December, 16 2017
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Youth is sentenced in killing of counselor
After an emotionally charged weeklong jury trial to decide his penalty, the actual sentencing of confessed murderer Robert Cameron Houston on Tuesday was short and so quiet it was almost subdued.
Houston, 18, admitted killing youth counselor Raechale Elton, 22, last year after the young woman gave Houston a ride from a Clearfield group home for troubled teens to a nearby independent living center during a ferocious snowstorm.
After raping Elton at knife point, Houston fatally stabbed her, and he said he also tried to break her neck and spine. He was charged with a capital crime, but because he was 17 at the time, the death penalty could not be a consideration.
Instead, a jury heard testimony and attorneys' arguments for five days in April and returned a verdict of life in prison without parole. (The only alternative was a term of 20 years to life with the possibility of parole).
Houston, dressed in a red jail jumpsuit and with a dusting of whiskers on his face, stared at the floor during most of Tuesday's sentencing before 2nd District Judge Glen Dawson.
His attorney, Rich Gallegos, said Houston chose not to comment.
The only speaker from Elton's family was her sister, Melissa Cox, who trembled and wept as she spoke of how her young daughter will never know how wonderful Elton was.
Cox lamented the fact that her slain sister will never marry and have children: "She'll never have that."
Cox praised the jury for its verdict, saying that putting Houston away will protect other families from the grief the Eltons have endured because he will not be free to kill again. "No mother or father will get that phone call at 3 a.m. saying your daughter has been the victim of a homicide." She said she wished Houston had thought about the Eltons for just a second and stopped whatever is wrong with him that leads him to hurt others.
Outside the courtroom, a few of Houston's relatives criticized the trouble youth offenders program for not providing better supervision and treatment. If the residential treatment program had worked as it should have, the crime could not have happened, they said.
"He was in a home because he was troubled. They were supposed to be protecting him from himself," said a woman who identified herself only as Mary, Houston's aunt. "It's certainly not our fault the system failed. We have lost someone, too."
Gallegos said outside the courtroom that in capital cases, an appeal of the sentence will automatically take place. However, because Houston admitted guilt as part of a plea bargain, he relinquished certain legal rights so his appeal options are limited.
"He does feel remorse," Gallegos said. "He does realize what he did and he wishes he could take that moment back, but in life there are no do-overs."
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