SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — A complaint against the State of Utah claims that the state and various correctional facilities have “inappropriately” released violent offenders and then failed to monitor them, thus resulting in tragic consequences.

“All of this was avoidable,” said attorney Robert B. Sykes.

The complaint states that the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole was created to determine when and under what conditions certain individuals convicted and serving time in prison are eligible to be released early on probation or parole. The Utah Adult Probation and Parole is then responsible for supervising these individuals and their granted probation or parole.

On March 31, 2015, former Governor Gary R. Herbert signed HB 348 into law, making changes to the sentencing, credit for time served, parole requirements as well as creating an earned time credit-based program for individuals charged with certain drug and other non-violent crimes.

The Justice Reinvestment Initiative was created as a result of the bill being signed into law. This program was designed to reduce the time nonviolent, low-risk individuals have to serve in jails.

The complaint states that this program by the Justice Reinvestment Initiative was not designed for violent offenders but is being used for them anyways.

“The government, the corrections department, its agencies and its divisions allowed violent people to be paroled that should never have been paroled,” Sykes said.

As a result of these early paroles and lack of proper monitoring, the law firm says that these offenders were given the opportunity to run free and do whatever they’d like.

“There were several murders as a result of this,” Sykes explained. “Many injuries, a fire, brutal beatings took place.”

There are six plaintiffs listed on the complaint, all of whom dealt with serious injury and/or death inflicted by an individual released on parole or probation.

Plaintiff Amanda Wood is the daughter of Linda Nemelka, who was shot and killed by James Dekota Brunson and Anika Celeste Thorpe in March 2020. Both Brunson and Thorpe were granted parole by UBPP with the knowledge that AP&P would not be able to properly supervise the individuals, according to the complaint.

Marjorie Charles-Scott is another plaintiff whose daughter, Shandon Nicole Scott, was found in a car on I-80 after she had been shot multiple times in 2021. Shandon Scott’s boyfriend, Terence Vos, was charged with aggravated murder. He was previously released from prison on parole in early 2020.

Cindy and Chris Miller are representing their daughter who was kidnapped at knifepoint before being forced to the home of Creed Lujan where he drugged, raped and sexually assaulted her multiple times. The complaint says that Lujan was known to be a violent offender and should have been subject to strict parole by AP&P after he was released early by UBPP in 2016. 

The fourth plaintiff is Wilfredo Robles and Sandra Cecilia Moguel, the father and mother of Sandra Fiorella Robles, who was strangled and killed by her coworker Daniel Padilla Ang in his basement apartment. Padilla was allowed out of prison on early release in 2021. The complaints say that Padilla was placed on an ankle monitor but that AP&P did not use the monitor and failed to contact him once he was released.

Kimberlie Dixon is the daughter of Farrell Bartschi who was shot and killed on his morning walk by Noel Munoz Lopez. Lopez was allowed early release in 2021, and the complaint states that UBPP knew that Lopez would not be properly monitored by AP&P but released him anyways.

Bartschi lived down the street from Lopez’s sister. The siblings had a fight in the evening on October 3rd, 2021, and Lopez returned to the home with a gun the next morning. Bartschi was shot three times, for no reason, and killed, the complaint reads.

The final group of plaintiffs includes Bethany Schmucker, Clarence Newman, and Herman Schmuker. In July 2022, Ammon Jacob Woodhead broke into Bethany and Clarence’s home, assaulted the couple, and set their home ablaze. Schmucker’s father, Herman, also lived in the home.

Woodhead was released early from prison in 2016 by UBPP with the knowledge that he would not be properly supervised by AP&P upon his release, says the complaint.

Sykes says he expects more people to come forward with their own stories now that the complaint has been filed.

“I just hope that the state will make it so this never happens to anyone ever again,” Clarence Newman said. “That somebody that was on parole was able to come out, enjoy his freedom and try and do this to someone else ’cause it’s a day I’ll never forget.”