A Logan man who pleaded guilty to raping a 17-year-old mentally retarded student said his health problems would make any prison time a death sentence.

So 1st District Judge Gordon Low on Monday ordered a 90-day diagnostic evaluation to determine if the Utah State Prison can handle the medical needs of Mark Schroeder, 44, who suffers from cystic fibrosis.The genetic disease usually claims its victims in their mid-20s. But Schroeder said he has beaten the odds because "I keep up with the latest treatments and what's new in the field. Any signs of illness, I get immediate treatment."

He told Low he fears he won't find that care at the Utah State Prison.

His attorney Jay Edmunds urged the court to find an "alternative to sending this man to his death."

Schroeder faces a five years to life prison term and an $18,500 fine.

Low delayed Schroeder's sentencing until the evaluation is completed.

Schroeder pleaded guilty in November 1993 to first-degree felony rape for his sexual relationship with a teenage student at Cache Industries, where Schroeder was a case worker. Cache Industries is a program that helps disabled people learn work skills.

On Monday, Schroeder testified that he knew what he did was unethical and illegal.

"But I had no intention of hurting her. Everything I did, I did because I wanted to do something for her," he said. "In the relationship it felt like two people who really cared about each other."

A month after entering his plea, Schroeder disappeared. After a nationwide search, he was arrested last October in Florida, where he was using a dead brother's name and Social Security number.

Schroeder said his medical condition is why he fled jurisdiction.

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"I saw a prison sentence to be a death sentence," he said.

Deputy Cache County Attorney James Jenkins said Schroeder can't be trusted and deserves a prison term.

"This is the type of crime that demands punishment," he said. "Mr. Schroeder knew what he was getting into."

As to the medical concerns, Jenkins said the prison could handle that better than the Cache County Jail, where Schroeder has been incarcerated since November.

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