Experts recreate crime scene in 2012 death of Millard County Sheriff’s Deputy, Josie Fox
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Thursday was day 4 of the USA vs. Roman trial in Salt Lake City’s federal court, and jurors heard from scientific experts regarding the Jan. 5, 2010 shooting of Millard County Sheriff’s Deputy, Josie Fox.
Roberto Miramontes Roman, 44, is facing an 11 count federal indictment, which accuses him of shooting and killing Deputy Fox, as well as drug and firearms crimes. Roman was found not guilty of killing Deputy Fox in a 2012 State trial. Roman testified then that Ryan Greathouse, Deputy Fox’s brother, killed the deputy. Roman said he took the blame because Greathouse had threatened to harm or kill Roman’s family members if he didn’t. Greathouse was not there to defend himself at the 2012 trial. He died of a drug overdose in Las Vegas three months after Deputy Fox was killed. Citing reasonable doubt, the jury found Roman not guilty of the murder.
The first witness called to the stand by federal prosecutors Thursday was Utah Medical Examiner, Dr. Todd Gray. Dr. Gray conducted the autopsy on Deputy Fox and testified that two bullets struck her, and both entered and exited her body. One hit near her badge in the right chest area, the other, near her left collarbone. Bullet fragments were removed from the shoulder area, and the other slug was found inside the back panel of her bullet-resistant vest. Dr. Gray said either wound would’ve quickly been lethal, mostly due to rapid blood loss.
Next, the government called Greg Klees, a firearms examiner for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) who has served as an expert witness in crime scene recreations for many years.
Based on Dr. Gray’s autopsy, Klees created a mannequin of a torso the size of Deputy Fox’s. After pinpointing the entrance and exit wounds, Klees inserted trajectory rods through them, which provided an accurate account of how and where the bullets traveled.
Klees studied a videotaped confession Roman gave to Utah County Sheriff’s Lt. Matt Higley in the Beaver County Sheriff’s office, shortly after Roman and another man were arrested in a tool shed at a Beaver Trailer Park.
In that interview, Roman admitted to shooting Deputy Fox, and demonstrated several times how he positioned an AK-47 rifle, and fired in a rearward direction as the Deputy approached from the driver’s side window.
In recreating the crime scene in Delta, officers who were involved in the original investigation of Deputy Fox’s death, used precise measurements and diagrams to place Deputy Fox’s patrol vehicle and the 1995 gray Cadillac Roman was driving, in the exact spots where they were the night of the murder.
Klees had also noticed two smudge marks on the fabric headliner on the ceiling of the Cadillac. Those had not been noticed during the original investigation, but the car has been stored in a pristine evidence locker since the crime took place. Klees determined the smudge marks were left when two cartridges were ejected from the AK-47 and left grease marks on the headliner, before landing on the back seat.
During the recreation, an officer aimed the AK-47 from the driver’s side. The defense claims Greathouse fired the shots from the passenger side. In the recreation, an officer roughly the same size as Greathouse, 6’2”, aimed the rifle from the passenger side.
Klees made his determination based on all of the evidence, including the bullet trajectory patterns, the location of the smudge marks, how the bullets struck Deputy Fox, as well as photos and reports from the crime scene, and Roman’s demonstrative confession. Klees concluded that the shots were fired from the driver’s seat. Klees said a crouching person in the passenger seat might have been able to land one of the shots. However, Klees said to line up the other shot, the person in the passenger seat would have either shot the driver, or hit the post between the front and back side windows. Klees also testified that if shots were fired so close to the driver there would have been gunshot or gunpowder residue on the driver. None was ever reported.
The jury, judge and attorneys then went to the garage of the courthouse to look at the actual 1995 Cadillac Deville used in the shooting.
The defense then called its own expert witness. Michael Knox is a forensic consultant who owns his own company, and has also supplied expert testimony at numerous trials.
Knox focused on firing angles and the smudge marks on the Cadillac’s ceiling. Evidence shows the original smudge marks were above the driver’s side. He took the Cadillac and the AK-47 to a firing range and fired dozens of rounds, stating that his main goal was to see if, from the passenger’s side, he could fire the weapon out the driver’s side window. He also rotated the rifle in such a way that the casings would hit the ceiling and land in the back seat. Out of 36 shots fired, 13 landed in the back seat. In his final analysis, Knox determined there is too much uncertainty, too many unknowns, to eliminate any possibilities of how the shooting occurred, based on the Klees model.
In cross examination, federal prosecutor, Trina Higgins, asked Knox if he had considered all of the evidence in the case, or just the smudge marks and ejection patterns. Knox said his main task was to study ejection patterns from the AK 47, and whether the spent cartridges could land anywhere. Higgins also pointed out that Knox is eight inches shorter than Greathouse. When he conducted his tests, there was not a driver in the car, whereas the government tests used people roughly the same size as Greathouse and Roman, and had a person in the driver’s seat.
When asked by prosecutor Higgins, Knox said there is nothing in the evidence to show the shooting didn’t happen just as Roman said it did in his videotaped confession from 2010.
Defense attorney, Jeremy Delcino, then asked if any of the evidence would eliminate the possibility that someone in the passenger seat could’ve fired the shots. Knox said that none of the evidence would eliminate that possibility.
With that, the government rested its case. The defense will begin calling witnesses Friday, and one is expected to be Roman.