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A mentally ill man who killed his mother in her Kearns home nearly six years ago because he thought "voices" would make his head explode told the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole on Tuesday he is sorry for the crime.

"I remember I had to keep this evil spirit from staying in my boundaries," Matthew Alex Kirkham, 40, said at his parole hearing. Medication for his schizophrenia and avoiding illicit drugs has helped him become "as sane as I'm going to get," he told board member Angela Micklos.

Kirkham, 40, was charged with first-degree felony murder for the June 4, 2005, slaying of his mother, 72-year-old Joeann Kirkham. He pleaded guilty and mentally ill to a lesser count of manslaughter.

Prosecutors offered the plea deal after mental health experts reported Kirkham lacked the ability to form the intent to kill.

Kirkham originally got probation because a 3rd District Court judge worried prison would negate the progress he had made while at the Utah State Hospital.

But after Kirkham assaulted at least two patients at the hospital in 2009, Judge Randall Skanchy revoked Kirkham's probation and ordered him to prison for up to 15 years.

Court documents state Kirkham hit his mother in the head with a rock, then smothered her in a plastic bag filled with paint fumes. After her death, Kirkham fractured 15 of her ribs and severed her spinal column, according to an autopsy.

Kirkham told Micklos he thought "people" were coming after him in his house, but doesn't recall much of the assault.

"I remember her saying, 'Matthew, please, no,' " Kirkham said.

Micklos said she may recommend a halfway house for mentally ill offenders before Kirkham is fully released into society. She said Kirkham could be paroled in 2013; his full term is set to expire in 2021. The board will decide Kirkham's fate at a later date.

Kirkham told Micklos that while he has had no physical altercations since arriving at prison, he at times bickers with other inmates.

"I need to work on my 'shut up' time," he said.

"It sounds like your mom was really trying to help you,"Micklos said. "It appears your mental illness got the better of you, unfortunately."

Said Kirkham: "I think about my mom too much to hear anymore voices." Twitter: mrogers_trib