SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – Spencer Cater claimed he just wanted to fit in.
It was February of 2009 when Cater was part of a West Valley gang. But police and prosecutors claimed he was more than just an observer. They said Cater was the one who convinced a 14-year old to pull the trigger on Jo Jo Brandstatt.
Brandstatt’s body was found at a golf course in West Valley. At the time, police said his murder was an “execution-style” killing.
After a decade in prison, Cater claimed to be a “changed man” and is seeking parole.
“There are people out there that don’t think twice about taking somebody’s life,” said Brandstatt’s mother, Erika Fernandez.
And that was the image Cater offered after his arrest.
Brandstadt was wearing a rival gang’s colors when he was summoned to meet several people at the golf course.
In 2009, his mother denied her son was a gang member. Fernandez said he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
She spoke at a vigil for her son in 2009.
“I can still feel it with everything inside of me,” she said. “I can feel it. Every day I can feel it. They don’t understand the life that they took. They don’t understand how precious he was.”
Cater was acquitted of murdering Brandstatt, but a jury found him guilty of aggravated kidnapping and robbery.
Several other teens were convicted for crimes related to Brandstatt murder, including 14-year-old Antonie Farani, the triggerman. He remains in prison.
“It was a relief, a huge burden taken off of me and I just feel like I can let it go,” said Fernandez after they were all sent to prison.
For the past decade, Cater has been in prison, carrying out a 10-years-to-life sentence.
He is now eligible for parole and recently appeared before a member of the board of pardons.
“I understand everything I did was wrong,” Cater told the hearing officer.
It would be the closest he came to an apology. He never spoke about what happened on the golf course that day.
But he blamed his actions on peer pressure.
“I was young when I came out here,” Cater said. “And I was actually lost, you know, and I really just wanted to fit in.”
Cater said the gang lifestyle became his home. Those involved were his friends.
“I already experienced that lifestyle before,” he said. “Over time it just became for lack of a better term, an addiction.”
Cater said he no longer associates with anyone from his past. Through classes, he has learned to control his anger.
Other than two minor violations, the hearing officer noted that he had stayed out of trouble while in prison.
And for that reason, he was recently granted parole. He will be released in November.