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Ogden • Joyce Yost lived to be 39 years and 219 days old before she was murdered by Douglas Anderson Lovell in 1985.
Years later, when her son, Greg Roberts, reached that age, he said he remembered that day and remembered how he felt.
"I just thought, 'I feel awfully young here. Pretty low miles,'" Roberts testified during the first day of the penalty phase for Lovell. "It's very tragic that she died so young."
Roberts, now 51, tearfully told jurors Friday about his "classy" mother, who cared for others and carried herself well. She lived alone in a South Ogden apartment a fact that the son said he now feels guilty about.
"I am haunted by a lot of guilt," he said. "Basically for leaving. I feel like I left her unprotected. I harbor a lot of guilt that I left her there alone."
When asked how his mother's death has affected him, Roberts said he was lost for a long time, then talked about his children and how they've grown. But there was always one thing missing: his mother.
"Joyce has missed all of these things with my kids," he said. "She would have only been 69 years old. A young grandma. She could have taught them so much more."
Roberts was the first witness called to testify during the sentencing phase for Lovell. On Wednesday, the 12-member jury found Lovell guilty of aggravated murder in Yost's strangulation.
And now, jurors will decide whether the man will face execution for killing the woman 10 days before she was to testify against him in a rape case. The case is to continue next week.
Deputy Weber County Attorney Jeffrey Thomson used the defendant's own words against him during opening statements Friday, pointing jurors to Lovell's confession to his ex-wife and telling them that the killer knew exactly what the consequence would be.
"I premeditated," Lovell told his ex-wife in a 1991 police recorded statement. "I planned to end Joyce's life … Capital murder is the worst thing you can do. I committed a felony to cover another."
Thomson said Lovell, now 57, has given himself society's worst labels as a result of his crimes throughout his life: Burglar. Robber. Kidnapper. Rapist. Murderer.
Against Yost alone, Thomson said Lovell committed nine crimes when he raped her, kidnapped her, twice tried to hire someone to kill her, then months later broke into her apartment, kidnapped her again and murdered her.
Thomson said there is overwhelming aggravated circumstances in Lovell's case, and a lack of mitigating factors.
"The death penalty is justified, and is appropriate beyond a reasonable doubt," Thomson said.
But Lovell's defense attorneys who did not contest the evidence that Lovell murdered Yost said they will focus on several mitigating factors over the next week, which will include Lovell's head injuries as a child, his family history, his model behavior as a prisoner and the low risk that he will re-offend.
Defense attorney Michael Bouwhuis stressed to jurors that there is "no smoking gun," and the evidence is not being offered as an excuse or defense for the murder.
"It's intended to provide you with a reason to not kill him," Bouwhuis said. "…Those are not things that are presented to say, 'It's OK for Doug to commit murder.' Because it's not."
On Aug. 10, 1985, Lovell kidnapped Yost from her apartment and took her to the mountains above Ogden, where he strangled her and hid her body.
He later pleaded guilty to the murder in 1993 as part of a plea deal, where prosecutors agreed not to seek his execution if Lovell could lead authorities to where Yost was buried. But despite a search that year near the Snowbasin Ski Resort, her body was never found.
While Lovell told authorities that the body was near the ski resort, Thomson told jurors that the defendant also told his ex-wife that the remains were hidden near Causey Reservoir.
Lovell has already been sentenced to death once for murdering Yost. But the Utah Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that Lovell could withdraw his guilty plea because he should have been better informed of his rights during hearings.
Though Yost was missing when Lovell's rape case went to trial later in 1985, a transcript of her preliminary hearing testimony helped to convict him. For the rape, he is serving a 15-years-to-life sentence in the Utah State Prison.
Yost was missing for six years before Lovell's ex-wife confessed what she knew.
Prosecutors say on the April night in 1985 when Lovell raped Yost, he had followed her home from a Clearfield restaurant and asked her out. When she declined to join the stranger for a drink, they say, he kidnapped her and sexually assaulted her.