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A Utah inmate who as a teen killed a man in 1996 during a botched burglary to get money to buy drugs will spend at least another 2 1/2 years in prison.
After a recent hearing, the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole turned down a request for parole by Robert Allen Austin a Washington Terrace man who is serving up to life for the brutal crime he committed at age 16 and set a rehearing for January 2019.
The board does not give a public explanation of its decisions but "highly encouraged" the prison staff to allow Austin to complete a substance abuse program and urged the now-36-year-old to "follow proper behavioral patterns to make himself eligible for as much beneficial programming and treatment as possible."
At his hearing, Austin said he was drunk and high when he and 24-year-old Michael Munson tried to burglarize the North Ogden home of Munson's grandmother and her husband on July 24, 1996, because they were running out of money for drugs.
He remembers only "brief flashes" of what happened, Austin said, but recalls hearing a yell and struggling with 67-year-old Edward John Anderson, who was pointing a gun at him. Austin said Anderson shot him and he tried to stab the man, then ran out of the home and passed out on the driveway.
Prosecutors said Austin stabbed Anderson 24 times and that the 67-year-old man was found dead clutching a .38-caliber revolver. Wanda Lorraine Anderson, 72, was badly beaten but survived despite lying unconscious for 20 hours.
Under a plea deal, Austin and Munson pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, attempted aggravated murder and aggravated burglary. In return, prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty. Austin was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole and Munson who was the ringleader in the crimes and who has said he worships Satan got a life term without parole.
"I was a kid and high and all I wanted was to get more money," Austin said at his parole hearing last month. "I can't make excuses for what I did. I know I am totally responsible for my actions."
He also said, "I've been doing everything I can to make myself a better person."
Parole board member Denise Porter, who conducted the hearing, said Austin has been making better choices recently. However, she said, his prison records also show bad choices, including affiliating with Soldiers of the Aryan Culture (SAC), a white supremacist prison gang; having a shank in his cell; and throwing food with other inmates as part of a protest.
Austin claimed SAC was stopping the bullying of "young white guys" in prison and that he wanted to be part of that effort. In addition, he said the protest broke out because correctional officers ignored inmate complaints about a food server, and that the shank was for protection after he was threatened.
"I've survived. I've almost been killed once," Austin said. "It's what you have to do in order to survive this place without major consequences."