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Pardons member still doesn’t believe Steven Thurman, who killed child with bomb in ’91

SHARE Pardons member still doesn’t believe Steven Thurman, who killed child with bomb in ’91

UTAH STATE PRISON — Steven Thurman says he didn't intend to kill 11-year-old Adam Cook when he planted a pipe bomb in a car in 1991.

He claims he didn't intend to kill or injure anyone. He only wanted to destroy the vehicle belonging to Howard Cook, Adam's father.

But nearly 20 years after the tragedy, neither Howard Cook nor Angela Micklos, a member of the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole, believe Thurman is telling the truth.

"You are the one who purposely detonated the bomb. I'd be hard-pressed to find anything else," Micklos told Thurman Tuesday. "I won't be recommending parole for you. My vote will likely be you serve the rest of your life in prison."

In 1991, Thurman planted a homemade pipe bomb designed to shoot out nails inside Howard Cook's vehicle because he was jealous that Cook was seeing his ex-wife. The bomb went off when Adam got inside the vehicle. The explosion lodged a battery behind the boy's eye. He died a week later.

Thurman originally pleaded guilty to capital murder, then the Utah Supreme Court ordered a new trial. He later pleaded guilty to murder and received a five-years-to-life sentence. His original parole hearing was in 1999.

During his parole hearing at the Utah State Prison Tuesday, Thurman showed little emotion as Howard Cook recalled seeing the black smoke coming out of his vehicle after the explosion, pulling his son out of the SUV and trying to stop him from clawing at his eye. He tearfully recalled trying to tell his son everything would be OK, when in fact it was the last time he ever saw him conscious. A week later, the family decided to pull him off life support and watched the color fade from his face and his hands turn cold.

The 20th anniversary of Adam's death is on May 23.

Over the past two decades, there have been questions about when Thurman planted the bomb in Howard Cook's vehicle, whether he detonated the bomb manually and whether he mistook Adam for the boy's father when he got into the vehicle.

Thurman claims he was out partying with friends late into the evening a couple of days before the tragedy and spotted Cook's vehicle. "I was just mad, and I was going to destroy his Land Cruiser," he said.

But after he placed the bomb in the backseat, which had a detonator that he held, Thurman said he changed his mind. "I realized actually how dangerous the situation was," he said.

But rather than going back to the vehicle and retrieving the bomb, Thurman drove home and called in a bomb threat to police the next morning. He said he was afraid of the bomb because "it was ready to go."

"I was thinking about going back and getting it ... but I couldn't do it," he said Tuesday.

When he called police the next morning to report that a bomb was in a vehicle parked in front of a bakery, he never said which vehicle. Police responded, but a bomb was never found.

Thurman's movements over the next 24 to 48 hours have been in dispute, as well as when the bomb was actually planted. It was a couple of days after these alleged events when Adam suffered his fatal injuries.

In an odd letter written by Thurman to the parole board, Thurman refers to using a bomb to kill people as "iffy at best," according to Micklos, and even cited Mark Hoffman. Micklos reminded Thurman that Hoffman killed two people with handmade bombs. Thurman also cited a USA Today article in his letter that did not mention bombs as a way of killing people.

"Why would you write that?" Micklos asked him.

"It's not the most efficient way," Thurman said about killing people with bombs. "Shooting is probably the best way."

Ultimately, Thurman said planting the bomb in the vehicle "was a bad idea. ... It was stupid."

"It was beyond stupid. That doesn't even begin to describe it," Micklos replied. She said she did not believe Thurman's claim that he did not intend to harm or kill Howard Cook.

"It just flies in the face of logic and all the evidence," she said. "It's beyond belief, really."

Even though he pleaded guilty, Micklos said she does not believe Thurman has yet taken responsibility for his actions — a sentiment shared by board members during his 1999 parole hearing.

Several members of Thurman's family as well as Cook's family were present during the hearing.

Howard Cook said he recently was camping in the Grand Canyon and had a great time with a couple and their family they had met there. After a while, Cook realized the man he was talking to was his son's childhood best friend.

"I cried. I couldn't help but think this could be my son," he said.

Cook said his family has had no choice but to move on. But the agony of what happened that day is still with them.

"He traded that possible death penalty for a life in prison," he told the parole board. "Now is not the time to release him."

Micklos will now take her notes and the case before the full five-member board, which will vote whether or not to set a parole date for Thurman.

Email: preavy@desnews.com, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam