OGDEN — A Huntsville man will spend over a decade in prison after pleading guilty earlier this year to killing his stepfather in their home in 2017.
David Russell Erekson, 44, entered a plea of guilty but mentally ill to one count of first-degree felony murder in January. In return, one felony and two misdemeanor charges were dropped.
On Thursday, a district court judge ordered Erekson to serve an indeterminate term of 15 years to life in a Utah state prison. The sentence was that of a minimum mandatory that was stipulated in Erekson’s plea agreement, meaning the judge had little choice but to sentence the Huntsville man to the lengthy prison term.
Defense attorney James Retallick said this was a very sad case, as Erekson was evaluated by mental health professionals just days before his client attacked and killed 69-year-old Roger Haven in their Huntsville home. According to Erekson’s mother, he was diagnosed with severe hearing loss and schizophrenia.
“This case reflects badly on the mental health industry in the state of Utah,” Retallick said.
During a preliminary hearing that took place in August, Deputy Weber County Attorney Dean Saunders spelled out what took place the day of the murder.
The conflict began when Erekson started yelling at his mother and Haven because he thought that they took his cigarettes and his hearing aids, Saunders said.
Erekson’s mother called 911 shortly after he attacked Haven and began to beat him, Saunders said. The woman tried to break up the two, but couldn’t pull Erekson off of Haven. The call ended when a man’s voice asked who she was talking to. The next call came in minutes later.
The woman said she was punched and pushed to the ground by Erekson, and she had driven her car across the lawn and down the street before calling police once more, Saunders said.
Emergency responders arrived at the home and found Haven lying face down in a pool of blood, Saunders said. They tried to resuscitate him, but were unsuccessful. The medical responders then left the house until police could clear the home, Saunders said.
Both of the woman’s arms were broken during the attack along with bones in her face. She also suffered cuts to her face that required stitches. Though she survived, Haven was not so fortunate.
Haven suffered significant bruising to the whole left side of his head and his left eye was swollen shut, according to Dr. Pamela Ulmer, a forensic pathologist for the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner who performed Haven’s autopsy.
She also found a large stab wound in Haven’s back, which severed his aorta and caused rapid blood loss. The wound was consistent with a single-edge steak knife that was found in the kitchen sink.
Ulmer said the cause of death was both the stab wound to the torso and the blunt force trauma.
On Thursday, Erekson’s mother read a prepared letter and addressed the court. She said Erekson has had significant hearing loss since he was a child, and in recent years her son’s mental health deteriorated as his hearing began to get worse and worse. An industrial accident and infection accelerated his hearing loss and mental health issues, she said.
She said his issues led him to getting kicked out of his South Ogden apartment, and the only place he had to go was with her and Haven to live in their Huntsville home. Erekson would sometimes borrow his mother’s car, only to drive to other nearby homes thinking it was his own and causing conflicts with Huntsville homeowners.
She wished that local mental health services had more options for longer inpatient treatment. She also mentioned a story of Weber County Sheriff’s Office deputies making fun of her son on social media.
“They say it takes a village to raise a child, but sometimes the village lets the child down,” she said. “I too let David down sometimes in my personal life.”
Erekson’s father echoed many of the same concerns, saying he knows how overburdened local courts and mental health systems can be.
“I’m frustrated with the ways of our society,” he said. “There is nothing in place to deal with people like David.”
One of Haven’s children wrote a letter to the court that was read aloud by a court support staff member. The son, who was present in court but did not speak, wrote that his father made life more fun for everyone around him. The son wrote that Haven was planning to move to southern Utah to be closer to family the same week he was killed.
“My dad was afraid of you, my dad is gone because of you,” the son wrote. “You took my best friend and confidant.”
In a brief statement, Erekson told the court he was happy to have his case go forward and to receive treatment.
Erekson was given credit for time served, which consisted of the 658 days he has served in the Weber County Jail since his 2017 arrest.