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Draper• A man who killed a Brigham Young University student in 1974 after he said the woman worshipped the devil in Big Cottonwood Canyon apologized for the slaying Tuesday, saying he is terminally ill and ready to be released from prison.
Gerald W. Hicker, 59, told a Utah Board of Pardons and Parole member that "adrenaline" spurred him to shoot 21-year-old Barbara Gene Rocky on March 11, 1974. Hicker, long suspected in the crime, wasn't prosecuted until 2007, when retested evidence found a trace of Hicker's DNA, placing him at the murder scene. Hicker was living in Tacoma, Wash., before he was extradited to Utah to face trial.
"I know it had a very devastating impact," said Hicker, appearing before Board of Pardons member Curtis Garner. "I'm very, very sorry for what happened. I wish I could change it."
Hicker pleaded guilty to second-degree felony manslaughter in September 2009 for shooting Rocky once in the chest and five times in the back at the conclusion of a bizarre scenario of events.
He claims he shot Rocky because he feared she might shoot him first. Hicker said he and Rocky went into Big Cottonwood Canyon that day and 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.
He is also suspected in a string of unsolved rapes in Tacoma and Utah in the 1970s, but denied involvement when Garner pressed him on the allegations Tuesday.
Hicker, who appeared at Tuesday's hearing with an oxygen tank, told Garner his health is failing and he has terminal cancer. He said he hasn't been in trouble since 1975 and plans to live with a sister in Washington upon his release.
Rocky's family did not attend Tuesday's hearing. At Hicker's 2009 sentencing, the victim's family members said they believe Hicker lied about events surrounding Rocky's death.
"I think it's more lies to evade the truth, and I want the truth," said Rocky's sister, Marilyn Garisto, who questioned why her sister would take off her clothes in the mountains in March,while snow was on the ground.
Hicker was sentenced to up to five years in prison for the murder, 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.
The parole board will make a decision on Hicker's release date in four to six weeks.