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Ogden jury convicts Army veteran in 2018 fatal shooting of sleeping homeless man

By Mark Shenefelt - | Feb 18, 2022

MATT HERP, Standard-Examiner file photo

Cory Fitzwater makes his way into the courtroom for a preliminary hearing for himself and Dalton Aiken on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018, at Ogden's 2nd District Court.

OGDEN — An eight-member jury on Friday found Cory Fitzwater guilty of murder in the 2018 shooting death of a homeless man who was ambushed while sleeping in his wooded camp.

Jurors deliberated for several hours Wednesday afternoon and evening and for two hours more on Friday morning before returning the verdict against the 38-year-old Ogden man. Brian Racine, 28, was shot through the head with a .45 caliber handgun in the early morning hours of Aug. 16, 2018.

Prosecutors said Fitzwater and co-defendant Dalton Aiken were intent on injuring or killing homeless people as they crept through a thicket near Ogden’s 21st Street Pond to reach the camp, where a dying fire flickered. In their respective trial defenses, both men denied animus toward homeless people.

Fitzwater, an Army veteran of combat in Afghanistan, stood impassively in a dark suit as a court clerk read the verdict. Defense attorney Peter Goodall briefly put his arm around Fitzwater and patted him on the shoulder. As 2nd District Judge Camille Neider thanked the jury and instructed its members on protocols for leaving the courthouse and completing their service, Fitzwater sat gazing in the direction of the jurors.

Fitzwater now faces an indeterminate sentence of 15 years to life in prison on the first-degree murder charge, sentencing date to be set later.

Image supplied, ABC4

In this image from video taken Friday, Feb. 18, 2022, Cory Fitzwater stands with his attorney during his trial for the murder of Brian Racine in 2018. Fitzwater was found guilty by jurors in the homeless man's death.

Jurors also convicted him of second-degree felony obstructing justice and third-degree felony use of a firearm by a restricted person. The jury further found him guilty of two counts of witness tampering, a third-degree felony, for bribing two Weber County Jail inmates to tell police that they heard Aiken admitting that he shot Racine.

A jury convicted Aiken in 2019 of murder in the case. He is serving a prison sentence of 16 years to life.

In closing arguments Wednesday, prosecutor Branden Miles of the Weber County Attorney’s Office described Fitzwater as the leader of the excursion into the woods on the night of the slaying. He told jurors that Aiken is “not bright,” contending that’s why Aiken several times changed his story about the incident as police interrogations continued.

“Who does it make more sense leading them through the woods?” Miles asked. “The dimwitted electrician or the Army combat veteran? Who’s been scheming to try to get out of this case from the beginning? Cory Fitzwater. He’s the man with the plan here.”

Miles referred to the two defendants’ history of going out to “drive around, drink and shoot things.” On the night of Racine’s shooting, he said the pair “quietly crept through the trees to approach Brian Racine without waking him.”

MATT HERP, Standard-Examiner file photo

Cory Fitzwater makes his way into the courtroom for a preliminary hearing for himself and Dalton Aiken on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018, at Ogden's 2nd District Court.

He said Fitzwater “picked the victim, at 2:30 in the morning to have a life-affirming conversation with a sleeping homeless man on the ground.”

Fitzwater’s attorneys argued during the trial that their client was a gregarious person who only wanted to talk to Racine but that Aiken suddenly shot the man. They also said Fitzwater suffered from post traumatic stress disorder from his military service and ran away when he heard the gunshot.

In their respective cases, Fitzwater and Aiken blamed each other, claiming to have seen their friend shoot Racine. In her instructions to the jury at the start of the two-week trial, Neider said Fitzwater could be convicted of murder for shooting Racine or alternatively for aiding and abetting in the crime.


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