FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- A schizophrenic man who holed himself up in the wilderness with a stolen assault rifle and killed a Utah sheriff's deputy during an around-the-clock manhunt was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years.
Scott Curley says he fired at Kane County Deputy Brian Harris in August 2010 because Harris ignored his demands to freeze. Prosecutors called it an ambush on Harris, who had been tracking Curley along the Arizona-Utah border after he broke into a childhood friend's home, stole the assault rifle and held a school custodian at gunpoint.
Curley saw the killing as a necessary move on the battlefield to protect the tri-force, which he relates to the Holy Trinity and appears in a video game, and himself from people he believed were vigilantes or bounty hunters that threatened to cut his mission short.
The delusional beliefs came up frequently in the case and had attorneys sparring over what spurred Curley's actions.
Coconino County Superior Court Judge Mark Moran said he believed it was necessary to balance Curley's crimes with his mental illness and diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. He rejected a suggestion from prosecutors that Curley never be let out of prison, a discouraging end for Harris' friends, family and colleagues who filled the courtroom.
"I am concerned about anybody that crosses him (Curley), no matter where he lives," said Harris' father, Bruce.
Moran gave Curley credit for 808 days served and also sentenced him to five years on a burglary charge and 7.5 years on an aggravated assault charge, which will run consecutive to the murder sentence. As Curley's family left the courthouse, they said "we hope he gets help."
Moran said Curley suffers from a sickness and disease that can hinder a person's ability to think rationally and clearly, and to act accordingly. And although it didn't excuse Curley's behavior, "it nonetheless explains why he did what he did," Moran said.
Curley stood before Moran earlier and said he couldn't be judged by those who didn't understand his thought process and asked to be heard out on his beliefs about protecting the tri-force and its relation to the seven seals in the book of Revelation from the Bible.
"When those men came after me, they took a risk and I chose to fight back," Curley said. "Man has a divine right to fight back."
Prosecutors have said that despite a mental illness, Curley exhibited a remarkable ability to plan out his crime spree and cover his tracks along the way. He had no respect for law enforcement, regard for society's rules or empathy for others, they said in trying to prove that he is a danger to society and would kill again if given the chance.
"Any chance of freedom for Scott Curley is a gamble taken with the lives of members of this community," prosecutor Jonathan Moser told Judge Moran.
The sentencing came on what would have been Harris' 20th wedding anniversary with his wife, Shawna. She sat in the front row of the courtroom with their two daughters, who are now 15 and 12 years old. She said she was thankful that no one else was hurt or killed but that she lost her best friend who was known for his service to others.
For the Kane County Sheriff's Office, Harris' death marked the first time one of its deputies was killed in the line of duty, said Sheriff Lamont Smith. He was disappointed in the sentence, knowing that the 25-year-old Curley could be out of prison in his 40s.
"I think we look at it as a sickness that's all for the professionals, and we don't understand that," Smith said. "I don't see his (Curley's) actions changing. I don't think there's any medication that can help him."
Curley was captured after a four-day manhunt and has consistently described the shooting.
A five-week trial had been scheduled to start Oct. 9. Curley avoided that and prosecution on 10 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor in another case by pleading guilty to murder, burglary, theft and aggravated assault charges in the deputy's case. Moran had ruled he was competent to stand trial.