UTAH STATE PRISON — Utah Board of Pardons and Parole Chairwoman Chyleen Arbon admits she and her colleagues have a difficult decision to make.
"We either have to lock you up for life or we need to help you succeed,” she told Colton Jesse Louder in a recording of a recent parole hearing.
Crime, punishment, and parole
On May 8, Louder, 34, appeared before Arbon to make his case asking that he be released from the Utah State Prison for a third time.
In 2009, Louder, of Lehi, shot and killed his uncle, Jeff Ackerman, in a Pleasant Grove neighborhood. In court, attorneys noted that both men were using methamphetamine that day, and that when Louder uses drugs he becomes paranoid. When Ackerman used drugs, he became angry. The combination led to the fatal confrontation.
Louder pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter, a first-degree felony, and was sentenced to five years to life in prison.
But after being paroled, he was convicted of DUI just 13 months later and was sent back to prison in 2016. In 2017, he was sent back to prison again after he believed a "stranger in the shadows" told him to cut off his GPS ankle monitor, according to Arbon.
During his most recent parole hearing, Arbon said she isn't sure what is going to happen.
"I'm not sure how to make sense of this," she said. "When you use substances, it affects you mentally. … I am a little puzzled as to what to do, because our first duty is to protect the public and we’ve got three (cases) now of you doing the exact same thing."
Louder's family has supported him throughout the court proceedings and again at his latest parole hearing.
Louder: 'I want more out of life than this'
After his first parole, Louder said his decision to drink and drive "was stupid. There’s no other way to put it."
His second unsuccessful parole, he said, was due in part to being in a downtown Salt Lake halfway house which he said was a "high risk environment."
"I can only be around it so long without doing it,” he conceded.
But Louder said in the past, he would make up "little rules" in his head like only drinking on Friday nights. Now, he said he realizes no matter how much or how little he does, "If I keep doing the same things I’ll keep getting the same results."
"I’m getting older and I want more out of life than this,” he said. "If I get out and drink or get high, it might be quick, it might be slow, but I’ll be back here.
"I’m sure my family is sick of it. I’m sick of it. I can’t imagine any rational, normal person not being sick of it," Louder continued. "It’s hard to look at your behavior and know how toxic it can be, how destructive it can be. … I want to start building a life that I’m proud of and I want to start building a life I wouldn’t imagine sacrificing by being high."
Arbon told Louder it's clear that when he drinks or does drugs, he engages in high risk behavior. She noted that the board gave him a huge break with his original release. But if the full five-member board were to release him again, it would need assurance he won't ever drink or take drugs again.
"You’re going to have to be at 'not a drop of anything' for the rest of your life,” she said.
The full board is expected to make a decision in a few weeks.
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