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Judge, family weigh mercy and justice for man who killed stranger

SHARE Judge, family weigh mercy and justice for man who killed stranger

SALT LAKE CITY — A rift has been left in Michael Workman's family.

Since the 25-year-old was killed in August 2012, relatives have wondered what would happen to the man who repeatedly stabbed him in a fight in a Holladay church parking lot and left him for dead.

On Friday, Workman's parents asked for mercy for 20-year-old Talon Hamann, who was found guilty of second-degree felony manslaughter, in hopes that a second life will not be essentially lost in this tragedy. But his sister believes Hamann, a stranger who stabbed Workman eight times during a three-on-one fight, should spend as much time as possible in prison.

Hamann, who wept as Workman's relatives spoke, was calm as he addressed the judge and apologized to the family before his sentence was handed down. He said he was prepared to accept the consequences.

"I know I'm going to prison," Hamann said. "I accept that because I took someone's life."

Hanging his head and with his long red hair cut shorter than in his 18-year-old mugshot, a remorseful Hamann said the words he had tried to prepare now seemed insufficient.

"I'm sorry, but it's never enough. I don't know what else to say," he concluded.

Hamann was sentenced to serve up to 25 years in Utah State Prison. In addition to the one-to-15-year sentence for manslaughter, he was sentenced to two zero-to-five-year terms for obstruction of justice and tampering with a witness. Third District Judge Deno Himonas ordered the sentences to be served consecutively.

The sentence, Himonas said, hinged on Hamann's actions following the attack, when he came down from the drugs and alcohol that had fueled his rage. Workman's body was found hours later, stabbed eight times, as Hamann disposed of his knife and bloody clothes and attempted to construct an alibi.

"You left a young man to bleed out. No one bothered to call police," Himonas said. "You left him there and tried to cover it up."

The two other men involved in the attack — Austin Scott Taylor and Ryan Gordon Curtz, 21 and 18 at the time — pleaded guilty to obstructing justice, a second-degree felony, and assault, a class A misdemeanor, in October 2012.

Taylor and Curtz were later given three years’ probation and credit for their time served, 41 days each compared to the 763 that Hamann has served so far, Hamann's attorney, Heidi Buchi, noted Friday.

Buchi argued that, comparatively, probation would be appropriate for Hamann as well. The request, however, did not come from Hamann, she noted.

Taylor's probation, however, was revoked earlier this year for several violations and he was sent to prison for one to 15 years, court records indicate.

Hamann's stepfather spoke briefly as the young man's family left the courtroom, quietly consoling one another.

"He knows what he got today," Gerrin McClister said. "He took responsibility for what's done."

Robert Workman, Michael Workman's father, described his son as young and kind, a man who since childhood always looked for ways to help others. He recalled the final conversation he had with his son before he went out to meet his friends for frisbee golf on the night he died, grateful for the chance to talk about the plans Michael Workman was making for his future.

Despite his sorrow, Robert Workman said he did not want to be Hamann's judge.

"I'm a religious man, we're a religious family, and we believe God doesn't want anyone to be lost," Robert Workman told Himonas. "It's up to you to decide if he can be put back in as a meaningful member of society."

Kimberly Hoenie, Michael Workman's sister, disagreed with her father as she described the anger she now lives with and her frustration with a legal system that sometimes allows people to "get off."

"(Hamann) took something precious from our family. He has ruined our family, as far as I'm concerned," she said.

The family has especially struggled with accusations made during the trial that the fight broke out because Michael Workman had accosted a young female friend of his three attackers, both Robert Workman and Hoenie noted.

"He has never been one to disrespect a young woman," Robert Workman asserted Friday.

Hoenie requested that her brother's picture hang in Hamann's cell, a daily reminder of "what a good person Mike was." As Hamann left the courtroom, he said he was willing to take a photo with him to prison.

Prosecutor Chou Chou Collins proposed that Hamann can use his prison sentence to finish school and participate in other programs. Himonas urged the 20-year-old to continue with the steps toward rehabilitation he has already taken.

"You've done a lot," Himonas said. "You're a young man, you have a lot to look forward to in your life."

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com, Twitter: McKenzieRomero