Third District Judge Frank Noel showed little compassion Monday when he recommended that Edward S. Deli serve the rest of his natural life behind bars.
The judge sentenced the convicted double killer to the maximum terms allowed under Utah law for each of nine felonies and ordered that they be served consecutively. The earliest Deli could conceivably be released from prison would be in 2053, but Noel said he would recommend that Deli never be paroled.The judge told Deli he watched him closely during several days of court proceedings looking for signs of remorse.
"What expressions I have seen, in my opinion, have come far too late and are far too unconvincing," he said.
Deli, 22, was convicted of killing Beth Potts, a blind and partially handicapped Murray woman, and her daughter, Kaye Tiede, less than three minutes after they returned home to their Summit County cabin on Dec. 22. He and co-defendant Von Taylor also robbed and tried to kill Rolf Tiede, set the cabin ablaze and kidnapped Tiede's two daughters.
"First and foremost, I'm struck by the senselessness and brutality of this crime," the judge said. "In a sense, we're all victims. Decent, law-abiding citizens must walk our streets in fear and now (are) fearful within the walls of their own homes."
Deli stood stoically before Noel as the judge imposed the sentences. Despite pleas from defense attorney Martin Gravis, Noel ordered each of the sentences to be served consecutively rather than concurrently.
"If you at any time are allowed to go free, society will be at risk," he said.
Family of the two victims broke into tears and hugged each other after the judge issued the sentences.
"Judge Noel gave him what he deserved," said Ken Tidwell, whose sister and mother were killed. "We can now get on with our lives and become active in victim programs and get some good out of this. I'm just pleased that our system works."
Family members have vowed to petition the Board of Pardons to prevent Deli from ever being paroled. "I know this man is dangerous and would (kill) again, even if he's a 70-year-old man," Tidwell said.
"It won't bring my mother and sister back, but I still have some beautiful memories that will never be taken from me."
Deli sat slumped in his chair as prosecutor Terry Christiansen argued for the maximum sentences. "What we have here is the most serious crime that has ever been committed in Summit County," he said.
He said Deli's parole officer wrote in a pre-sentence report that Deli has shown no remorse or sympathy to the victims' family and appears to make himself out to be the victim. Although Deli continues to deny that he shot anyone during the crime spree, Christiansen said common sense indicates he did because he was seen several times carrying one of the murder weapons and reloading it.
He said the evidence showed both Deli and Taylor had a premeditated plan to wait for the family to return. "They were there . . . to kill these people and then steal their car."
Gravis said prosecutors and Corrections officers have a "sour grapes" attitude because his client was convicted of the lesser charge of second-degree murder. Deli was originally charged with capital murder, but one juror held out and the other 11 jurors eventually consented to the lesser charge.
"That's what the defendant should be sentenced to, not what everyone thinks he did," Gravis argued.
Last week, Deli wrote a letter to the victims' family and said he would have pleaded guilty to the crimes, but his lawyer refused to let him. He said he only planned to burglarize the cabin and never planned on hurting anyone.
"I wanted to steal money, not a life. I didn't either," he wrote. Deli said Taylor took the .44 caliber gun from Deli's holster and shot the victims. "I could only accept what happened and get on with it."
Deli wrote he was always a "good Roman Catholic boy" who converted to the LDS Church, but later left the church because he no longer believed and felt like an outcast.
"I can only place my fate in God's hands. I don't care whether I get out or not. In a way I hope I get out, but even if I do, it won't matter. I'll be either too old or I'll be institutionalized."
He also asked the family to pray so they could see how remorseful he really is. "If I were in your place, I would hate me too. The fact is I hate myself because I couldn't do anything to stop it."
Claudia Goates wrote back to Deli saying she has pity for him but will do all she can to see that he stays in prison.
"I don't believe for a minute that you didn't fire the shots that killed my mother and sister," she wrote. "Oh yes, I am sure you are sorry for what you did because you got caught.
"I saw no remorse on your face at all for this act. I saw quite the opposite - laughing and smirking. It seemed to me that you only became somewhat sober when you could see the sophistication of the investigation that was done and that the `jig may be up.' "
Goates said she hopes she can someday forgive him but said it would be easier to do so if he would stop lying and admit his full involvement.
"I am not sure how I feel toward you at this time. I just hate what happened. I hate the nightmares I have continually of the horror my family suffered at your hands," she wrote.
Crimes and punishments
Deli's charges and sentences:
- Second-degree murder (two counts) - Two five-years-to-life terms with two additional one-tofive-year sentences for using a firearm
- Attempted murder - Five years to life with a one-to-five-year firearm enhancement
- Aggravated arson - Five years to life
- Aggravated kidnapping (two counts) - Two 15-years-to-life terms with two one-to-five-year terms for using a firearm.
- Aggravated robbery - Five years to life with one to five years for using firearm
- Theft - One to 15 years
- Aggravated assault - Zero to five years with a zero-to-five-year term for using a firearm
Because all sentences were ordered to be served consecutively, Edward Deli will spend a minimum time of 62 years in prison. The judge will recommend he never be paroled.