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West Jordan • A judge on Monday sentenced a Roy man to prison for kidnapping a 5-year-old disabled girl from her Sandy bedroom last year.
Abiding by a plea agreement fashioned by attorneys in the case, Judge Charlene Barlow ordered Troy Mitchell Morley to spend a term of six years to life in the Utah State Prison.
In August, the 49-year-old Morley pleaded guilty in 3rd District Court to first-degree felony child kidnapping in connection with the Nov. 4, 2014. episode. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dismissed three other counts: second-degree felony burglary, class A misdemeanor criminal trespassing in a dwelling and class B misdemeanor interference with an arresting officer.
Under Utah law, child kidnapping can be punishable by a mandatory prison term of six, 10 or 15 years to life. Prosecutors agreed to limit the bottom end of Morley's punishment to six years as part of the plea deal. Morley will also be required to register for a sex offender, even though he did not assault the girl.
"I have waited a whole year to tell the parents that I am extremely sorry for entering their home," a sobbing Morley told the judge, adding that he has a daughter of his own. "I understand how you must feel… It shouldn't have happened."
Morley told the court he had turned to drugs to cope with severe depression after a messy divorce in 2014 and that it had cost him everything from his job to his home and his relationships.
"Allowing drugs to take over your life is a very self-indulgent thing," Barlow told Morley before she handed down the sentence. "It is not responsible for what you did, you're responsible."
According to Morley's defense attorney, Roger Kraft, Morley was driving between Nevada and his home on the night of Nov. 3, when he stopped at a Sandy hotel room. There he did drugs and then wandered the streets, finding an unlocked door at the home of Aaron and Stephanie Edson, near 10600 S. Rembrandt Lane (90 East). Morley went inside and took the 5-year-old girl, who suffers from cerebral palsy, from her bedroom, leaving with the child through a screen door.
An alarmed Aaron Edson heard the door which the girl cannot open and rushed from his bed to catch Morley, who had the girl in his arms, at the end of the driveway.
At a preliminary hearing in January, Edson testified that Morley told him someone was after him and would kill him if they found him without the girl.
The father told Morley: "I want to help you, but you can't take her with you," before snatching his step-daughter from Morley's grasp.
Before fleeing, Morley also said he needed to go to church and that if anything were to happen to him, Edson should call the FBI.
After the Edsons called police, officers set up a search perimeter, and bloodhounds led officers to the home of a woman who lived several blocks away which Morley had entered through a dog door.
Morley ran from the home, but police spotted him in a neighbor's yard, and he was arrested with the help of a police dog, which bit him several times.
The girl was not injured, but her tearful parents told the court on Monday that she and her mother continue to suffer emotional trauma and the girl is seeing a counselor.
The girl calls the kidnapping "the scary thing," Stephanie Edson said through tears. The girls also didn't want to keep any of her clothes, because she told her parents she saw Morley rifling through her possessions before her took her. The sound of a screen door shutting also remains frightening and Edson and her husband must often reassure their daughter that no one else will come into the home to take her again, her mother said.
"It continues to haunt her to this day," Stephanie Edson said, adding that she herself has needed counseling and struggles to sleep because she had been "so overwhelmed with the what-if's and possible consequences of Morley's actions.
The Edsons told the court they don't believe Morley has taken full responsibility for his actions, but agreed to the plea deal because they wanted to spare their daughter the possibility of having to testify at a trial and relive the events of that night.
Aaron Edson also said he believed Morley was in full control of his faculties that night not operating in a state of extreme psychosis, as Kraft claims and that he has feigned confusion and paranoia to gain sympathy from the family and the legal system.
The Edsons told Barlow they don't know how long their daughter will be affected by the trauma of the kidnapping, but asked the judge to send Morley to prison until their daughter is an adult.
The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole will ultimately decide how long Morley stays behind bars, but Barlow told the Edsons they could go home Monday and offer their daughter some assurance that he would not hurt her again.
"Tell her he will be in prison for a long time," the judge said. "And I hope she's doing a lot better and feeling a lot better."