SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Elbert Paule claimed he’s no longer “that dumb guy.”
He described his past during a recent parole hearing at the Utah State prison.
Paule is serving one to 15 years in prison for obstruction of justice. A jury acquitted him of murdering Dominique Barnett.
He is now eligible for parole and is hoping to be released from prison. But Barnett’s family wanted him to serve a lot longer.
“I just don’t feel three years for the life of my son is long enough,” said Nina Magee, his mother. “I just don’t feel that that’s long enough time.”
It all began in February 2019 when shots rang out of an apartment in Orem. Police arrived and found Barnett dead from a shot-gun blast at point-blank range. The shooter was nowhere to be found.
Paule was later charged with the murder and with fleeing. He later turned himself in to police in California.
According to prosecutors, Barnett was with his fiance and their child when he confronted Paule about a drug deal.
Paule claimed it was self-defense and a jury believed him and found him not guilty of murder. But they found him guilty of lying during the trial and he was sentenced to prison for obstruction of justice.
At his recent parole hearing, Paule offered somewhat of an apology while explaining his actions.
“I’m sorry for how everything went,” Paule told the hearing officer. “Although everything was in self-defense, I still feel terrible about killing that man. And I just know how irresponsible it was for me to run back to California and for having a loaded firearm and throwing it off the balcony.”
During his parole hearing, Paule claimed he was a changed man and no longer that 20-year-old whose life was dominated by drugs and bravado.
“I kind of built this persona around me,” he said. “In a sense, I was portraying a character and along with that came … I decided to surround myself with not the best of characters.”
But also present at the hearing were family members of Barnett’s family including his one-time fiancee.
“It’s kind of hard,” said Pelalina Fusi. “My daughter was there. She was the only man she loved. But its not one life that was lost because these kids don’t have that kind of life with their father.”
By running after the shooting, Barnett’s mother claimed Paule prevented police from finding actual witnesses and hindered the investigation.
“I just feel like had he not done that those people maybe wouldn’t have taken off and kept their story to themselves and (they) probably gonna go to their grave with their story,” said Magee. “You know I have a dead son today because of that.”
Except for a minor blemish while in prison, Paule said he’s stayed out of trouble and working towards a degree in college once he gets out of prison.
But for Barnett’s family, they believe their son’s life is worth more than just three years.
“I have no closure,” said his mother. “Three years is not enough for me to have any closure. I still hurt. My heart is still broken.”
The board of pardons has yet to decide whether Paule will be granted parole or if he must continue serving time in prison.