OGDEN — A North Ogden man found guilty of a murder charge will spend more than a decade behind bars after being sentenced Monday morning.
Dalton James Aiken, 28, was sentenced to a term of 16 years to life in prison in connection with the shooting death of Brian Racine in 2018. Racine was sleeping at a transient camp when he was shot once in the head, killing him. His body was found hours later on Aug. 16, 2018.
Aiken, one of two men charged in connection with the murder, was found guilty by a jury in June of one count of murder, a first-degree felony, and one count of possession of a firearm by a restricted person, a third-degree felony. The jury also found that Aiken used a dangerous weapon in commission of the crime, which added an extra mandatory year to his prison term, according to court records.
On Monday, Aiken was present alongside his attorneys, Rand Lunceford and Ryan Bushell. Lunceford briefly addressed the court, asking for concurrent sentences on the two charges and reminding the court of Aiken’s limited criminal history.
Later, a victim advocate read two letters from family members of Racine. In a letter from Christine Myers, Racine’s mother, she wrote about the struggles she personally went through since the death of her son.
“I will never be the same or feel whole again,” she wrote. “A part of me is missing and I can’t get it back.”
Myers wrote that her son loved life and lived it to the fullest, though he had his own personal issues. She also said that Racine will never be able to see his two daughters grow up, and they will live their lives without their father.
“I’ll never get to hug my boy again,” she wrote. “I miss his smile and his laugh.”
Racine’s brother, Matthew Short, wrote that his younger brother was a young man trying to find himself. Since Racine’s death, Short wrote that his life has been flipped upside down.
“I’ve had long sleepless nights, thinking how could two men be so cruel in taking my brother’s life for no reason,” he wrote.
Deputy Weber County Attorney Dee Smith said the case is troubling for a number of reasons. He said that with most cases, a motive is clear. In this case, it appeared that the two men “wanted to kill a homeless guy.”
Aiken, who testified during his trial, addressed the court once more. He apologized for the pain that Racine’s family has endured.
“I didn’t know anything like that was going to happen,” Aiken said. “I didn’t say the truth when I should have. I’m sorry to my family and everyone hurt by actions that night.”
Lunceford said after the hearing that ever since he’s been on the case, which has been nearing a full year, that Aiken has been “extremely remorseful” for what happened that night.
Judge Camille Neider rebuffed Aiken’s claim of ignorance about what events would take place that night, maybe not every detail, but she added the jury made a just decision.
“It was clear to me from trial that you certainly knew what was going on,” Neider said.
Outside of the courtroom, Aiken’s father, Kelly Aiken said that once the trials for Aiken and the other defendant, Cory Fitzwater, were separated, the case would be unfairly skewed against his son.
“I don’t feel, and I’ll go to my grave knowing that he would not know what was going to happen that night, nor did he conspire to be part of it,” Kelly Aiken said.
He added that prosecutors do a “tremendous job at distorting the case.”
“I was supposed to testify (during the trial), and I was not allowed to. The prosecution dictates everything that goes on in a courtroom, which in my opinion, in a country I love, is not fair and not right.”
Kelly Aiken went on to say that he believes the murder was committed by Fitzwater, and the killing was a post-traumatic stress-related episode, adding that Fitzwater had served in the military and has seen a number of horrors in war.
Dalton Aiken is planning on appealing his case to a higher court, according to Lunceford and Bushell. During the hearing, he was assigned to a public defender for the appeals process.
Bushell said afterward that there were a number of aspects the defense hoped to get into during the trial, but were unable to do so. Aiken’s father, for example, was slated to testify before the court ruled that a story Kelly Aiken was supposed to share fell into the category of hearsay, and thus could not be used as fact during the trial.
“This is a tough one, because there’s just so many variables we didn’t get to go into because they separated the trial,” Bushell said. “This is a tough case.”
Fitzwater, the other man charged in connection with Racine’s murder, has his trial scheduled to begin on Nov. 6 in Ogden’s 2nd District Court. His next court appearance is scheduled to take place on Wednesday for an oral arguments hearing.
Aiken was being held without bail at the Weber County Jail, and he will be transferred to the custody of the Utah Department of Corrections to begin his prison term.