Terry Richards has something else to be thankful for today: His daughter's killer will spend the rest of his life in prison.
"That made my day," Richards said Wednesday after finding out the news. "That makes me really, really happy."
It's been three years since his 17-year-old daughter, Jammie, was shot to death and then found near a church parking lot in Fielding, Box Elder County.
The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole decided Wednesday to keep Mark Steven Jensen, 42, in prison for life.
Jensen was sentenced to the Utah State Prison in 2003 to serve two 5-years-to-life terms after pleading guilty to murder and being convicted of an unrelated rape.
He killed Jammie Richards, to whom he supplied drugs, after he began to suspect her of being a police informant, Jensen told Board of Pardons and Parole chairman Don Blanchard during a hearing in early November. He said he didn't mean to kill Jensen; he only intended to scare her. He didn't really know what was going on anyway, he said, because he was using drugs.
He asked that a parole date be granted because he is locked up in maximum security housing in the prison's Uinta 4 unit.
"I'm back in max," he said. "I don't have anything positive in max."
Blanchard told Jensen he planned to recommend to the rest of the board that Jensen never get a parole date.
"The probability is clearly there . . . that the board may not schedule a rehearing in your case," Blanchard said.
"I totally understand that," Jensen said.
Terry Richards, who lives in Nevada, said he is relieved the board came to its decision to keep Jensen locked up. The past three years have been rough.
"Now I can rest a little better," he said. "I told the victim's advocate that if he got released I'd be at the gate waiting for him."
But he would still like to know what really happened that day in October 2002 when Jensen killed Jammie. It would bring closure to him, he said.
Box Elder County Attorney Amy Hugie prosecuted Jensen in 1st District Court. Jensen was originally charged with aggravated murder, which could have gotten him the death penalty if he had been convicted.
But in exchange for a guilty plea from Jensen, Hugie agreed to charge him with the lesser crime of murder, which eventually landed him in prison for life, as well as a separate case of rape, which had the same sentence. Jensen has also been convicted in Wyoming of the rape of a 6-year-old girl.
Earlier this month, Hugie said her office felt confident the Board of Pardons and Parole would keep Jensen in prison.
"I'm just glad to see the board decided the way they did," Hugie said Wednesday. "I'm pleased."