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When Millard County sheriff's Deputy Josie Greathouse Fox pulled over Roberto Miramontes Roman near Delta on Jan. 5, 2010, prosecutors contend, he made a fateful decision.
"He had a choice to kill or not to kill," prosecutor Felice Viti said. "He chose to kill."
Roman gunned down Fox, who died alone on a dark road with blood soaking the uniform and spotting the badge that served as reminders of her obligation to protect and serve the public, Viti said. On Thursday, seven years and two trials after Fox was slain, U.S. District Judge David Nuffer sentenced Roman to a prison sentence of life plus 80 years, the maximum punishment he was facing and the one prosecutors requested.
A federal jury convicted Roman on Feb. 7 of eight charges, including intentionally killing a local law enforcement officer engaged in the performance of official duties and using a firearm during a crime of violence.
Defense attorney Stephen McCaughey who noted the 44-year-old Roman maintains his innocence said a life sentence for the slaying wasn't necessary. He pointed out that the required mandatory sentences for some of the other charges guaranteed his client would remain in prison for life anyway.
But Nuffer said a life term was necessary to reflect the seriousness of the crime and provide deterrence, saying criminals must know if they kill a law-enforcement officer, they will never go free.
The conviction came in Roman's second trial on a charge of killing the 37-year-old Fox, who was hit by two bullets as she approached the Cadillac sedan she had stopped because the occupants were suspected of being involved in a drug transaction.
At the first trial, in Utah's 4th District Court in 2012, Roman and his lawyers asserted that it was Ryan Greathouse, the deputy's brother, who fired the AK-47-style rifle.
The 40-year-old Greathouse denied any involvement in the slaying. He was found dead from an overdose in a Las Vegas hotel room on April 22, 2010.
Roman, who testified at the state trial, was acquitted of an aggravated-murder charge. The jury found him guilty of tampering with evidence and possessing a firearm. The judge in that case sentenced him to a 10-year prison term he has been serving since.
On Thursday, Fox's mother, Cindy Greathouse, with husband Russ Greathouse at her side, said their daughter was a "kind and beautiful and strong woman" who always knew growing up that she wanted to be a police officer. She told Nuffer that Roman's "evil deed" was devastating to the family and life became unbearable when he blamed Ryan Greathouse for the slaying.
In 2013, a federal grand jury indicted Roman on 11 charges, including intentionally killing a law enforcement officer. Nuffer ruled in 2014 that the charges do not amount to double jeopardy because the state and the federal government are separate sovereign entities. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later upheld that ruling.
Roman pleaded guilty in federal court in January to three of the 11 charges one count each of being a felon in possession of firearms; being in the country illegally and being in possession of a firearm; and re-entering the United States after being previously removed. He admitted in a written statement that on Jan. 5, 2010, he knowingly possessed an AK-47-style rifle and a handgun.
A trial on the remaining counts began a few weeks later. Federal prosecutors said Roman and Greathouse had met in the McCornick area the night of the shooting and smoked methamphetamine, then drove away in separate directions. They said the rifle used to shoot Fox belonged to Greathouse, who had given it to Roman as collateral for a drug debt a few months prior.
After the shooting, Roman fled to Salt Lake City and then Beaver, where he was found the next day and arrested. Prosecutors say he confessed in a police interview to the crime, but Roman later said he lied because Greathouse threatened his children.
At his federal trial, Roman again took the stand and testified that Greathouse was sitting on the floor of the sedan on the front passenger side when the vehicle was pulled over. He said Greathouse grabbed the rifle, reached across Roman in the driver's seat, pointed the muzzle out the driver's window and fired at a dark silhouette.
A firearms examiner from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had reconstructed the shooting scene based on Roman's confession and his later claim that Greathouse pulled the trigger. He testified that the physical and circumstantial evidence in the case fit the confession.
A 12-member jury deliberated for about 10 hours before returning with guilty verdicts on all counts. In addition to finding that Roman intentionally killed Fox and used a firearm during a crime of violence, the jury determined he was guilty of three counts of distribution of methamphetamine, two counts of carrying a firearm during a drug-trafficking crime and one count of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime.
Roman had a criminal history before the Fox slaying. In 1996 and 1997, he 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.
Twitter: @PamelaMansonSLC A.G. Sessions recognizes deputy's sacrifice
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday cited the sacrifice made by a Millard County sheriff's Deputy Josie Greathouse Fox, who died in the line of duty in 2010. The man convicted of the killing, Roberto Miramontes Roman, who was in the United States illegally, was sentenced to consecutive prison terms of life and 80 years.
"Deputy Sheriff Fox sacrificed her life trying to keep our country safe, and we must never forget that," Sessions said. "I am grateful to the investigators and prosecutors who brought her killer to justice no matter how long it took. This case also demonstrates that we must enforce the rule of law along our southwest border, and confront the scourge of drug trafficking. During this National Police Week, and every day of the year, we must continue to stand behind our brave law enforcement officers, who do a dangerous job day in and day out."