Husband of wife who survived attack: ‘She was the hero that night’


PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Utah) –  Hayley Peterson fought to stay alive. She didn’t want her children to be motherless.

Peterson spoke publicly for the first time after surviving a brutal attack during a home invasion at their Orem home last year.  Her 4-year-old daughter was also physically attacked that night.

Rodolfo Villalobos pleaded guilty to the crime and Friday was sentenced to prison.

Prior to sentencing, Peterson addressed the court, telling the judge that she and her daughter are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder from the events that night.

“I am grateful to be alive,” she told the judge.  “While he was attacking me I thought I was going to be murdered.  I fought like hell for my life.  I had to live to protect my children.”

Her children were in the home but their father was not. He was on duty. Steve Peterson is an officer with Unified Police Department.  He said it was the hardest call he ever had to take.  His neighbor called him with the news.

“She was hysterical,” Peterson said.  “I didn’t even recognize who she was.”

He eventually learned his wife and daughter were brutally attacked in their Orem home.

 “This was the kind of call that I dreaded to ever hear,” he said.  “In the last 8 months, my life has been turned upside down.”

Hayley Peterson said Villalobos destroyed their lives and it will be difficult to return to normal.  In fact, she said she and her children couldn’t return to the home after the attack and the family moved out.  After living months with her parents, they now have a new home.  But the events of that night still haunt her.

“I am terrified to be in my own house again,” she said, “I am trying very hard to get that back.”

She said she suffered head injuries and three fractures to her eye.  Peterson said when she looks into the mirror she is not the same person.  But she told the judge that pales to her failure.

“The hardest part is my failure,” she said.  “I failed to protect my kids.”

Villalobos apologized for his actions and was willing to accept any punishment handed down.  His attorney and family pleaded for jail time plus probation.

His attorney, Neil Skousen said prison would not be in the best interest of Villalobos if the goal is to rehabilitate.

“We can’t change what happened on that fateful night but what we can do it to make sure it never ever happens again so the Petersons don’t have to go through this again,” Skousen told the judge.  “He’s done good things until drugs took hold.”

But Judge James Taylor said Villalobos’ crime is not jail worthy.

“This was a very heinous and serious crime,” the judge said. “This is how we respond as a community to this kind of crime.”

He sentenced Villalobos to 5 years to life in prison for the aggravated burglary.  He also sentenced him to two terms of one year to fifteen years in prison for the attacks on Peterson and her daughter.  He also said the sentences related to the attacks will run consecutively to the aggravated burglary charge.

Afterward, Steve Peterson who also requested the maximum sentence said his family did achieve justice.  But he also walked away knowing that his wife still regrets not being able to protect her children.

“It was extremely heartbreaking to hear that,” Peterson said.  “That was probably the hardest thing today is to hear that.  But by no means did she fail to protect anybody.  She was truly the hero that night.”

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