UTAH STATE PRISON — It's been 20 years since Milo R. Simper shot his girlfriend, Libby Fowler, killing her and her unborn child.
But Fowler's family says as long as Simper, now 53, is truly remorseful for what he has done, it is time for him to be released from prison.
"If he still has remorse for what he has done, I believe he should be released, but I want him to know that what he has done has scarred a lot of people,” Jerica Drew, Fowler's youngest daughter, recently told the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole.
"My husband and I think you deserve a second chance and recommend parole,” concurred Necia Harris, Fowler's sister.
On Dec. 21, 1997, Fowler and Simper got into a fight at their Lehi home. At trial, Simper's attorneys described the couple as having a violent relationship, and both struggled with drugs and alcohol. On that night, Simpler returned with a shotgun after arguing with Fowler and shot her in the head, killing her and their 17-week-old fetus.
Because the murders were determined not to be premeditated, Simpler was able to enter into a plea agreement, pleading guilty to murder, a first-degree felony, and manslaughter, a second-degree felony.
Simpler was granted parole in 2013, but his release date was set for Jan. 10, 2023. Because it was set that far out, he was allowed to have a "redetermination request" after five years if he chose.
On Aug. 7, Simper attended that hearing, going before pardons board member Clark Harms to ask to be released early.
"I feel like I’ve worked hard in trying to better myself. My family is aging, my father is getting older and I would like to spend some time with him,” he told Harms in a recording of the hearing.
Simper pointed out that he has a good work record while in prison, has completed 18 life skills classes — such as anger management, stress management and substance abuse courses — earned an associate's degree through Snow College and is currently working on a bachelor's degree from Utah State University.
"There’s a better way than to let your anger escalate to that point,” he said when asked how he would deal with stressful situations differently than before if released from prison.
But the most compelling statements came from Drew and Harris. Harris told Harms that Fowler's children have "suffered terribly" since their mother's death, and have struggled physically and emotionally. Drew said she has post-traumatic stress disorder and typically finds herself "camping in the middle of nowhere."
"They did not deserve your stupid, selfish decision that night on my mom’s birthday, four days before Christmas. It has devastated our family and every Christmas since,” Harris said.
However, Harris said if Simper can take responsibility for his actions, she wants him to help others when he is released.
"I’m sorry. I feel so bad for them. My actions have taken so much away," Simper responded in tears. "I think about them all the time."
Simper said he would like to talk to youth when he gets out as part of a volunteer program, "so that they don’t make the same mistakes."
The board is expected to make a decision in a few weeks.