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Roberto Miramontes Roman acquitted four years ago in state court of fatally shooting Millard County Sheriff's Deputy Josie Greathouse Fox during a 2010 traffic stop outside of Delta is on trial again for the deputy's death, this time in federal court.
During opening statements Monday in U.S. District Court, a federal prosecutor told jurors that as Fox approached a Cadillac whose occupant was suspected of being involved in a drug transaction, the man behind the wheel aimed an AK-47 facsimile at her and fired two rounds "without warning and without provocation."
Both bullets struck the deputy as she stood next to the car at about 1 a.m. on Jan. 5, 2010, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Diana Hagen.
"She died quickly, alone, still clutching her flashlight in her hand," Hagen told the jury.
After he was arrested, Roman admitted under police questioning that he shot Fox, she said.
But defense attorney Stephen McCaughey said it was Roman's passenger Ryan Greathouse, Fox's brother who grabbed the AK-47 and fired the shots.
When Greathouse, who had bought methamphetamine from Roman a little earlier, realized he had killed his sister, he began crying, McCaughey said.
Then Greathouse told Roman to leave the county and, if he got caught, to say he had killed Fox, McCaughey said. He said Greathouse threatened to kill Roman's children if he didn't comply.
"Because of that threat, [Roman] confessed to the shooting of Deputy Fox," McCaughey said.
Despite Roman's confession to police, he testified at his 2012 state court trial that it was Fox's brother who shot and killed the 37-year-old deputy.
Between the time of the shooting and Roman's trial, Greathouse, 40, was found dead from an overdose in a Las Vegas hotel room April 22, 2010.
A 4th District Court jury found Roman not guilty of murder, but guilty of tampering with evidence and possessing a firearm. He was sentenced to 10 years at the Utah State Prison.
Roman is currently being tried for intentionally killing a law enforcement officer and seven other counts.
Now-retired Millard County sheriff's Sgt. Rhett Kimball testified Monday that he saw a car and a pickup truck stop briefly on a road near McCornick while he was watching the area the night of the shooting because of several recent thefts and break-ins in the vicinity.
He recognized that the truck belonged to Ryan Greathouse because he had given him a traffic citation two weeks before, Kimball said. He called Fox, who said her brother had recently been through rehabilitation for a heroin and methamphetamine problem and must have fallen off the wagon, he testified.
After the vehicles left in separate directions, Kimball said, he told Fox to stop the Cadillac because he had reasonable suspicion of drug activity.
At 12:59 a.m., Fox told him over the radio she was by the ball fields in Delta the last time he heard her voice, Kimball said. When he arrived at the east end of Delta along State Road 50, Fox was laying in the roadway on her back with a pool of blood around her head and her gun still in the holster, he said.
"I was in disbelief and utter shock," Kimball said. "I ran to her and kept yelling her name and I tried to shake her shoulders."
Because of a wiring problem, Fox's dashboard camera did not capture the shooting.
Hagen said during her opening statement that the AK-47 belonged to Greathouse, who had given it to Roman as collateral a few months before for a drug debt. She said that on the day of the shooting, Greathouse still did not have enough money to pay off what he owed and the weapon remained with Roman.
After meeting in the McCornick area, the two men left in the Cadillac and smoked a little methamphetamine together before returning, Hagen said. The pickup then headed in the direction of Leamington, where Greathouse lived, and the car went toward Delta, she said.
Law enforcement tracked down Roman in Beaver the day after the shooting and arrested him.
Lt. Matthew Higley of the Utah County Sheriff's Office, which was leading the shooting investigation for Millard County, testified Monday that Roman confessed during a police interview to killing Fox and demonstrated at least a dozen times how he held the AK-47 rifle over his shoulder and fired it.
Higley, who was a detective sergeant in 2010, testified that Roman said he noticed a marked sheriff's office truck following him as he headed to Delta after the meeting with Greathouse. Roman said he was mad because he was not speeding or breaking other traffic laws and was sure the deputy was doing a check of his license plate, according to Higley.
Roman said Fox stopped him and asked "in a mean voice" for his license and registration, Higley testified. He said Roman told him that when he saw the deputy out of the corner of his eye coming up to the car, he grabbed the AK-47 and fired it.
In 2013, a federal grand jury indicted Roman on 11 charges, including intentionally killing a law enforcement officer.
A federal judge ruled in 2014 that the charges do not amount to double jeopardy and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals later upheld that ruling.
Roman pleaded guilty earlier this month in federal court to three charges related to his status as an undocumented immigrant one count each of being a felon in possession of firearms; being an illegal alien in possession of firearms; and re-entering the United States after being previously removed. He could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for each firearm count and up to 20 years for the illegal re-entry count. No sentencing date on those charges has been set. In 1996 and 1997, Roman was charged in Millard County in two different cases with a handful of felonies, including drug and weapons charges.
In the 1996 case, an informant told police he had been selling drugs for Roman for about a year, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in 4th District Court. The informant also told police he had traded a Tech 9 mm semi-automatic pistol to Roman for drugs, and that he believed Roman kept the weapon and a cache of illegal drugs in a back bedroom of his Delta area trailer home.
Roman pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree felony drug possession in the 1996 case and one count of second-degree felony drug possession with intent to distribute in the 1997 case and was sent to prison for up to 15 years.
On Sept. 15, 1998, Roman was released from prison to the custody of immigration authorities and deported to Mexico. In 2005, he was caught trying to re-enter the United States in Arizona.
Fox was Millard County's first female patrol deputy and the first female law enforcement officer in Utah to die in the line of duty.
Twitter: @Pamela Manson