Man convicted of brutal claw-hammer killing gets first parole hearing in 20 years

Man convicted of brutal claw-hammer killing gets first parole hearing in 20 years

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UTAH STATE PRISON — A man convicted of murder in a brutal 1991 claw-hammer killing of a 56-year-old man will spend at least one more year in prison.

Jerry Lee Robertson, 51, was sentenced in 1994 to five years to life for murder and 1 to 15 years for theft in the death of Gerald Thomas. The court ordered the sentences be served consecutively.

In July, a parole hearing was held for Robertson, his first in 20 years.

In 1991, Robertson and his now ex-wife, Cassie Robertson, who were transients, were staying with Thomas. Prosecutors argued in court that the three got into a fight that night and the Robertsons plotted to kill Thomas.

While Thomas was in bed, the Robertsons used a claw hammer to strike Thomas in the head. Jerry Robertson delivered 11 of the 12 blows, according to prosecutors. The couple fled to California after the killing where they were later arrested and brought back to Utah to stand trial.

Cassie Robertson was convicted and sentenced to five years to life at the state prison.

Jerry Robertson was initially found incompetent to stand trial and sent to the Utah State Hospital. But it was later determined that he was faking his mental illness for two years at the hospital. He was placed on trial and convicted.

During his parole hearing in July, Robertson claimed for the first time to Board of Pardons and Parole pro-tem member Jennifer Bartell that he had gone to the store that night and when he returned, Thomas was sexually assaulting his wife. Robertson then claimed that Thomas swung a knife at him.

"I panicked. And there was a hammer right there on his mantel. And then I hit him and I lost control. And I wanted to stay there and call the police, but my ex-wife was telling me, ‘Let’s go,’” he said in a recording of the hearing.

When Bartell questioned Robertson's account of the evening and why this information was just now being revealed, he claimed he was trying to protect his wife during trial and that whatever story she told the judge, he would agree with.

"I felt because I loved her that I was protecting her. I said, ‘Well, she said everything,'" he said. "I can tell the truth now. I’ve grown up and realized that it’s time to tell the truth. So I’m here to tell the truth. I’m not going to beat around the bush about nothing, I’m just gonna tell the truth. It’s my turn to tell the truth."

Robertson said since being in prison how to "keep my hands to myself."

"These years did humble me," he said.

But Bartell pointed out during the hearing that, "It still seems to me like you’re making excuses for what happened."

Robertson responded by saying, "I was scared. I was terrified. I was young,” and made other statements during the hearing about the attack such as, "I blacked out. I lost control,” and "I felt trapped and I wanted to go. And I felt he was giving me no choice to get out of this home.”

During the hearing in July, Robertson agreed with Bartell that he had no current mental illness diagnosis.

"I’m not crazy,” he said.

Robertson recounted to Bartell how he left an abusive home at age 12 and had been homeless ever since.

"I love my mom. She just did bad things. I love my dad. He just did bad things. I love me. I just did bad things,” he said in tears.

The full Board of Pardons and Parole scheduled another parole hearing for Robertson for September of 2018. Before then, the board will seek an updated psychological report and wants Robertson to participate in cognitive behavioral therapy and recommended substance abuse treatment.

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Pat Reavy


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