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Convicted killer tells victim's family to 'get over it' at parole hearing

Kristin Murphy/Deseret News

Convicted killer tells victim's family to 'get over it' at parole hearing

By Pat Reavy | Posted - Aug. 19, 2015 at 5:06 p.m.



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***Correction:** KSL.com reported Wednesday, Aug. 19 on the turbulent parole hearing of Michael Patterson, in which he told the family of his victim to "get over it." The story was written based on an audio recording of the proceedings requested by the Deseret News to the Board of Pardons of the previous day's hearing.* *Thursday, board spokesman Greg Johnson said that a clerical error had resulted in a records clerk sending a copy of Patterson's original parole hearing from a few years ago to the reporter. "Your article, while accurate, was based on the 2009 hearing," Johnson said. "I apologize for the confusion."*

The article below reflects the 2009 board hearing, not Tuesday's hearing.


UTAH STATE PRISON — Michael Patterson, convicted of killing his girlfriend and dumping her body in Spanish Fork Canyon before shooting her roommate, says the victims' families should just "get over it."

On Tuesday, Patterson's first parole hearing since being sentenced to prison in 1998 was marked by outbursts and bizarre behavior.

Patterson spoke in a slow, sometimes slurred voice that made him hard to understand at times. He also seemed to grow increasingly anxious as the hearing went on and blurted out bizarre comments when it wasn't his turn to talk, prompting parole board Vice Chairman Robert Yeates, who conducted the hearing, to threaten to throw him out.

"What do you want to do? What's the deal?" Patterson asked Yeates, attempting to provoke him into making a final decision on his parole status right then.

"You make me nervous because of the very violent nature of your conduct," Yeates told him.

"It's over though. It is over," Patterson attempted to assure him.

"It's not over for the victims or the victims' family members. That's the problem," Yeates said.

"Well, they'll have to get over it, really, if they can," Patterson said.

Stephanie Woolfork, 18, of American Fork, disappeared on July 23, 1997. On Aug. 24, her badly decomposed body was found near Thistle.

Patterson, then 19, strangled Woolfork and threatened another man into helping him dispose of the body. Originally, Patterson was going to bury Woolfork, but he didn't have a shovel so the body was carried inside a sleeping bag and dumped.

On July 25, Patterson was talking with Woolfork's roommate, Alexis Caldwell, 22, who was on her porch holding the hand of her 2-year-old son.

When Caldwell started asking Patterson questions about where Woolfork was, witnesses said Patterson got nervous and began to shake. He then pulled out a gun and shot Caldwell in the abdomen from about 2 feet away, Yeates said. Caldwell survived but suffered extensive internal injuries.

Patterson later accepted a plea deal in Woolfork's death, pleading guilty to manslaughter and being sentenced to one to 15 years in prison, and up to five years in prison for desecration of a dead body.

He was also convicted of attempted murder for shooting Caldwell and sentenced to one to 15 years in prison. The sentence also included an enhancement for a firearm violation.

The judge ordered Patterson serve up to five years in prison for the firearm penalty, and that it would run consecutively with the other sentences, meaning the sentence wouldn't start until the others were completed.

During Tuesday's parole hearing, Yeates noted for the record that Patterson is bipolar and has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. He has been transferred from the prison to the Utah State Hospital multiple times since being sentenced, Yeates said.

Patterson said he was just transferred back from the state hospital to the prison Monday.

Yeates also noted that before being sentenced to prison, Patterson had been referred to juvenile court 93 times and was convicted of 49 offenses — including nine felonies.

While housed in prison, Patterson has remained in the mental health clinic the entire time, Yeates said, and has had several disciplinary violations.

Patterson seemed to grow more anxious as Yeates went over the details of the case and his criminal history.

"I just thought we'd talk about how I'd been in prison," he said. "Do I even know about getting out of prison or anything like that through this?"

Patterson told Yeates that the sentencing matrix for his convictions recommended he serve seven years, which he passed several years ago.

"Well, let me just be perfectly candid with you, Mr. Patterson. You've taken the life of an innocent victim, and you shot another woman point blank who was holding the hands of her toddler son, and you've done significant damage to her," Yeates said.


Well, let me just be perfectly candid with you, Mr. Patterson. You've taken the life of an innocent victim, and you shot another woman point blank who was holding the hands of her toddler son, and you've done significant damage to her.

–Robert Yeates, parole board Vice Chairman


"Yeah, but what about being in prison 12 years for that?" Patterson interrupted. "I also went to jail, you know. I do know right from wrong — completely. … Do I see another life out of this, or is it just prison?"

Several members of Woolfork's family were at the parole hearing.

"He says we should 'get over it,' 'forget it.' I'm never going to forget it," Latoya Woolfork told Yeates. "I plead that you guys keep him in prison."

As Stephanie Woolfork's family pleaded with Yeates to keep Patterson in prison for his full sentence, his outbursts became more bizarre.

"I think seven, eight more years ain't gonna hurt him," Latoya Woolfork said.

"No, no one hurt me. But I got a question to make with you," Patterson interrupted.

"Sir! Sir! Mr. Patterson," Yeates interjected, threatening to have Patterson removed from the room if he didn't remain quiet.

"She didn't do anything but go to heaven," Patterson continued.

"I can't stand that. I can't stand that," he said after he was told he had to let Latoya Woolfork finish.

"I think with his actions, he doesn't feel sorry. He doesn't care," Latoya Woolfork said. "He got lucky with that sentence. … If anything, he should be very humble that he will be able to walk out of here someday."


Whatever you choose to do is fine. I don't need prison, though. I don't need the state hospital. People coming in here and saying they're a victim. … It was a simple accident because she was sick. I can't explain why I did it. I just know to do it, and I did it and that's that.

–Michael Patterson


When it was Patterson's turn to address Yeates again, he went on a long and often incomprehensible rant, and called Woolfork's murder a "simple accident."

"Whatever you choose to do is fine. I don't need prison, though. I don't need the state hospital. People coming in here and saying they're a victim. … It was a simple accident because she was sick. I can't explain why I did it. I just know to do it, and I did it and that's that," he said.

"They can talk if they want to talk," Patterson added later. "I don't see why they're even allowed to come here, and they (were) never a family to Stephanie. And I know they used to fight her. I heard from Stephanie. I know Stephanie's letters. Stephanie was just from the street. That's what happened. A homicide happened. We'll have to deal with it. I wish to speak no further."

Patterson then again tried to get Yeates to make a decision about his parole immediately.

"OK, you vote," he said. "There still has to be a process about me getting out. If you want to keep me in prison, that's fine. I don't care is what I'm saying. But I try and care for the most. I have little regard for the prison. I have little patience with the prison. … It doesn't matter that there's victims and all that and empathy and all that."

The full five-member parole board will vote on what to do with Patterson's sentence. Yeates told Patterson he would not be recommending parole.

Pat Reavy

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