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Board grants parole for convicted Utah killer: ‘I will try to do anything to make up for what I did that day’

Razor wire and fencing at the Utah State Prison on Monday, Sept 14, 2020.
Razor wire and fencing at the Utah State Prison on Monday, Sept 14, 2020. The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole has granted a 2022 parole date to Carl Gary Wilcken, who has been in prison since 2001 for the murder of Cynthia Boggs in Cedar City.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Carl Gary Wilcken knows there were people in his life — mainly his family members — who tried to put him on the right path during his youth.

But Wilcken admits he was impulsive and wouldn’t listen to anybody when he was 16 and 17. And then he became addicted to methamphetamine.

“I think that I was somehow convinced that I knew better than them. Somehow convinced that the rules they taught me to follow for success, the very simple pieces of wisdom that they gave me to be be a good man and be successful, I just think I felt like there was a better way and I had it.

“And obviously it was destructive, it was selfish. It ended up in the end becoming murderous,” Wilcken said during his first parole hearing held March 23.

Wilcken’s wayward path culminated on Jan. 30, 2001, when he and Zachary Russell Beatty, then 17, shot and killed 36-year-old Cynthia K. Boggs, stole guns and drugs from her trailer before setting it on fire, and then dumped her body in a nearby field.

Wilcken has since taken full responsibility for his actions. And he says he has worked for the past 20 years to better himself while incarcerated.

The result is the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole recently granted Wilcken parole. He is scheduled to be released from prison on Feb. 1, 2022.

Wilcken was 18 in 2001 when he was charged with capital murder. He agreed to a plea deal that same year, pleading guilty to murder, and was sentenced to a term of five years to life in prison.

In a recording of his first parole hearing, Wilcken, now 38, was very polite and gave detailed answers to the questions asked by board member Greg Johnson.

Wilcken talked about how he didn’t want to be told what to do when he was a teenager, and didn’t want to be responsible for the consequences of his actions.

“And it was this downward spiral where I would make a mistake and lose everything, be angry and frustrated because I had lost everything, blame everyone else and then continue on down even darker paths and do even more outlandish, compulsive and sometimes crazy things,” he said.

Things only got worse once drugs were brought into the picture.

Wilcken said between his parents and grandparents, “I was raised by absolute giants.” That’s why it’s difficult for him when he speaks to youth groups and is asked what he would have done differently or who he would have listened to, to answer that question.

“It’s just such a difficult thing to imagine what it takes for someone who’s not listening to anybody, who would they listen to? Who would I have listened to? And all I know is I didn’t listen to some very amazing, very incredible people who did their best to try and help me at that time,” he told the parole board.

“I’d like to think this wasn’t inevitable. I’d like to think I could have been anything. I could have been successful. I could have went with all my peers and done the right thing and served in the military or been successful the way my parents wanted me to be successful by serving a mission or any of the things I wanted to do. I’d like to think my downfall wasn’t inevitable.”

But Wilcken said he got to a point where he felt like he couldn’t function without meth.

Boggs’ husband sold drugs from his trailer, he said. Whenever Wilcken would go there to purchase drugs, he said he would look around at all the items the man had.

“I think a big part of me wanted that for myself and was willing to take it in a way that was absolutely heinous and evil,” Wilcken said. “I think I just wanted to have what he had. I think I was just selfish enough, and dark enough, and dangerous enough to take it.”

That’s when he said he and Beatty came up with the plan to rob Boggs.

But Wilcken claimed he was a big talker at that time. And while he tried to convince Beatty, then 17, that they could become “big drug dealers” in Cedar City and “we could go from being losers to being ’The Man,’ or whatever crazy fantasies we had,” he had second thoughts in the days leading up to the robbery.

He said that created tension between him and Beatty.

“It was my plan, but I was apprehensive,” he said. “I didn’t know I could follow through with it ... and the fact was that I couldn’t.”

When the duo went to Boggs’ trailer that night, her husband wasn't there. That’s when the two came up with a plan to “ambush” Cynthia Boggs and kill her to “cover up our tracks.”

But Wilcken said he couldn’t do it, and the two ended driving past Boggs’ home a couple of times while discussing what to do.

“(Beatty) berated me for basically being full of it, for basically being a coward, for not putting my money where my mouth was. So by the time we pulled up to the house, I was already feeling apprehensive, I didn’t think I could do it. And I essentially at that point was going to try and sabotage it in some way and that was the way that I felt that I could possibly shut the whole thing down,” Wilcken said.

“I just didn’t think I had it in me to do that. I didn’t think I had it in me to just ambush and murder this woman.”

But Wilcken does not deny he was part of the murderous plot or that he was trying to do the right thing, “Because I was not,” he said.

“It was as bad as it looks, it was as bad as it reads,” he said. “It’s as bad as it reads, probably worse.”

When he realized Beatty was going to go through with the plan, Wilcken admitted, “I wanted him to do it. I wanted him to go through with it. ... I didn’t feel compelled to intervene. And a part of me wanted to see him do it.”

During their court hearings, both men accused the other of pulling the trigger and murdering Boggs. At his first parole hearing in 2016, Beatty told the board it was Wilcken who shot Boggs.

Moving Boggs’ body out of the trailer and then burning the trailer were impulsive actions after the shooting and weren’t planned, Wilcken said. He and Beatty actually had to drive back into town to get the materials to light the mobile home on fire.

Johnson then asked Wilcken what he would say to Boggs’ family today.

“That would be the most difficult conversation that I think that I could ever have. I would express to them that ...” Wilcken paused as he struggled to find his words. “That is a really tough question. I would express to them that I was horrified and ashamed of the way that I ended her life. I would say that if there was any way that I could trade places with her, I would do it.

“I would tell her that I understand their hatred of me, and their anguish and their sorrow, and I would express to them that I have lived in the shame and the pain and the horror of what I did. I would say there has never been a day since my arrest where I have taken lightly my actions that day, when I have disrespected her memory (and) violated the sacredness of who she was.”

Since the murder, Wilcken said he has used his shame as a way to “repattern” his life.

“I will try to do anything to make up for what I did that day, as impossible as that is,” he said. “I can’t make up for what I did. But with every day that I have and with every effort that I have, for the rest of my life I will commit to living in a way that expresses how much I regret what I did and how much her life meant and the value of who she was.”

Johnson noted that during Wilcken’s 20 years in prison, his discipline record is “very good.”

“I just put my head down and tried to, frantically almost, to do the things I hadn’t been doing before. And probably in the beginning (it was) a very selfish attempt to try and put the genie back in the bottle, try to undo all this horrible stuff that I felt I had woke up from when I was in county jail,” Wilcken admitted.

Wilcken said he has strived under the structure and pressure of the corrections system. Before learning he would be granted parole, he said his goal was to work with at-risk youth when he gets out to help them not follow the same path he did.

“I feel like my time in prison has prepared me for that type of work,” he said. “I have to do something that has some meaning. I have to do something that has some purpose.”

When he is released, Wilcken said his parents are ready to have him live in their home again.

“I feel like I should go back home and begin being the guy I was meant to be for them,” he said.

Beatty was also granted parole and is scheduled to be released in August.