OGDEN — The story of one man with anger issues and two women trapped in a life of "serving wicked men" played out in a courtroom full of tears, anger and even compassion Monday.
Second District Judge Brent West sentenced Jacob Daniel Ethridge, 33, to two consecutive terms of 20 years to life in the Utah State Prison. Ethridge fatally shot two Ogden prostitutes, Teresa Tingey and Rosanna Marie Cruz, on July 12, 2008, in separate encounters. He turned himself in to police hours later.
"I know there is something good inside of you, there has to be," James Parks, Tingey's brother, told Ethridge. "I want to look at you right in the face; … welcome to the first day of the rest of your life."
After the hearing, Parks said he traveled from north central Oregon to witness the sentencing and to speak to his sister's killer. He said he sensed there was some goodness in Ethridge despite the brutal nature of the murders.
"I can see it in his eyes," he said. "Every human being has it no matter how nasty they are."
The mother of Rosanna Marie Cruz was not so forgiving.
"I hope you never have a good day the rest of your life," Lillie Mae Torres wrote in a letter read to Ethridge by a victim's advocate. "My God says I should forgive you, but I cannot."
Torres described how she was expecting her daughter to come home for a visit that same month she died, but instead she arrived in a box of ashes to be buried.
"I can't say her name without crying," the letter said, with the mother of the murder victim adding that only a penalty of death would constitute justice in the case. That option, however, was off the table Monday because Ethridge had previously pleaded guilty to the murders as charged, with his defense attorneys stipulating to the consecutive prison terms.
The nearly daylong sentencing hearing was dominated by testimony from dueling forensic psychologists who dissected the role anti-depressants Ethridge did or did not take may have had — or not had — in his crimes.
The same forensic psychologist who testified that Elizabeth Smart's kidnapper was mentally ill took the stand to dispute that anti-depressants were the sole factor in the double murder.
Dr. Stephen Golding said an array of psychotropic medications prescribed to Ethridge could not be blamed as the singular the reason he shot the two women, but rather a combination of factors more likely was at play. Years of alcohol abuse, coupled with Ethridge's personality, had influence as well as a string of anger issues dating back years, Golding said. Golding was a key witness for the defense during Brian David Mitchell's federal trial that ended with Mitchell's conviction this past Friday.
Prosecutors described how Ethridge was discharged from the Marines and later drummed out of a Weber County academy for correctional officers because he said he could not wait to "beat up inmates."
That, stressed Weber County deputy attorney Bill Daines, was more likely a factor in the shootings.
"The bottom line is he is aggressive all the time," Daines said.
Golding's testimony was in large measure to refute that of another forensic psychologist who said there is a clear link between violent criminal behavior and the discontinuation of psychotropic drugs.
Dr. Ronald P. Houston said people who abruptly stop taking those drugs often suffer from a host of extremely negative side effects, including suicidal thoughts, aggressive behavior and "homicidal ideation." Those side effects can be manifest as paranoia and depersonalization, devolving into "internal restlessness," he said.
"Many patients describe it as crawling out of their skin. It's nasty," he said.
Despite exhibiting agitation, however, Ethridge was calm, polite and accommodating during interaction with Ogden police the day of the murders, according to testimony.
Officer John Thomas said Ethridge asked for a cigarette and was escorted to a secure area behind the station.
"The only time he showed any emotion is when he was talking about his kids. … He talked liked we were two guys out having a smoke on a Sunday afternoon."
Houston countered that Ethridge could easily have been in a "depersonalization" stage in which a person disconnects.
"It's feeling detached," he said. "As if watching a video. Life becomes like a dream state."