on probation for three years.  (Deseret News) (Standard Examiner) (DN #2)  [6/09]

Salt Lake County, UT 

Joe Hill

Jan 10, 1914

“Just before 10 pm on the night of 10 January, 1914, John Morrison, a Salt Lake City, Utah, grocer and a former policeman, was closing his store with his two sons, Arling and Merlin. Two men wearing red bandannas forced their way into the store. One of the intruders shouted 'we've got you now', levelled a handgun and shot Morrison. Arling Morrison grabbed his father's old service revolver and fired two shots at the masked men, who returned fire and fled the scene. Merlin, the younger child, stayed hidden in the back of the store.”
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Salt Lake County, UT 

Henry Miller

Dec 8, 2000 (Salt Lake City)

Henry Miller was convicted of stealing a woman's purse at knifepoint in a Salt Lake City convenience store parking lot. The purse had $50 in it. Miller then allegedly tried to steal the woman's car, but unable to put the car in reverse, got out and fled. At the time, however, Miller lived 1400 miles away in Louisiana. He had a stroke on Nov. 25, 2000, 14 days before the robbery and took off work for three weeks while he recovered. Hospital and employment records confirmed the stroke and his return to work in Louisiana.

Miller had lived in Salt Lake City from 1989 to 1999. He was again in Utah in Feb. 2003, when police stopped him a block away from a restaurant robbery. He was charged in the restaurant robbery and in the 2000 parking lot robbery. However, police dropped charges on the restaurant robbery due to insufficient evidence. The parking lot victim testified she was 100 percent sure that Miller was the thief who snatched her purse. But Miller, then 47, was in his mid-forties at the time of the crime and the victim had told police the robber was between 18 to 21 years old.

After gathering new evidence, including testimony by a home health care nurse that Miller was in Louisiana the day before the robbery, Miller's conviction was overturned. Prosecutors dropped charges a week before a scheduled retrial in July 2007. Miller had served more than 4 years in prison for the alleged theft of $50.  (Salt Lake Tribune)  [3/08]