DRAPER — The man who killed BYU student Barbara Rocky in 1974 in Big Cottonwood Canyon will be released from prison just days short of serving the maximum five years for his manslaughter conviction.
Gerald Hicker, 59, confessed to shooting Rocky to death after the cold case was reopened due to newly discovered DNA evidence in 2007. The state Board of Pardons and Parole last week set his release date for Oct. 30, 2012, six days before his sentence expires.
At a parole hearing Nov. 2, Hicker told board member Curtis Garner that he suffers from terminal lymphoma, an illness he said stems from working "in defense of this country" on a nuclear submarine.
Asked to explain the crime, Hicker said, "Barbara was into devil worship at the time. She was naked and praying. I touched her and she grabbed for her gun. We fought over it and I ended up with it, and I fired six times."
He said he later tossed the gun into a trash bin in Orem. Prosecutors said Rocky was also raped, but Hicker, a suspect in multiple rapes in Provo and his native state of Washington, denied that.
At his sentencing in 3rd District Court in 2009, Hicker also mentioned devil worship but said he shot Rocky after she rejected his sexual advances. Rocky's sister said then that she believed Hicker's version of events was an "evasion of the truth."
However, the family asked for leniency, allowing Hicker to receive his relatively light sentence. They did not attend the parole hearing.
Hicker has had two heart attacks and a stroke and needs an oxygen tank 24 hours a day. One of his lawyers said at his sentencing he didn't think Hicker would live three more years.
Garner asked Hicker to address previous statements that he was "consumed with" and "fascinated by" firearms and liked to instruct women how to shoot.
"It was a hobby just like skiing or anything else is a hobby," Hicker said, adding he worked as a firearms instructor in Washington, where he hopes to return after his release.
He also apologized again to Rocky's family.
"I know it had a very devastating impact," Hicker said. "I'm very, very sorry for what happened. I wish I could change it but there's no way it can be changed. I realize how devastated their lives have been, and unfortunately there's nothing I can do to reverse it other than, I guess, live with it (and) try to better myself."