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I was in 'catatonic stupor' when I murdered my wife, Utah inmate says

William Hartnell Booty
William Hartnell Booty
Utah State Prison

UTAH STATE PRISON — William Hartnell Booty said his mental illness would cause him to go into a "catatonic stupor" during high stress situations.

Those episodes would cause him to lose consciousness and become "rigid." Booty said that's what happened on the day he murdered his wife, Melody Ann Booty.

"She had gone into my arm when I was reaching out to her," he attempted to explain during his recent parole hearing. "I wasn’t in control."

On July 23, 2000, Melody Booty was found on her bed in their apartment, 224 W. 500 South, with several layers of plastic wrap around her face and head. "It was evident that she had been dead for quite some time," court documents state. The cause of death was determined to be strangulation and asphyxia.

William Booty was found by police inside his car with a hose running to the exhaust pipe, parked in the parking lot of the Children's Museum.

But after he was charged, Booty's case became tied up in legal proceedings and attempts to restore his mental competency for 17 years. He was civilly committed to the Utah State Hospital in 2009.

By 2012, Booty's competency had been restored, but prosecutors noted he was still "very fragile" to the point that the stress of being returned to jail or a courtroom could cause him to be incompetent again, according to court documents. The latest sentencing report noted that Booty "would never be able to function on his own."

Last year, a plea deal was finally reached in the case. Booty pleaded guilty and mentally ill to an amended charge of manslaughter, a second-degree felony, and was sentenced to one to 15 years at the Utah State Prison.

On June 11, Booty, now 68, went before the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole for the first time.

Booty has been diagnosed as being schizophrenic. But in a recording of his hearing, he told board member Angela Micklos that he was "feeling good," and had not heard voices in his head for four years.

"I’ve managed to deal with the stress that I’ve had in the past over being mentally ill,” he said.

Booty also read a brief prepared statement saying he was no longer a danger to others now that he is on the right medication.

Booty spoke slowly, often with long pauses, in the nearly 50-minute hearing as Micklos asked him questions about the night he killed his wife and his so-called "catatonic stupors." He said when he falls into that state, he can hear things going on, but isn't really aware of what's happening.

On the night his wife was killed, Booty said he tried to talk to his wife about going to Alcoholic Anonymous, but became stressed when she ignored him. At that point, he claimed he lost consciousness several times, but had a feeling his wife was in his arms. Booty claimed while Melody Booty was in his arm, he went into a "catatonic stupor," his arm became rigid and she was strangled.

"When she was being strangled, I was grasping for consciousness. I wasn’t understanding what was happening or transpiring at that time,” he said.

At one point, Micklos asked Booty if he recognized that his story sounds a bit unbelievable.

"No ma’am, just telling you what I experienced,” he said.

Booty claimed after he realized his wife was dead, he tried committing suicide by putting the plastic wrap around his own head. When he didn't go through with it, he thought he should put Melody on her bed, but looking at her face would cause more stress, he said. He said he didn't want to pass out again, so he wrapped her face with the Saran-wrap like plastic.

When asked if he had gone over the most recent reports from two medical experts who had examined Booty, he said no because he cannot concentrate on reading for that long. He also said he has not talked to any of the prison's mental health staff members while he has been incarcerated.

"I’m feeling free of the stress that I’ve been through to where I don’t have any symptoms that would be necessary to talk to mental health,” he said.

Micklos said she would like Booty to find someone to go over his most recent medical reports before his next hearing before the board. She said during the next hearing, the board will also look at how much time Booty has actually served. As part of his plea deal, Booty agreed to waive his credit for time served during all those years he was in the forensic unit at the Utah State Hospital.

The full five-member board is expected to schedule a new parole hearing.