Son, daughter-in-law held in slaying of former BYU professor

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SALT LAKE CITY -- More than eight months after the crime, two people are behind bars accused in the grisly murder of a BYU professor; one is the victim's son, the other his daughter-in-law.

Roger and Pamela Mortensen were previously named persons of interest in the murder of 70-year-old Kay Mortensen last November.

A state grand jury met in American Fork Wednesday and Thursday and indicted the couple on charges of murder and obstruction of justice in Mortensen's death.

Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman says, "We have spent numerous hours investigating many leads, interviewing many people, and we got to a point where we felt there was sufficient evidence to bring to the grand jury, and the grand jury agreed."

After an arrest warrant was issued by a grand jury, a judge ordered the arrest of the couple. The two were picked up by police in Payson Thursday night. Roger, 48, was arrested at a city park in Payson Canyon while in possession of marijuana. Pamela, 34, was arrested at the couple's home where police found two plastic containers lined with marijuana residue.

Ryan and Angela Sabey live near Roger and Pamela Moretensen. When they watched their block fill up with police cars, they knew exactly what was going on.

"We were kind of expecting it," Angela Sabey said. "We were just waiting for it to happen, basically."

Roger and Pamela Mortensen had been suspected in Roger's father's grizzly murder for months. Neighbors say the couple have been acting strangely since Kay's murder.

At a press conference Friday, Utah County sheriff's investigators said the couple gave conflicting statements throughout the entire investigation.

"There were inconsistencies from the beginning, from the time the first officer arrived and listened to the story or the claim of Roger and Pam," said Jim Tracy with the Utah County Sheriff's Office. "It began immediately that there were inconsistencies from the their statements and the physical evidence."

Officials also said everyone in the Mortensen family has been extremely cooperative, with the exception of Roger and Pamela.

Investigators did not discuss evidence, motive or what information led to the arrests. They did say there may be more people involved, but did not name any additional persons of interest.

Both Roger and Pamela were booked into the Utah County Jail Thursday night, where they are being held on $500,000 bail.

A probable cause statement describing the couple's arrest reveals investigators found a compartment in a storage room next to the garage during a search of the home. A wooden panel was removed, exposing six firearms including an AK-47 and a 12-gauge shotgun.

There were also several thousand rounds of ammunition in and around the hidden compartment. Additionally, investigators found a .22-caliber revolver in a safe located in the garage.

Sheriff's officials say the majority of the guns found at the couple's home were Kay Mortensen's, but it is unknown if any of them were among the 32 firearms taken from Mortensen's home on the night of his murder.

Buhman won't specify a motive for the murder but says the guns may have been part of it.

Roger and Pamela were at the house at the time of the murder, but maintained they were held hostage by men with guns during the ordeal.

KSL spoke to Roger and Pamela's attorney, Greg Skordas, Friday morning about their arrest and the murder charges against them. He says he's surprised by the grand jury's indictment and says it's rare for the state to convene a grand jury for a case like this.

Skordas says it happens often with federal cases, but not state cases. He's not sure why this tactic was taken and maintains his clients are innocent.

"We were very surprised. We knew the investigation was continuing and we also knew Roger and Pam were at least suspects in the investigation, but for the state to take this to a grand jury is really unusual," Skordas said. "To come out and just arrest them at night like that on a $500,000 cash-only bail was surprising, but we'll just have to deal with it from here."

Initial court appearances for both Mortensens are scheduled for Monday, when it's expected they will enter a not-guilty plea.

Because of the grand jury being used, there will not be a preliminary hearing for this case. It should go straight to trial.


Story compiled with information from Shara Park, Alex Cabrero, Marc Giauque and Jennifer Stagg.

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