DELTA — The father of a slain deputy said his family feels that a judge and jury killed his daughter a second time when a man charged with murdering her was acquitted.
It was even more difficult for the family when jurors did not discount a theory that Josie Greathouse Fox was killed by her own brother.
In a letter sent to the Deseret News, Russell Greathouse said his daughter — and his entire family — was deprived of justice when a jury found Roberto Roman not guilty of aggravated murder in the shooting death of Fox, who was a Millard County sheriff's deputy.
In the letter, an angry Greathouse lashes out against the jury, calling them "cowards," trashes 4th District Judge Donald Eyre's rulings and accuses Roman of telling one of "the most sinister lies ever told."
"The judge and jury made sure that justice could not be served. I hope they can sleep at night with their decisions. I know we can’t," Greathouse wrote.
Within 10 hours after Fox was gunned down near Delta on Jan. 6, 2010, Roman was charged with capital murder in her death. Not long after, he was arrested hiding in a shed in Beaver with another man who said Roman had told him he had "broke a cop." Roman also confessed to shooting the deputy during a poorly-recorded police interview.
Yet 2 ½ years later during his trial, Roman told a different story — saying it was Fox's own brother, who has since died, who shot and killed her.
Ryan Greathouse, 40, and Roman had been smoking methamphetamine together just minutes before Fox was killed. According to investigators, Fox and Sgt. Rhett Kimball had been watching two suspicious vehicles from a distance because there had been a string of thefts in the area. The sergeant later testified that he had a "good idea" one of those vehicles belonged to Fox's older brother.
Roman and Ryan Greathouse apparently also noticed the deputies' cars in the distance. In his alleged confession, Roman said he told Ryan Greathouse that if the cars turned out to be police, "he would shoot at police officers, that it would not be a good night to be a police officer," testified Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Matt Higley, who interviewed Roman.
When police interviewed Ryan Greathouse, he admitted buying drugs from a man he only knew as "Rob," but provided police with a phone number that was traced to Roman.
During the trial, Roman said Ryan Greathouse took the gun from him after Fox pulled them over and fired before realizing the deputy was his younger sister. Roman said he later covered for Greathouse because the man had threatened to kill him and his children.
Just 4 ½ months after the shooting, Ryan Greathouse, 40, died in Las Vegas of an accidental drug overdose.
The jury forewoman told the Deseret News that jurors had been given very little evidence about the deputy's brother and they couldn't rule out the possibility that he may have killed his sister.
Russell Greathouse called Roman's new version of events "utterly ridiculous."
"It was beyond ridiculous! It was among the most sinister lies ever told. Rob Roman set a new standard for cruelty and depravity, which for some reason was good enough for this judge and jury," he wrote.
While admitting his son had a drug addiction, he said Ryan Greathouse was "never a liar" and told police everything about what happened that night.
"Anyone that knew my Ryan knew what a kind hearted loving person he was!" he wrote. "Ryan would never hurt anyone, especially his own sister, and he would never have threatened anyone like Roman claimed over 2 ½ years later, and once Ryan was unable to defend himself."
The father said he was particularly upset with Eyre's decision not to allow Ryan Greathouse's written police statement to be admitted as evidence in the trial for jurors to see. Roman's defense objected, calling it hearsay. Because Greathouse was dead, he couldn't be cross-examined. The judge ruled that only parts of the statement, including the information about drug use, could be included.
"The one decision that had the biggest impact on the trial was the exclusion of all of Ryan’s sworn written statements, except those parts that benefited the real murderer. Judge Eyre was wrong in every sense and shouldn’t have suppressed it when there was no legal justification for that decision," Russell Greathouse said. "The defendant himself introduced his version of Ryan’s statement at the trial. By doing so he waived his confrontation rights and opened the door for Ryan’s entire statement to come in, but Judge Eyre ridiculously rejected Ryan’s actual statement without justification and once again propped up the defense and left the state without recourse."
In addition, Greathouse strongly criticized the judge for a determination he made before the trial that Roman was "mentally retarded" and therefore ineligible for the death penalty.
He accused Eyre of being "spellbound" to defense attorneys.
"Roman made an idiot out of Judge Eyre and played him for a fool," Greathouse wrote. "Roman's acquittal makes us wonder if being deemed mentally retarded (is) a trait to aspire to."
The father also had strong words against some jurors, particularly a law student who told a reporter he didn't believe the trajectory of the bullets matched the prosecution's story.
"All it would have taken was for one juror with a little courage to prevent this monumental injustice. The judge and jury killed Josie again with their decisions while outrageously believing a murdering, drug dealing illegal alien who condemned my son, Ryan of her murder," Russell Greathouse said.
"My family and I, most importantly Josie, did not receive the justice that she deserved. Ryan was accused of something he was not capable of, and simply did not do."
While Roman was acquitted of aggravated murder in Fox's death, he was convicted of two third-degree felonies: tampering with evidence and possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person. He will be sentenced Oct. 10 and faces of maximum of 10 years in prison.