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‘Alpha male’ defendant gets consecutive sentences in Ogden homeless camp murder

By Mark Shenefelt - | Apr 15, 2022

MATT HERP, Standard-Examiner file photo

Cory Fitzwater sits alongside his attorney, Jonathan Hanks, during a preliminary hearing Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018, at Ogden's 2nd District Court.

OGDEN — Judge Camille Neider on Friday sentenced Army veteran Cory Fitzwater to consecutive prison terms for the 2018 fatal shooting of a man in a homeless camp, saying he took advantage of a “band of lost boys” in planning the ambush killing and trying to cover up his role.

“Your manipulation of the system and your betrayal of your oath to protect and defend, which you had and which you still carry, is monumental,” the judge told Fitzwater.

Fitzwater, now 38, and Dalton Aiken, 27, were convicted in separate trials of creeping into Brian Racine’s secluded camp in the early morning hours of Aug. 16, 2018. Wooded areas surrounding the 21st Street Pond were known as a haven for homeless people. Prosecutors alleged Fitzwater was a savvy Afghanistan combat veteran who brought a younger, less confident Aiken along with him to find a victim.

On the first-degree murder charge, Neider sentenced Fitzwater to the statutorily required 15 years to life in prison, plus a 16th minimum year for having a gun during the crime. She ordered concurrent sentences on charges of obstructing justice and use of a firearm by a restricted person. But on two counts of third-degree felony witness tampering, the judge ordered that those penalties of up to five years in prison be served consecutively to the murder sentence.

She reviewed for Fitzwater “this band of lost boys that you took advantage of,” starting with Aiken and later including two inmates in the Weber County Jail whom he convinced to claim that they had heard Aiken bragging about shooting Racine.

“I was very stricken by the influence that you exerted over all of them,” Neider said.

She also denounced Fitzwater’s claim that after the shooting — he and Aiken blamed one another in their respective trials for pulling the trigger — he suffered a bout of PTSD and amnesia and initially could not remember what happened.

“For you to use your military service as an excuse,” Neider said, “is offensive to this court.”

Prosecutor James Swink of the Weber County Attorney’s Office said Fitzwater “was the alpha male” who has continued to minimize his involvement and blame others.

He contrasted Fitzwater’s and Aiken’s statements to presentence investigators in their respective cases. He said Fitzwater expressed no remorse, only saying he was “sorry he was in (Racine’s) camp” and “there were a lot of what-ifs.” Aiken, however, expressed remorse, said he was sorry for lying to police when he was arrested and that he knew he should not have “mixed guns, alcohol and weed.”

Defense attorney Randall Richards urged Neider to run all sentences concurrently to recognize Fitzwater’s “sterling career in the military.” He said Fitzwater suffered a permanent traumatic brain injury by “getting blown up several times” by improvised bombs while on convoy patrols.

A victim’s advocate read a letter from Racine’s mother. She said the 28-year-old Racine was “shot in the head for no reason.” She told Fitzwater, “You are evil and show no remorse.” Racine also left behind two young daughters and a brother.

Before the sentencing, Richards asked Neider to “arrest judgment” in the case on grounds of alleged prosecutorial misconduct and other issues. He alleged that prosecutors intentionally withheld video evidence of an early interaction Fitzwater had with police. Prosecutors responded that Richards had agreed to deletion of a series of video passages. After arguments, Neider denied Richards’ motion.

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