Slaying » Judge cites law allowing deadly force for protection.
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West Jordan » Steven Lovendahl pleaded guilty to fatally shooting a man, but a 3rd District Court judge on Wednesday declined to impose any jail time after saying some slayings are allowed under Utah law.
"I'm pretty happy with what happened," Lovendahl said following his sentencing hearing. "It's been hell for a couple of years."
Lovendahl shot Kevin Michael Shepherd, 36, as Shepherd straddled Lovendahl's common-law wife and beat her with both fists about the face and head.
Judge Robert Adkins said Wednesday that Utah law allows the use of deadly force to prevent imminent death or bodily injury to oneself or another, or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony, which includes aggravated assault.
Adkins noted that according to an independent witness, Shepherd was "relentless" in his beating of Anique Baeuregard and gave no indication of stopping anytime soon.
Beauregard's injuries were so severe that paramedics called for a helicopter to transport her to a hospital. Defense attorneys Steven Shapiro and Cara Tangaro said Beauregard suffers migraine headaches and has permanent nerve damage that causes her left eye to twitch.
Prosecutor Aaron Flater had recommended the judge follow the recommendation of a pre-sentence report and send Lovendahl to jail for a year.
But the judge said he could not "in good conscience" do that. Nor could he "ignore what led up to this," the judge said, adding that Lovendahl has no prior history of violence.
Shepherd, on the other hand, had five assaults on his record, according to the defense. At the time of his death, Shepherd was being prosecuted for second-degree felony aggravated assault for attacking a tow truck driver in 2006.
Shapiro said Lovendahl should never have been prosecuted. Lovendahl, 32, was charged with first-degree felony murder for the Aug. 11, 2007, shooting in the front yard of his Copperton home.
To avoid the risk of a murder conviction, and spending 15 years to life in prison, Lovendahl pleaded guilty to class A misdemeanor negligent homicide, admitting his handgun discharged when he swung it at Shepherd.
Prosecutors have said the significant reduction in charges reflects problems in proving Lovendahl's intent to kill, as well as the potential for Lovendahl to claim self-defense at trial.
Shepherd's mother, Mary Louis Walter, told the judge Wednesday her family has twice been victimized: first by Shepherd's death, and again by the justice system.
"Is Kevin's life worth only a misdemeanor?" she asked.
According to court documents, Kevin Michael Shepherd of West Jordan helped install carpet at Steven Lovendahl's home. Then Shepherd, Lovendahl, Anique Beauregard and Beauregard's brother drove to a nearby tavern.
At the bar, Shepherd began flirting with an aquaintance of Beauregard's, and Lovendahl asked him to stop. On the way home, Shepherd tried to get in the woman's car. When Lovendahl intervened, Shepherd punched and choked him until passersby broke up the fight.
When the group arrived at Lovendahl's home, Shepherd chased Lovendahl, who ran into his house. Shepherd then attacked Beauregard.
After Shepherd was shot, two friends put him in a vehicle and drove him more than five miles before stopping to call 911, according to police. When paramedics responded, Shepherd was already dead.