UTAH STATE PRISON — At 8 a.m. on a Saturday, police notified Julia Aguilar that her husband had been ambushed by burglars and brutally murdered in the kitchen of the downtown Salt Lake restaurant where he worked.
"It was painful, but it wasn't as painful as 6 o'clock the same day when the children were waiting at the window when Daddy's about to come home and they didn't know," Julia Aguilar recalled on Tuesday.
"I got them together and said, 'Daddy had an accident. He won't be coming home,' " she said. "I cannot even tell you the pain that I felt."
On March 3, 1990, Victor Aguilar was stabbed five times in the back with a 12-inch-long knife, savagely stomped on and then had his throat slashed by Thomas E. Noffsinger, a former co-worker who had broken into Marie Callender's with another man to steal money from a safe.
At his parole hearing Tuesday, Noffsinger listened as Aguilar's widow and one of his four children, Liz Aguilar, described their lives since their husband and father was killed. Noffsinger, 42, also faced questions from a member of the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole about his involvement in the May 1989 disappearance of 38-year-old Annette Hill, an unsolved case in which Noffsinger is considered a "person of interest" by police.
Liz Aguilar was 8 years old when her father was killed. It was an event that led her to suffer vivid nightmares throughout her life, she said, "dreams that are so real that I still to this day have to fight the terror that paralyzes me in the depth of my being."
Now 28, Liz Aguilar said she has forgiven Noffsinger for taking her father from her. And because of the experience, she said she has become "a much stronger daughter, a woman and a mother."
"I am ambitious and I am hard working and trying to live up to the man my father was," she told Noffsinger, who began to cry during her testimony.
"I may be a better woman because of your actions, but I never want to walk the same streets with you," she added. "You don't deserve the freedom you wish granted upon you."
Liz Aguilar called on the parole board to honor her family's wish that Noffsinger, who pleaded guilty to capital murder with a promise from prosecutors not to seek the death penalty, never be released from prison.
"Take into consideration that Tom exchanged the death sentence for life in prison and that's what he should get — life without parole," she said. "We shouldn't have to be here today or ever again."
During her testimony, Liz Aguilar also alluded to her family's belief — one that is shared by law enforcement and others — that her father's death is not the only one Noffsinger is responsible for.
"Tom, you have other victims that lie in graves dug by you, other blood that stains your soul, victims for which you have no remorse," she said. "You do, however, feel a sense of entitlement; that the world owes you something. How wrong you are, you little sad man."
After hearing from the Aguilar family, parole board member Clark Harms questioned Noffsinger briefly about his possible involvement in Hill's disappearance. The Sandy woman's purse, which had blood on it, was discovered in an apartment Noffsinger had been evicted from shortly before Aguilar was killed, Harms said. Police also found a prescription bottle with Hill's name on it in Noffsinger's medicine chest at the apartment where he was living alone when he was arrested for the Marie Callender's murder.
Noffsinger said he didn't know Hill, that he'd never met her. He said he stole her purse from a car he'd burglarized. He probably searched the purse for anything he could use, like the prescription drugs, and then abandoned the purse when he was evicted, he said.
"That explanation, even though it's the same one you gave 20 years ago, seems incredulous to me," Harms said.
When asked by Harms why the board should consider releasing him from prison, Noffsinger said he has become "someone who by no means would ever do anything even remotely like I did back in 1990 in the taking of Victor's life."
"I feel that if given a chance for parole, I would once again become a trustworthy member of society," he said. "I have no doubt that I could succeed back out in society."
Harms, however, warned Noffsinger that he may never leave prison.
"I recognize everything you've done since you came to prison to try to change," Harms said. "But I also recognize that … you brutally killed a co-worker and a person who you knew, and who you knew had four little children at home, from what I see as a selfish means to try to get away with stealing some money."
Jill Candland, who investigated Aguilar's slaying when she worked for the Salt Lake Police Department, attended Tuesday's hearing to show support for the Aguilar and Hill families. She told the Deseret News she doesn't believe Hill's disappearance will ever be solved.
"He hasn't softened up. His heart is still as hard and as cold as it was 20 years ago," Candland said of Noffsinger. "He'll never tell this family where she is."
Sandy Police Lt. Kevin Thacker said Noffsinger remains a person of interest in Hill's disappearance, but the case is considered an "inactive, cold case." "Unless new information comes up, there's nowhere we can go with it," he said.
Candland said the fact that Noffsinger is even being considered for parole offends her.
"It's offensive to the families," she said. "Tom should never see the light of day. Ever. He's vicious."
Contributing: Pat Reavy
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org TWITTER: GeoffLiesik