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Draper • Evelyn Christine Johnson couldn't remember where her cell is.
She had trouble remembering if she received the notice informing her of her parole hearing. She said she didn't understand all the information in the packet the parole board sent her.
She remembered fatally shooting 71-year-old Alan Lavoy Johnson in 2004, but not why.
"I don't know," Johnson said Tuesday at her first parole hearing. "I just shot my husband."
Johnson, now 79, pleaded guilty to second-degree felony manslaughter in 2012 and is serving a sentence of up to 15 years in the Utah State Prison.
Hearing officer Chyleen Arbon told Johnson that prison staff recommended she be paroled to a skilled nursing home. It will be up to the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole to decide whether to follow that recommendation. The board is expected to announce its decision in the coming weeks.
Johnson entered the hearing room wearing a purple jumpsuit, shackles around her waist and legs and pushing a walker. As the hearing started, she sat down at a table, used her hands to ensure her white hair was in place and expressed concern about her appearance.
Arbon started by asking questions about whether Johnson knew where she was, what day it was and if she knew the purpose of the hearing. She answered those questions right, but had trouble answering others, including how many children she has. Johnson said she had four children. Prison records show five.
When the subject turned to Johnson's health, she said she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's before she arrived at the prison.
"I've probably had it a long time," Johnson said. She said she had been "knocked around a lot. I've got brown spots on my brain." The Johnsons married in 1983. Johnson said her marriage had been filled with physical abuse. Police arrived at the home in Vernal many times, she said, but she never pressed charges.
When she threatened divorce, Johnson said, her husband said he would make their children lose their jobs and have their grandchildren taken away from their mother.
In August 2004, Alan Johnson filed for divorce. Two days later, the couple were in their camping trailer in Vernal, drinking coffee and trying to reconcile. Evelyn Johnson picked up a .22-caliber pistol and shot her husband four times.
Arbon said reports in Johnson's file say she was upset that her husband had badgered her into signing an agreement that relinquished her rights to their home. Johnson said she doesn't remember that.
What she does remember, Johnson said, was picking up a pistol that was sitting out.
"He got mad at me when I picked it up," Johnson said, "and he came around the booth at me, but I couldn't stop."
She is "very, very sorry," she said Tuesday.
Charged with first-degree felony murder, Johnson's criminal case plodded through Utah's judicial and mental health system for 7½ years due to questions about whether she was competent to stand trial. When professionals found her competent, she entered her guilty plea to the lesser manslaughter charge.
Johnson said she gets accustomed to a new cell and makes it hers, but she acknowledged that a nursing home would probably be better, even though she doesn't expect her health to improve. She told Arbon whatever the board decides will be good.
"I don't feel good," Johnson said, "and so I'd just like to go somewhere and lay down and rest."