Spanish Fork • For nearly five months Pamela Ann and Roger K. Mortensen have been locked up, charged with the grisly death of Roger's father, who was found bent over the bathtub of his Payson home with his throat slit in November 2009.
But with the arrest Tuesday of two men in Vernal, a pair of 23-year-olds police say were targeting Kay Mortensen's extensive cache of firearms, it appears the murder charges against Roger and Pam Mortensen will be dismissed.
Instead Wednesday, prosecutors plan to charge Ben David Rettig and Martin Cameron Bond with the slaying of the retired BYU professor.
Rettig and Bond were arrested Tuesday after a tip led police to a Vernal home. There, Bond admitted some involvement in the slaying and said he helped tie up two other people who arrived at Mortensen's Payson Canyon home on Nov. 16, 2009, according to jail documents.
All along, Roger and Pam Mortensen claimed that Kay Mortensen was killed by two or three men who came into the home, tied them up and stole 32 guns. They told police that after freeing themselves, they found the retired engineering professor dead.
"It turns out everything Roger said is absolutely true," said Roger Mortensen's attorney, Anthony Howell, who added that his client is "ecstatic."
But Roger Mortensen may not be freed immediately. He is also charged in federal court with being a felon in possession of firearms, and Howell expects federal authorities to keep his client in jail. Court documents say detectives found guns in Roger Mortensen's home while serving a search warrant in the murder case.
Asked whether the Mortensens were still being investigated in the case, Utah County Sheriff James Tracy said, "I'm not prepared to say we're not going to continue looking at them. They were persons of interest and they remain persons of interest."
Tracy said he believes the men arrested Tuesday are the ones responsible for robbing Kay Mortensen's home and killing him.
Pamela Mortensen's attorney, Greg Skordas, said his client was "obviously very, very happy and relieved" after hearing the news Tuesday. Skordas said Pamela Mortensen "can't recover six months of her life," but said he does not fault the Utah County Attorney's Office for the incarceration.
"The county attorney's office worked the case hard," Skordas said. "They charged what they had. We told them they were wrong ... and we told them not to stop looking. To their credit, they didn't."
Skordas said the Mortensens did not know Rettig or Bond and Pamela Mortensen has agreed to cooperate with police as a witness in the case.
Police found about 20 guns inside the Vernal home, in a park septic tank and buried at a location outside of town, according to jail documents. Handguns belonging to Mortensen were found in a bag during the search, Tracy said.
"We thought if just one weapon would surface, it would make all the difference," said Darla Mortensen, the professor's widow. "It would tell the story and we'd have answers. ... We're going to get answers now. That's all I wanted, to know what happened that night."
Neither Bond nor Rettig appear to have criminal records in Utah. Bond's father knew Kay Mortensen, Darla Mortensen said. Bond had been to Mortensen's home before and told Rettig that he knew where they could find a large cache of guns worth up to $30,000, according to police.
Bond told police Rettig slit Mortensen's throat and stabbed him in the back of the neck, making "a statement related to a gladiator," according to jail documents. Rettig, however, told police Bond cut Mortensen's throat.
For Darla Mortensen, Tuesday's developments were good news at the end of a long year.
"It was hard for me to go there, to think he could have killed his dad," she said. "He and his dad had a good relationship. They went camping, played games. I never saw them argue with each other."
But Darla Mortensen said she had not spoken to Roger and Pam because of a "falling out" in the months leading up to their arrest.
Darla Mortensen said she was shown all the evidence police had gathered "and I didn't feel like Roger had done it, but I felt like he knew something," she said. "There were things that happened and there are things I still have questions about now, but we will see how this all falls out."
Howell said Roger and Pam Mortensen were placed under suspicion because of the differences in how they recalled the robbery and murder. Howell called the differences "minor" but he said detectives focused on them.
"This is a very difficult case. We looked at a lot of evidence," Taylor said when asked whether charges were filed too quickly against the Mortensens. A grand jury returned a unanimous indictment in July.
Howell criticized how prosecutors used a grand jury to indict the couple instead of filing charges and letting a judge decide if a trial is merited. The grand jury only heard the prosecution's side of the story, Howell said.
"We're going to end up with more people like Roger Mortensen because of our poor grand jury system," Howell said.
When asked about the day's developments, the Utah County sheriff said, "This has been an unusual case from the start and it will continue to be an unusual case until it's over."
Nate Carlisle contributed to this report.