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St. George • A fight between married Box Elder County sheriff's deputies spilled onto Utah's police regulators on Wednesday, with each spouse receiving a suspension.
The Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training Council issued Deputy Richard Todd Bills received a 3½-year suspension of his police powers. His wife, Deputy Janea Vandehei, was suspended for three years. Seven other peace officers had their certifications suspended and one received a revocation for various offenses.
The couple had been married for three days before the fight that spurred their suspensions. According to the council's investigators, on June 26, 2013, Bills pushed his wife, hit her with an open hand, and held her down until she couldn't breath. Vandehei's 10-year-old daughter was in the house in Tremonton at the time.
Vandehei was accused of hitting and kicking and throwing things at Bills, too. Both spouses were charged with counts of assault and domestic violence, but pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct.
Speaking near the start of the council's quarterly meeting here, Bills did not address any of the accusations. He told the council, comprised of peace officers and public officials from across Utah, he made mistakes.
"I made choices that I can't say I'm proud of," Bills said. "But they weren't malicious choices. They weren't out of malice."
Vandehei spoke near the end of the meeting, after Bills had left, and had more to say about what lead to the fight that day. She said the night before, the family was camping and playing a game in a trailer. Vandehei's team won the game, she told the council, and Bills got upset.
At one point, Vandehei said, Bills tied her dog to a spit and acted as though he was going to cook it. The council's staff said later Wednesday it was not able to corroborate what happened, but did verify other parts of the dispute that night and the next day.
The next day Bills got angry when Vandehei took her daughter to a gymnastics meet without saying goodbye to him. When she returned home, Vandehei said, Bills started physically fighting with her. She said she only spit on, kicked and threw things at her husband to defend herself and get away.
She asked the council not suspend her.
"I also know because of this situation I'm going to be 10 times better than the law enforcement agent I was before," Vandehei said.
The council, however, opted to impose the three-year suspension. Assistant Attorney General Marcus Yockey said staff recommended Bills receive a stiffer penalty because he instigated the fight. Vandehei left the meeting with her head down.
Also on Wednesday, the council revoked the police certification of Ogden police officer Dan Oberg. Council investigators said he was found to have had sex at a police substation then lied to detectives investigating what happened.
Deputy Jerald Bradford, of the San Juan County Sheriff's Office, received a 2½-year suspension. Three times, according to council investigators, Bradford had sexual contact with a dispatcher in his department vehicle while on duty.
Utah Department of Corrections officer Robert A. Carter was suspended for two years. He shared a home with is brother-in-law, according to council investigators, and pushed him in front of his nieces and nephews. The council regarded it as a case of domestic violence in front of children.
Two people received two-year suspensions for lying about drug use on their applications to the police academy. Mayra A. Cardenas, an Ogden police officer, was found to have given conflicting information about when she last used marijuana. Christopher A. Hauser admitted to giving false information about his use of prescription drugs. He had not yet been hired by a police force.
Martin Turner III received a one-year suspension for what was called "wrongful appropriation." It may not matter much. Turner retired from the Utah Highway Patrol in 2012.
Salt Lake County prosecutors earlier charged Turner with a misdemeanor for loaning a radar gun and a Taser to another department before his retirement. UHP said Turner was not authorized to loan the gear. The prosecutor later dropped the criminal charges, but the council on Wednesday still imposed the suspension. The council does not need to meet the same burden of proof as a criminal court.
The council gave a one-year suspension to Bart J. Higbee. He recently graduated from a police academy in St. George. Before any law enforcement agency could hire him, he was caught patronizing a prostitute.
The council also issued five letters of caution on Wednesday. Two went to a pair of officers who agreed to destroy a traffic citation issued to one officer's friend. Another letter was issued to an officer who was found to have mistakenly purchased an in-state fishing license in Idaho. An officer who pleaded no contest to reckless driving after hitting a curb received a letter. So did an officer who had sex with his girlfriend in his apartment on his dinner break.