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Killer gets hearing; next is in 2023

George Todd Kennedy was 16 years old when he and a friend killed a Utah Highway Patrol trooper during a chase in Emery County in 1993.

Now 20, he had his first parole hearing last month.He will be 45 when he gets another shot at parole.

Kennedy is serving a life sentence in an Indiana prison, although he remains under the jurisdiction of the Utah State Board of Pardons and Parole. He was allowed to transfer to a prison closer to his family shortly after he pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, a first-degree felony.

Board of Pardons members filled out a "rationale sheet" in Kennedy's case that lists a half dozen aggravating factors and no mitigating circumstances.

They listed the use of a dangerous weapon, a history of similar offenses, that there were multiple victims (officers), and disciplinary problems inside prison as reasons to hold Kennedy longer.

Nearly four years ago, Kennedy cut a deal with prosecutors to avoid facing the death penalty himself. He agreed to testify against Jason Pearson, who actually shot trooper Dennis Lund, in exchange for a sentence of five years to life in prison.

Trouble began for the teens five days before Lund was shot in their home state of Indiana. Kennedy and Pearson stole a 1986 Ford Thunderbird from Kennedy's mother in June of 1993. They'd apparently gotten into a fight that involved weapons with other teens and were afraid of trouble from police when they ran away.

Kennedy testified that the boys were just "headed west." They pawned personal items and stole food and gas to survive and stay on the move, he said.

It was stealing gas from a store near Green River on I-70 that got them attention from Utah State troopers. Lund was on patrol that night and located the car. He attempted to pull it over when Kennedy said Pearson began firing at the marked cars.

Kennedy held the steering wheel for Pearson, who was driving and shooting at officers. He hit Lund in the head with a shot from a .22-caliber rifle. The father of five died before medical workers could get him to a hospital.

On Sept. 23, 1997, the board looked at Kennedy's case at his first hearing. Instead of setting a parole date, they decided to set another hearing date in June of 2023. In the meantime, they've ordered a psychological report in hopes of better treating him while he's in prison and deciding when and if he should ever be released.