A 2News series of investigative reports into Utah’s Adult Probation and Parole (AP&P) and the Board of Pardons and Parole has prompted lawmakers to act.
Monday night, the legislative audit subcommittee voted to prioritize an audit against AP&P, the largest law enforcement agency in the state, which supervises more than 16,000 probationers and parolees and the Board of Pardons and Parole — which grants parole — by the Office of the Legislative Auditor General.
2News investigative reports have been exposing repeated supervision failures by AP&P and questionable parole decisions by the Board of Pardons and Parole for a year now.
Representatives Karianne Lisonbee, Brady Brammer and Jon Hawkins took notice of the reporting. Lisonbee led the charge placing the issue up front and center at the legislature. Her full statement read:
“Utah’s criminal justice system is failing the public and the number of innocent victims grow day by day. I have serious concerns about the lack of solutions being delivered by the Board of Pardons and AP&P. We need to ensure that these agencies have the tools to ensure justice for all and are working to improve public safety. The scope of the audit centers on concerns with the oversight of the Division of AP&P and the Board of Pardons and Parole. These concerns are highlighted by several cases surrounding individuals who are on probation/parole and commit serious crimes. My door is open and I’m willing to meet with any agent or agency that has solutions to propose.”
Previous reports showed the consequences when violent parolees are not properly supervised.
Creed Lujan was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
2News Investigates exposed how AP&P scrambled to justify its supervision of Lujan after his arrest.
- Utah parole failure facilitated child’s kidnapping, sexual assault
- Parole failure leads to death of Utah handyman
- Utah parole officials lose track of more than 300 dangerous criminals
Jesus Adolfo Valdez, Jr. was charged with the murder of handyman Tony Martinez.
Parole fugitive Llobani Figueroa ran away and still hasn’t been captured to face prosecution in the death of Yahir Duenas-Gomez. Meanwhile, the teen’s family was saddled with $250,000 in medical debt.
2News Investigates exposed the problem and Intermountain Healthcare and the Utah Office of Victims of Crime entered into settlement negotiations and waived the entire bill for Duenas-Gomez’s family.
NEW: Body cam footage shows the arrest of James Dekota Brunson and Anika Celeste Thorpe
James Dekota Brunson and Anika Celeste Thorpe were charged with Linda Nemelka’s murder. Both had absconded from parole and were on the run for several weeks. Nemelka was murdered in Millcreek on March 11, 2020. Brunson and Thorpe were captured the day after, on March 12 by undercover agents with the Utah County Major Crimes Task Force and Orem PD.
Task force members located a cache of stolen weapons in the back of a stolen Toyota Sequoia. The day before the murder, Thorpe’s mother reported to Orem PD that her daughter and Brunson stole a bag of firearms and ammunition from a guest in her home. The weapons included two 20 gauge shotguns, three handguns, two .22 rifles and an AR-15 assault rifle. Thorpe was immediately taken into custody. Brunson ran away and failed to comply with police commands. According to the affidavit of probable cause, Brunson removed a handgun from his waistband and threw it into the grassy knoll before he was taken into custody.
The photo below is the 9mm Ruger Pistol Brunson dropped during his encounter with law enforcement on March 12 the day after the homicide. The Utah State Crime Lab determined that the recovered casing was fired from this gun.
More than a year later, DNA comparisons were made between swabs from the recovered 9mm Ruger Pistol and swabs of both Brunson and Thorpe. Forensic scientists discovered Thorpe’s DNA on the recovered firearm and could not exclude Brunson as a contributor to the mixed DNA profiles discovered on the firearm.
Terence Vos was charged with the murder of Shandon Scott. Vos was once the Metro Gang Unit’s Public Enemy Number 1.
This report in particular caught the attention of Utah lawmakers Lisonbee, Brammer and Hawkins, who convened a judiciary interim committee hearing at the state capitol where AP&P Division Director Dan Blanchard was questioned after parole agent Deon Walser marked a home visit as ‘no violations found’ even when he didn’t see Vos one single time at his home.
“It could within the context that they made the effort to be there to make contact with that individual,” Blanchard said.
Representative Brammer likened it to getting a participation trophy for showing up.
Blanchard’s response that an attempt by the agent is sufficient flies in the face of AP&P’s Standards of Supervision policy, which says there must be a face-to-face visit.
“The standard is that we make the effort,” Blanchard said.
What’s more, agent Walser also marked an office visit “successful” even when Vos failed to show up to his office.
The reporting also cast the Board of Pardons and Parole into the spotlight for what lawmakers said are questionable parole decisions.
Representative Lisonbee said the scope of the audit centers on concerns with the oversight of AP&P and the Board of Pardons and Parole. She said Utah’s criminal justice system is failing the public and the number of innocent victims grow day by day.