SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Phillip Lucero appeared to make dramatic changes while in prison.

A member of the Board of Pardons noticed his actions. It came during Tuesday’s parole hearing.

Lucero is serving up to 20 years for a manslaughter conviction in 2015. While he made an impression on the hearing officer, the victim’s family still saw him as a killer.

“This guy is in prison for murder, not manslaughter,” said Martiza Sigala, the victim’s sister. “He took a young man’s life before he could even enjoy life.”

In October 2012, her brother Valentine Sigala Jr. was shot and killed at a party in Glendale. It startled neighbors.

“This guy was going, ‘What, you’re going to shoot me? You going to shoot me?'” recalled the neighbor who spoke to ABC4. “And that’s when I heard a gunshot.”

When Salt Lake City Police arrived, Sigala was not at the home. His friends dropped him off at the hospital where he later died. Lucero walked into police headquarters and turned himself in.

In 2015, Lucero took a plea deal, pleading guilty to manslaughter, and was sent to prison for up to 20 years.

But after serving seven years in prison, Lucero is eligible for parole. He told the hearing officer with the Board of Pardons that Sigala jumped him from behind during a fight.

“Valentine comes from behind and hits me again from behind and as I was getting hit,” said Lucero. “That’s when I turned, not really turned, but shot in the direction of my attacker and that’s how I ended up striking Valentine.”

Lucero’s criminal past involved a 2008 conviction for aggravated assault. He served jail time after violating the terms of probation. He blamed his rough start in life on family issues and associating with gangs.

“They were friends from childhood and that’s how I grew up in a tough neighborhood,” he said. “That’s how I got involved.”

Since Lucero’s conviction, Sigala’s family has been angry with him and it continued Tuesday at the parole hearing.

“We had to settle for the very least, the bare minimum of justice,” said the sister. “But the pain never heals and my brother is never coming back.”

But while in prison, the hearing officer learned Lucero has taken the opportunity to become a model prisoner. He completed numerous self-help programs, causing the hearing officer to state that he’s never seen an inmate complete so many.

Lucero also earned his GED and a high school diploma. Lucero said he no longer associates with gang members in prison and no longer communicates with gang members who are on the outside.

Despite the animosity that still exists from that night in 2012, Lucero offered an olive branch to Sigala’s family.

“I’d like to apologize to the family for taking away their brother, their loved one,” he said. “There’s nothing I can do to take that back and for that, I’m deeply sorry. I apologize to them with all of my heart.”

His case is under review and it could take weeks before the Board of Pardons decides his future.