Despite pleas for leniency from family members, 17-year-old Beau Heaps is going to prison for the killing of Orem resident John Freitag.
Fourth District Judge Ray M. Harding sentenced the Orem teen Tuesday to five years to life for the first-degree felony and an additional one to five years because the crime took place with 1,000 feet of a school. A jury convicted Heaps of the crime in January.Freitag, 38, died Aug. 25 from a gunshot fired through the storm door of his Orem duplex. Heaps and six others went to Freitag's home that night to confront him. Leikina Lavulavu, 19, American Fork, is serving a prison sentence of five years to life for firing the fatal shot.
The jury hearing Heaps' case, however, was convinced that Heaps instigated the confrontation at Freitag's home. Several witnesses testified that Heaps threatened Freitag many times and the jury heard an answering machine recording where Heaps threatened Freitag.
The relationship between the two soured after a door was broken during a party at Freitag's home last summer. Heaps was also upset that Freitag planned to become an informant for narcotics police.
"Like I told the jury at the trial, if not for Beau Heaps this never would have happened," Utah County Deputy Attorney John Allan said Tuesday.
Members of Heaps' family marched to the podium Tuesday trying to convince Harding that the teen had been unfairly convicted. They said Heaps was not the shooter, and as a 17-year-old boy, was not the leader of the group that went to Freitag's home.
"We know he did not kill anybody or assist in killing anybody," his sister said.
The family members said Heaps is a big talker, hyperactive and suffers from attention deficit. They said prison is too harsh and he won't get the help he needs. His mother said her son is a sincere, loving and kind person, who is not a finished product and who should not be cast away in prison.
"Beau does not possess a criminal mind. He has an adolescent mind," she said.
Heaps' father said Freitag arguing over the telephone with the Tongan members of the group is to blame for the shooting. The group went to Freitag's home that night because the Tongans were angered, he said.
"The penalty that is going to be put on Beau does not match the crime," Heaps' father said.
Heaps told the judge his heart goes out to Freitag's family, but he can't wait for judgment day when he stands before God and it is acknowledged that he had no part in Freitag's death.
The pleas were not well-received by Freitag's survivors, who told the judge Heaps was getting exactly what he deserves. Freitag's sister asked Heaps in court to tell her why he killed her brother, but he never responded. Freitag's ex-wife said his two 9-year-old twins will be fatherless for the rest of their lives because of Heaps.
"They're in prison without their dad," she said.
Allan said he doesn't take pride in sending a young man to prison, but society wants young offenders to be accountable for repeatable criminal behavior. Since 1993, Heaps has been referred to juvenile court more than 50 times.
Harding said Heaps' age and the fact that he didn't pull the trigger are irrelevant. He said the jury decided that Heaps orchestrated the killing, and he agrees with the verdict. He said Heaps' past record shows he hasn't been accountable for his actions and that the murder charge is the result of his behavior going unchecked.
"It's unfortunate that both families are suffering grief at this time," Harding said.
Heaps' attorney plans to appeal the conviction and will file a certificate of probable cause this week asking the judge to stay execution of the prison sentence pending an appeal. Harding agreed to hold Heaps in the Utah County Jail until a hearing is held on the motion. To obtain a permanent stay, the defense attorney must convince Harding that the Utah Court of Appeals will likely grant a new trial.