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OGDEN — An Ogden man who pleaded guilty and mentally ill to allegations he shot and killed a man during a fight has been sentenced to prison.
In September, Shawn Gerrald Boehme, 47, pleaded guilty and mentally ill to murder, a first-degree felony, in the May 2014 death of Elgie Ray Mills Jr., 43. Boehme was sentenced Wednesday to 15 years to life in prison.
In letters to the judge, Boehme's aunt and sister said he comes from a family with a history of mental illness, noting he is a good person who can swing from being loving to being enraged in a matter of moments.
In exchange for Boehme's plea, prosecutors agreed to dismiss two counts of use of a firearm by a restricted person, a second-degree felony.
Police said the two men were friends who got into a fight that escalated. However, in a 14-page handwritten letter sent to 2nd District Judge Brent West in October, Boehme said he believed Mills was a gang member who was looking for prescription and illegal drugs.
The jumbled letter, riddled with misspellings, chronicles Boehme's claims he had been treated for stomach cancer and believed he was dying; explanations of why he was doing drugs, using meth to counter the pain from his cancer and marijuana for the nausea from chemotherapy treatments; his belief he needed to protect his wife, who he says had been raped; and an account of the night he says he shot Mills in self-defense.
Mills was found dead by officers responding to calls of gunshots in an Ogden garage operated by Boehme and his father. In the letter, Boehme said gang violence near the garage prompted him to obtain two guns to defend the shop despite past convictions that prohibited him from possessing firearms.
"Before I got sick I was 235 pounds and in good shape. By this time I was down to about 140, so I felt like I needed help," Boehme wrote. "This was my first big mistake — getting the firearms and not getting law enforcement involved."
On the night of the shooting, Boehme wrote that he was working on a Mustang in the shop when Mills came by.
"Mills wanted drugs that I didn't have," Boehme wrote. "He was a heroin junkie (who) thought I still had painkillers that I didn't have anymore."
Boehme said the two got in "a shoving match" before Mills left and threatened to get one of his brothers.
"Then he went out, I had a terrible feeling, kind of like when you have a close call in your car and barely avoid an accident, the way it feels right after, this was the feeling I had," Boehme wrote. "So I went to the safe and got the pistol out (I should have called 911)."
When Mills returned, Boehme said he showed the man the gun and told him to leave. When Mills swung at him, Boehme fired as he lunged, then fired twice more when the shot didn't stop him.
Boehme said he covered the body, changed his clothes and later sent a text to his father, who called police. He apologized in the letter for the pain he caused Mills' family, as well as his own, while maintaining he acted in self-defense.
"It just makes me wonder what our city has come to, that gang members and thugs can strong-arm, steal from and assault innocent people that are inside their own legal, tax-paying business minding their own business, and because of my past history I'm not allowed to defend our lives and our own property," Boehme wrote.
In a second letter, sent to the judge last month, Boehme asked West to consider treatment at the Utah State Hospital and, as "an early Christmas present," a five-year sentence followed by 10 years of probation.
"All I can do is ask," he wrote, adding a hand-drawn smiley face.