A 3rd District Court jury deliberated for nearly two hours Wednesday before declaring convicted murderer Kendall Q. Northern guilty of a second degree felony escape charge.
Northern fled from the Duchesne County Jail on Oct. 9, 1988, on a sheriff's motorcycle. He had earned trustee status at the jail and was well-liked by jailers, who allowed him to work on a motorcycle in a garage.That day, he strapped an oversized battery on the rear fender, jammed a screwdriver into the ignition switch and rode away. He had been serving a jail sentence for his involvement in the 1980 robbery and shooting of a taxi cab driver, a father of seven children.
Northern's case was featured on "America's Most Wanted," a national TV program that profiles fugitives. He was subsequently discovered in jail in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he had been arrested on a drug charge under an assumed name. Although he had asked for asylum, he later withdrew that request and was returned to Utah.
An attorney representing Northern argued that he fled the jail because he feared for his life. He had testified against his co-defendant in the case, Robert Alan Phillips, and was therefore a marked man, said Elizabeth Bowman.
"Every single inmate out there (at the state prison) would like to have at him, to do ugly things to him because he testified against his partner and is now considered a snitch," she said in opening statements Tuesday morning.
Northern was sent to the tiny Duchesne County Jail for protective custody but learned two days before he left that he was being sent back to the state prison. "They showed me they could not protect me," said Northern, who described himself as a non-violent person. "I felt in fear of my life."
But prosecutor Richard Shepherd argued that the reason for the escape was immaterial, and the jury apparently agreed.
Sentencing was set for 2 p.m. on May 7 before Judge Raymond Uno. An escape charge carries a maximum penalty of one to 15 years.