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UTAH STATE PRISON — A man who has spent more than 40 years in prison for shooting and killing a Utah Highway Patrol trooper when he was 18 has now been granted parole.
The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole voted to release Brian Keith Stack on Feb. 17, 2020.
Stack was driving a stolen pickup truck on Nov. 7, 1978, when he was pulled over on state Route 20 by UHP trooper Ray Lynn Pierson for a minor traffic violation. Pierson was unaware that Stack was a fugitive from Illinois and had just stolen gas in Cove Fort.
Pierson, 29, was shot without warning as he approached the truck, but still managed to fire off six rounds as Stack sped away before collapsing to the ground where he was found by a passerby.
Stack was arrested following a chase after he hit a police car set up as part of a blockade. Numerous officers fired multiple shots at the fleeing pickup in an attempt to stop it. A total of 87 bullet holes were later counted in the vehicle, including 11 in the windshield. But Stack only suffered a minor injury.
He eventually pleaded guilty in exchange for prosecutors not seeking the death penalty. At the time he was sentenced, life in prison without the possibility of parole was not an option for Utah judges.
But Pierson’s family believes the judge’s intent was clear when he crossed out the word “indeterminate” on the sentencing order, giving Stack a term of up to life in prison. The family believes Stack, now 59, should serve the rest of his life behind bars.
The family has also argued during Stack’s parole hearings that he won’t be able to adapt to a world that’s vastly changed from when he entered prison.
But once an inmate is sent to prison, the parole board has the final say
The board noted during a hearing in February that Stack had been a model inmate at times, but had also committed several violations over the years, including making alcohol in his cell to sell for extra money, and write-ups for minor offenses since his February hearing.
Stack is the second inmate in two years to be granted parole after serving a long sentence for killing a UHP trooper.
In September 2018, Jason Scott Pearson, who was 18 when he shot and killed trooper Dennis “Dee” Lund, 37, during a high-speed chase on I-70 near Green River on June 16, 1993, was also granted parole.
Pearson, now 43, will be released on March 17, 2020.