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Mastermind gets long prison term in slaying

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The man who witnesses say masterminded a botched home-invasion that resulted in the fatal shooting of a West Valley man has been sentenced to spend a minimum of 28 years in prison.

During a court hearing Friday, 3rd District Judge Sandra Peuler ordered Michael Paul Pierson, 22, to serve two five-years-to-life and one 15-years-to-life terms at the Utah State Prison. She also added three one-to-five-year gun enhancement terms.Peuler ordered each term to run consecutively, which means that Pierson will spend at least 28 years in prison before the Board of Pardons should consider him for parole.

At the conclusion of a trial last year, a jury convicted Pierson of murder, aggravated burglary and aggravated kidnapping, all first-degree felonies. The main witnesses against Pierson were two co-defendants who said he masterminded the robbery attempt that left Donald Dobson, 21, dead on Jan. 27, 1997.

Clint R. Hartley, 22, and Melisa Parker, 19, said Pierson drew a floor plan of Dobson's West Valley home, where he believed some 50 pounds of marijuana were stashed.

A fourth conspirator, Jeffery Ray Burgener, 21, drove the group to the house, 6543 W. 3800 South, and Parker knocked at the door. As soon as the door opened, Pierson and Hartley burst in and both opened fire, according to testimony.

Dobson was shot in the head.

Pierson and Hartley forced Dobson's fiancee and another woman into the basement to look for drugs but failed to find anything. Burgener apparently fled without entering the home.

Each of the four participants was charged with murder and aggravated burglary, first-degree felonies.

Burgener pleaded guilty to manslaughter and aggravated burglary, second-degree felonies. He was sentenced to serve a seven-to-21-year sentence, including gun and gang enhancements. Hartley also pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was given an eight-to-35-year sentence with gun and gang enhancements.

Parker is expected to enter a plea during a hearing scheduled for July 26.

Pierson, who is also awaiting trial for the July 24, 1996, slaying of Lonnie Durazo, took a moment at his sentencing to apologize to the victim's family but denied he had committed the crime.

"I feel I'm a victim as much as the Dobsons are," he said.

Defense attorney Patrick Anderson asked the judge for parity, pointing out Burgener and Hartley had both received substantial breaks for their pleas. He also pointed out that, according to court testimony, the bullet that struck Dobson was probably fired by Hartley.

But even if Pierson did not fire the fatal shot, prosecutor Vincent Meister said Pierson had entered the house ready to shoot if necessary. He also said Pierson has been linked to at least 20 other home invasions and threatened to kill witnesses and their families if they testified against him.

He is "basically a serial predator," Meister said.

"You were the person who planned this, you were the person who set this into motion," Peuler told Pierson. She said he had shown no remorse.

"I think you are sorry you got caught. I don't think you are sorry for anything else."