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More than three decades after Barbara Jean Rocky's death, the man long suspected of killing her, Gerald W. Hicker, confessed Friday to murdering the Brigham Young University student in 1974.
"I shot her in the chest," he told 3rd District Court Judge Robert Hilder before pleading guilty to second degree felony manslaughter. "She fell and I shot her five more times in the back."
But Hicker,58, also detailed a bizarre scenario of events leading up to the slaying, and claimed he shot the 21-year-old because he feared she might shoot him first.
Hicker said he and Rocky went into Big Cottonwood Canyon on March 11, where Rocky removed her clothing and began praying to the devil. At one point, Hicker said, he tried to touch her. Repulsed, she pulled out a gun and pointed it at him, Hicker claimed.
Hicker said he then wrested the gun from her and opened fire.
Rocky's family, who traveled from California and Oregon to attend Friday's hearing, doesn't buy the story.
"I think it's more lies to evade the truth, and I want the truth," said Rocky's sister, Marilyn Galisto, who questioned why her sister would take off her clothes in the mountains in March, with snow on the ground.
Rocky's mother, Olga Rocky, spoke in court to share both happy memories of her daughter and how her family has been tortured by the death. She last spoke to Rocky two days before the killing, on her birthday.
"She was happy, she was enjoying her birthday, everything was fine," said Olga Rocky, 83. "Then nothing was ever fine again."
Olga Rocky said her husband used to visit his daughter's grave each day before he died of brain cancer in 1975. She's frustrated Hicker didn't admit to the slaying earlier.
Judge Hilder sentenced Hicker to up to five years in prison for the crime, as part of a plea agreement that stipulated Hicker wouldn't receive a lengthy prison sentence in exchange that he explain his reason for killing Rocky to her family in court.
Hilder criticized Hicker for prolonging the case through asking for a preliminary hearing, when Hicker could have confessed.
"You were the one that had it in your power to bring peace and knowledge to the family," Hilder told Hicker. "I don't think it would be an unfair result if you spent the rest of your life in prison."
Defense attorney James Valdez said it's unlikely Hicker, who has cancer and other health problems, will live beyond three more years.
"I am very sorry that I shot and killed Barbara," Hicker said Friday to Rocky's family. "Barbara died very quickly as far as I know. Her suffering was very brief."
The student's naked body was found by a utility worker the next day, but no arrests were made until 2007, when re-tested evidence found a trace of Hicker's DNA, placing him at the crime scene. Hicker was living in Tacoma, Wash., before he was extradited to Utah to face trial.
Witnesses who testified at a preliminary hearing earlier this year claimed Hicker, who was a BYU classmate of Rocky at the time, discussed setting her up for a robbery because she romantically rejected Hicker. A witness also said Hicker knew how many times Rocky was shot with a pistol.
Rocky's character became the subject of Hicker's preliminary hearing, which angered Olga Rocky, who said hearing defaming remarks about her daughter during the earlier hearing brought the family new pain.
Witnesses previously testified that Rocky was interested in the occult and had been known to worship Satan.
Olga Rocky said she prefers to remember her daughter --who thrived on music and dance -- as a "creative, quirky and kind" girl quick to adopt people who needed a friend.
"She loved anyone who needed loving," Olga Rocky said.