DRAPER — An Ogden man who beat his wife to death with a hammer and a lantern won’t get another parole hearing until May 2026, the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole has decided.
Stephen Vargas, 60, appeared before the board May 3, finally confessing to the murder of Rebecca Vargas, 27, on Dec. 27, 1995, after 20 years of claiming innocence. This week, the board decided Vargas will have another hearing in 10 years when he is 70 years old, board staff member Corrin Rausch said Friday.
Relatives of Rebecca Vargas are happy the man was not given a parole date.
“Our family is so relieved,” said Raelyn Groskreutz, Rebecca Vargas’s sister.
Sonja Rees of Roy, Rebecca Vargas’s mother, said the board’s decision is a victory for her two granddaughters, who were small children when their mother was killed.
“Now they can really establish their lives for another 10 years and not worry about their dad showing up,” Rees said.
Relatives on both sides of the family testified they feared for their safety if Vargas is ever paroled. His younger daughter, Stevie Weaver, wrote to the board in a prepared statement, “When I was 7, he told me if I looked like my mother he would kill me too. The thought of him scares me to this day.”
Madeline Dulebon, 28, the older sister, told Vargas at the hearing, “You do not deserve to breathe the air that our mom could have. You don’t deserve to walk amongst us. You chose our future long ago, but now is our time to fight for our freedom from you.”
The Vargases were splitting up after nine years of marriage and Rebecca was dating an Ogden police officer when Stephen Vargas attacked her with a hammer outside an Ogden apartment, Vargas admitted at his hearing. Weber County prosecutors said Vargas returned to the scene several hours later and, finding his wife still alive, administered another beating with a lantern, prosecutors said.
During his jury trial in 1996, testimony showed Vargas had repeatedly threatened to kill his wife if she left him, and he once bragged he could get away with murder while referring to the O.J. Simpson case.
“His statement about the O.J. case, he didn’t think this is the way it would turn out,” Rees said. “It just shows how arrogant he was at that time. It was a surprise that he did confess, but if he had any chance at parole now, he had to own up to what he had done.”
Rees praised the parole board for its decision and said her granddaughters’ statements were powerful. The girls effectively were orphaned, she said, their mother dead and their father sentenced to 5 years to life in prison.
“Justice really is served,” Rees said. “We’ve seen that twice now, with the jury and at the parole hearing.”