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Draper >> If released from prison, serial rapist Stephen Michael Vandam said he would rejoin the LDS Church, become part of the Salt Lake community "and people will see I've changed."
"I just want to help people and spread love and peace everywhere," the bespectacled, gray-haired 60-year-old inmate told the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole on Thursday.
But two of Vandam's victims from 1983 argued he is too dangerous to ever be freed. News accounts about Vandam from the 1980s say Vandam was suspected of committing as many as 30 rapes in Salt Lake City and surrounding communities.
One victim called Vandam a "monster" who has proved he cannot be rehabilitated. After all, Vandam was on parole from two prior rape convictions when he entered her bedroom, forced her outside at knifepoint and raped her "at the fragile age of 16."
"Why can we not keep this disturbed predator where he belongs so that you and I don't have to worry who will be his next victim?" asked the woman. "It makes me sick to my stomach to even think that this repeat offender is being considered for parole."
The other victim said she also was "a young teenager" when Vandam viciously beat, choked and raped her while she was baby-sitting.
She said the attack left her with "such fear, anger, hopelessness and guilt" that she at times felt death would be easier than to go on living.
She told Vandam that while she is "resolved to forgive and let go of what you have done to me," she believes other young women would become his victims if he were released.
Hearing officer Duane Kaneko noted that Vandam who has spent most of the past 40 years behind bars has been a model prisoner for the past two decades.
Vandam has completed five years of sex-offender treatment, maintained steady employment at the prison and even earned a degree in business administration from Utah State University.
Nevertheless, Kaneko said he will advise the five-member parole board against granting a parole date for Vandam at this time. Perhaps the bigger question for the board, Kaneko said, will be whether to schedule a future parole hearing for Vandam, or to let him live out his life in prison.
Vandam said Thursday his victims, at most, number 17. He apologized profusely, choking up at one point.
" I feel such great sorrow for the pain and agony I've caused so many ladies by being victimized by me," he said. "I now understand what that's about and what they've gone through."
Vandam, who said he has become "quite religious" during the past five years, added, "I pray for them every night ... that they will be healed and feel less pain and that God will watch them and protect them always."
He also said he is committed to become "a man of integrity and honesty and willingness to do no harm."
Vandam insisted he no longer blames his criminal behavior on things like stress or the lack of sex education as a teenager.
"I have no excuse," he said. "I have grown up and am responsible and I'm terribly sorry for those I have hurt."
At the end of the hearing, Vandam was allowed to turn and address the 14 family members and friends who came to support him.
He blew them a kiss and said: "I wish you all well. I love you."
Outside in the parking lot, one of Vandam's victims summed up the hearing by saying, "Just keep him in."
Criminal history of Stephen Michael Vandam
Sent to prison in 1971, at the age of 21, to serve 10 years to life for rape.
Paroled September 1974.
Returned to prison July 1975 for parole violation and a new rape conviction.
Paroled April 1982.
Arrested in November 1983, Vandam is suspected of committing as many as 30 rapes in Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County while on parole.
Pleads guilty to two counts of first-degree felony aggravated sexual assault. As part of a plea deal, prosecutors dismiss 20 other felonies, including rape, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated burglary and forcible sodomy. Sentenced in December 1984 to consecutive five-years-to-life terms.
Vandam escapes by walking out of Utah State Prison in May 1984 wearing a three-piece suit smuggled to him by a girlfriend.
Acting on a tip, police in August 1984 arrest Vandam while he's eating breakfast at a Salt Lake City McDonald's restaurant.
Sentenced July 1985 to a consecutive one-to-15-year prison term after pleading guilty to escape.