- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 11, 2016

DRAPER, Utah (AP) - Utah’s parole board will decide whether to release an imprisoned man who claimed for 20 years he was innocent, then said during a parole hearing he killed his wife.

Stephen Vargas, 60, said May 3 that he was mad and jealous when he used a hammer to hit Rebecca Vargas in the head in 1995, the Standard-Examiner reported (http://bit.ly/1VTFArf).

Utah Board of Pardons and Parole vice chairman Robert Yeates asked Vargas why he insisted he was innocent and put his family through a trial.

Vargas said he didn’t want to tell his daughters what he’d done.

“I was a coward and didn’t want to tell my daughters that I had killed their mother, to tell her family. I gave a lot of false hope to both sides . I don’t think anybody wanted it to be me. I didn’t have the guts, so I just shut up.”

He said he and his wife were discussing their upcoming divorce when he attacked her. She had started dating an Ogden police officer.

“I was pissed and jealous and embarrassed and mad . Everything went haywire in my head,” he said, according to an audio recording of the hearing. “I thought I struck her a couple of times but the autopsy said I hit her eight times. She couldn’t defend herself. I was a lot bigger and stronger.”

His two daughters were pre-teens when their mother was killed.

Madeline Dulebohn urged the board not to release her dad.

“I know the prison is overcrowded, you’ve been on your best behavior and you’re getting older,” she told Vargas. “But you do not deserve to breathe the air that our mom could have. You don’t deserve to walk amongst us. You chose our future long ago, but now is our time to fight for our freedom from you.”

Dulebohn also read a statement from her sister, Stevie Weaver.

“When I was 7, he told me if I looked like my mother he would kill me too,” Weaver wrote. “The thought of him scares me to this day.”

Vargas apologized.

Yeates says the board will make its decision within 30 days.

Rebecca Vargas’ mother told the Standard-Examiner that her daughter saw the older man as charming and sophisticated, but he was actually intimidating and controlling.

“I don’t think Stephen Vargas is capable of showing true remorse,” Sonja Rees told the board May 3. “He is excellent at smooth talking and telling people what he thinks they want to hear, and he manipulates them.”

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Information from: Standard-Examiner, http://www.standard.net

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