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Victim’s kin wants killer kept in prison

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Tammy Acord hasn't slept through the night in 21 years. She has panic attacks and suffers severe anxiety.

"I would have never been like this if it were not for him," Acord said, pointing to convicted killer John M. Calhoun.

Calhoun, 39, was convicted of robbing and killing Acord's grandparents, O. Thayne and Lorraine Acord, 21 years ago.

Calhoun was 18 at the time, with long, curly hair and a mustache.

Tuesday, a much older Calhoun, now sporting short hair, glasses and a white prison uniform with "UDC inmate" stamped on his back, sat before State Board of Pardons and Parole Chairman Michael Sibbett for his first parole hearing since shortly after his conviction for two counts of murder and one count each of aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary. All four counts were first-degree felonies.

Calhoun was spared the death penalty because of a lone juror holdout.

Since his life was spared, Calhoun has earned several degrees and been a model prisoner for the past eight years. Whether or not he's truly changed seemed of little solace to the Acords.

"I don't give a damn what he did while he's been in here, he's still a criminal," Acord said.

One month to the day after Calhoun escaped from a youth detention center in Ogden, he crept into the Acords' home, 4215 W. 4100 South, with 15-year-old Larry Webb.

Sibbett said the two teens broke into the Acords' empty home and waited for the couple to return. Thayne Acord was a prominent Salt Lake businessman at the time and part owner of the Salt Lake Golden Eagles Hockey Club,

When he arrived home, the teens tied him up and waited for his wife to return. Lorraine Acord was tied up with her husband when she returned. Calhoun escorted Thayne Acord to a bank, where he was forced to withdraw $800.

When they returned to the Acord home, Calhoun tied the Acords up again, back-to-back in their basement. Calhoun then shot the couple twice each in the head at point blank range.

The medical examiner characterized the Acords' murder as execution-style killings, Sibbett said.

Lorraine Acord was found bound with handcuffs, Sibbett said. Calhoun however, said he never meant to kill the Acords.

"They startled me and I just shot them," Calhoun said. "I didn't mean to."

"How could they startle you, they were tied up?" Sibbett asked.

"I just grabbed the gun and pointed it at them," Calhoun replied.

"There's so much discrepancy between what he's saying and what is on record," Acord said later. "For him to say he didn't go there intending to hurt them is just false."

When asked why he stayed so long inside the house, Calhoun replied, "I don't know, I just wanted more money."

After arresting Calhoun and Webb 13 hours after the murder, police found about $1,000 in cash, a fur coat, jewelry and other items stolen from the Acords' residence.

"Don't let him out of this hell hole, if only for one reason — because we will never get out of ours," a tearful Tammy Acord told Sibbett.

Acord was one of nine family members who showed up on behalf of the slain victims. Several of Calhoun's family members who attended the hearing were also in tears during much of the proceedings. After Acord's stirring plea, Calhoun could barely contain his own emotions.

"There's nothing I can say that could ever bring them back," Calhoun said. "I'm sorry.

"I wish," Calhoun said before his words trailed off and gave way to sobs. "I'm sorry."

With that, Sibbett told Calhoun he was leaning to giving the convicted killer natural life in prison. That means Calhoun would die behind bars.

The five-member Board of Pardons is expected to decide within the next month whether to grant Calhoun more mercy. "I don't know if this lifetime is long enough to find that mercy," Sibbett said.

After the hearing, Calhoun sat in a small holding cell outside the hearing room, sobbing for several minutes.


E-mail: djensen@desnews.com