Like Wife, Man Gets Prison in Killing of Ranch Hand

Like Wife, Man Gets Prison in Killing of Ranch Hand

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ELKO, Nev. (AP) -- Joining his wife behind bars, a man was sentenced to two life terms in prison, plus 10 years, for his role in the murder of a ranch hand whose body was found in a Utah river.

The sentence for John Fields carries no possibility of parole.

His wife, Linda Fields, was convicted earlier this year and sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder of Jerry Palensky, a Czech immigrant who disappeared in December 2003.

"This was over money. This was over $300,000," prosecutor Troy Jordan said Monday, referring to a life-insurance policy. Jordan said the couple believed nobody would miss the ranch hand -- "but they were wrong."

Palensky's body was found in January 2004 in the Jordan River near Salt Lake City.

His head was crushed and his boots were missing. By most accounts, Palensky was last seen alive at the Fields' ranch east of Elko, where he worked after being released from prison in fall 2003 following an alcohol-related conviction.

Defense attorney Roger Stewart pleaded for leniency, saying Vern Fields had no prior record and that Linda Fields was the "dominant" personality in their relationship.

But Elko District Judge Andrew Puccinelli said he deserved no mercy.

"This wasn't spur of the moment, a crime of passion or a barroom brawl. This was a cold, calculated attempt to cover up a major theft with a brutal murder," the judge said.

Linda Fields had purchased a $300,000 insurance policy on Palensky and named herself beneficiary. She is appealing her sentence, and her husband is expected to do the same.


Information from: Elko Daily Free Press

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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