Ogden man denied parole after kicking, killing mother's boyfriend in 2001

Thursday , July 14, 2016 - 5:06 PM

MARK SHENEFELT, Standard-Examiner Staff

DRAPER — An Ogden man who kicked his mother’s boyfriend to death in 2001 has been told he will spend at least four more years in Utah State Prison.

The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole ruled recently that Gordon Leon Walls, 43, must complete a residential substance abuse treatment program before he has another parole hearing in October 2020, board spokesman Greg Johnson said Tuesday.

At his hearing June 7, Walls retold the alcohol-sodden events of June 11, 2001, when he kicked Craig Tillet, 53, twice in the head to conclude a brawl in his mother’s Ogden apartment.

According to an audio recording of the hearing, Walls said he and Tillet were drinking beer and whiskey when Tillet and the woman began shouting at one another. 

“I told him, ‘Don’t get mad at my mom because she has another boyfriend,’” Walls said. “He pulled back to go to hit her, and I hooked his arm to stop him.”

Tillet was out on bail, having been charged with domestic violence against Walls’ mother. The three were still sharing the tiny apartment.

Walls said he tried to calm Tillet, “but I was just making it worse, so I started to leave, and that was when he hit me on the back of the head with an ashtray.”

The fatal kicks were delivered in the ensuing fight between the two men.

“I’m just sorry that it happened,” Walls told Angela Miklos, parole board chairwoman. “It was never my intention to hurt him. In a confrontation I reacted badly. I just reacted in anger. I kicked him hard, but I wasn’t trying to kill him.

“I just wanted to end the fight. Me and Craig got along at times. But I didn’t want him to be abusive toward my mom.”

Walls pleaded guilty to homicide and on Feb. 17, 2003, was sentenced by 2nd District Judge Pamela Heffernan to five years to life in prison. He later tried to withdraw his guilty plea, saying Weber County prosecutors “suckered me really good” to plead guilty. But the Utah Court of Appeals in 2004 rejected his appeal.

Walls has spent most of the last 13 years in maximum security and has not completed a residential substance abuse program. Coupled with his long history of using alcohol, methamphetamine and marijuana before Tillet’s death, his parole chances are damaged, Miklos said.

“When you kill someone when you are intoxicated, I can’t imagine any board member agreeing to release you until you have completed substance abuse treatment,” she said.

Johnson said the board urged the state department of corrections to consider moving Walls to a county jail where he could complete a residential program.

Miklos said Walls also must face up to his propensity to be violent when he drinks.

She asked Walls about two incidents that happened after leaving the apartment the night of Tillet’s death.

Walls, who was 28 at the time, said he was walking nearby when he asked a neighbor for a cigarette. The neighbor refused, and Walls allegedly slapped him.

Miklos asked what happened next, when Walls encountered an African-American man.

“I insulted his heritage,” Walls said, and she asked what happened next. “He explained to me not to insult his heritage.”

“He got the best of you?”

“Yes, I was pretty small back then, I weighed 133 pounds,” Walls said.

Walls admitted to drinking in prison.

“It’s really easy to get stuff in here,” he said.

“From our standpoint, we’re looking at what you have been able to do to reduce your risk, and it hasn’t been much,” Miklos told him.

“I’m sober now,” he said. “I don’t have a will to get high. I’ll probably always want to drink, but I’ll never do it again.”

You can reach reporter Mark Shenefelt at mshenefelt@standard.net or 801 625-4224. Follow him on Twitter at @mshenefelt and like him on Facebook

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