McFarland gets life without possibility of parole
MANTI—Logan McFarland, 29, the man who murdered a Mt. Pleasant couple five years ago, apparently during a botched attempt to get money for drugs, will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.
According to Sanpete County Attorney Brody Keisel, who has been caught up in the complexities of prosecuting the case for all of those five years, that’s exactly what the family of LeRoy and Dorthea Fullwood wanted.
Last Wednesday, Jan. 25, after the prosecution and defense struck a plea agreement, McFarland pleaded guilty to two charges of aggravated murder.
After entering his plea before 6th District Judge Marvin Bagley, McFarland waived his right to have sentencing delayed. Bagley promptly sentenced him to two consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole.
During the hearing, Michael Fullwood, youngest child of the victims, spoke on behalf of the family. “There are two types of people in this world,” Fullwood said. “There are people like my parents, who were givers—they gave a lot to the community, in service to the military, their God, their country and other locals. And then there are takers. Mr. McFarland took their lives and took something from this family.
“As of today, he will take no more from this family,” he said. “He will no longer be in our thoughts or our conversations. All we will take with us from this courtroom are the memories of our parents, what they were to us, how great they were and what family they left behind.”
“Two back-to-back life sentences may seem pointless,” Keisel said, “but it’s really symbolic.”
The county attorney said the two sentences were the maximum possible punishment the judge could hand down while still honoring the plea agreement.
Even a sentence as serious as two terms of life in prison without parole may seem inadequate to some in comparison to the death penalty Keisel originally sought, but it is in line with the victims’ wishes, and the interest of justice, Keisel said in an interview.
Keisel said that although he filed a notice with the court that he was seeking the death penalty on McFarland, the guilty pleas and consecutive life sentences were his ultimate goal.
“I wasn’t bluffing; I am pro-death penalty,” Keisel said. “Given the current state of the law, I support it. I am willing to seek it here [in Sanpete County], and I want it to be available on the table.
But, he added, “after talking with the family, they concluded the death penalty was too good for McFarland,” Keisel said. “They saw it as an easy way out, and they wanted him [McFarland] to sit in a prison cell and think about how he took the lives of two very fine people for every day of the rest of his life.”
If the death penalty had never been on the table, Keisel explained, McFarland and his defense counsel would have had nothing to lose by dragging out the case as long as possible with delays and ultimately a jury trial.
Without the death penalty on the table for McFarland, Keisel said the case had the potential to waste thousands of dollars of taxpayer money, while forcing the victims’ family to stay emotionally invested in the resolution of a tragic situation they wanted to forget.
“Was it a form of leverage? Absolutely,” Keisel said. “But I would have pursued the death penalty until the end if that had been what the family of the victims had wanted. Ultimately, in this case, they did not.”
The county attorney cited another murder case in Utah in which the defendant was sentenced to death. The case started in 1994. Only recently, state appeals have been exhausted and the case is moving on to the federal appeals process.
“McFarland’s plea avoids, under, under our present legal system, perhaps two additional decades of appeals,” Keisel said. “We hope the plea will close a difficult chapter.”
During the proceedings, besides answering direct questions from Judge Bagley, McFarland remained silent. One of McFarland’s attorneys, Ryan Stout, defended his client’s lack of a statement to the family.
“He did specifically say he had been thinking quite a bit about what he could say once this day came, and he ran through various statements in his mind,” Stout said. “But he didn’t feel like he could say anything to the victims’ family without it sounding like it was ringing on hollow words.”
But McFarland’s silence didn’t go over well with Fullwood, who, as he was leaving the courthouse, was heard saying, “I think the fact that he refused to acknowledge us, or provide a statement, speaks to his character and also speaks to the actions he did.
But Fullwood added, “Now we can start forgetting him and move on as a family.”
Under the plea agreement, besides the death penalty being changed to life in prison, four felonies were dismissed—two counts of aggravated robbery, once count of burglary and one count of theft.
In addition, Judge Bagley ordered that neither the defendant nor any of his family or relatives may profit from the crimes.
Keisel said McFarland has a 30-day window during which he could technically withdraw his guilty plea on the basis it was not entered willingly and knowingly. But the chance of that happening was slim.
Sanpete County charges are still pending against Angela Atwood, the woman who was with McFarland following the murders and who accompanied him to Nevada where they committed other crimes.
Charges are also pending against Sanpete County residents who knew something about events the night of the Fullwood murders and who could have been called as witnesses if McFarland had gone to trial.
All of those McFarland associates will have to answer in some way for their crimes, Keisel said.
“Ultimately, we will all meet our maker. Perhaps true justice will only occur then. As for now, hopefully, the victims can, to the extent possible, move forward living their lives in a way pleasing to their parents’ memory. Hopefully, we as citizens recognize and cherish putting our arms around our loved ones, not knowing if another day will come because horrible, tragic events unexpectedly happen—even here in our valley.”