Monday, August 3, 2020

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Moab, UT

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    Man pleads guilty to double manslaughter

    Balls involved in deadly Feb. 9 pursuit that killed Moab pastor and child

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    Doug McMurdo
    Doug McMurdo
    Editor Doug McMurdo reports on news out of the Moab City Center, tourism, courts, change of government and more.

    The northern Utah man accused of killing two Moab residents in a downtown crash while fleeing from law enforcement late last winter could spend up to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of manslaughter Tuesday, June 30.

    Police and others survey the scene of a deadly crash in February
    Law enforcement and other emergency responders stand in a debris field on Main Street following a deadly crash Feb. 9. The man who caused the deaths of a Moab father and son pleaded guilty Tuesday. Photo by Carter Pape

    Benjamin Balls, 41, of Hyde Park in Cache County, was scheduled for a preliminary hearing but changed his plea to guilty. He faces up to 15 years apiece for the deaths of Vilsar Camey, 45, and Camey’s 10-year-old son, Israel on Feb. 9.

    Balls on that day was fleeing from law enforcement on Highway 191 south of Moab after reports came in of a man driving a late-model Chevrolet Silverado who was running people off the road.

    He was driving at a high rate of speed when he blew through the red light at Main and Center streets, blocks after a Utah Highway Patrol trooper stopped the pursuit. Pastor Vilsar Camey was making a left turn onto Main from Center when Balls crashed into his vehicle. He also struck a vehicle driven by Katherine Sawyer, causing her to go into early labor.

    While Balls agreed to have Seventh District Court Judge Don Torgerson sentence him on Tuesday, Grand County Chief Deputy Attorney Matt Brooks requested the Adult Probation and Parole Department to first conduct a presentence investigation into Balls’ criminal history and come back with a recommendation.

    Torgerson explained to Balls he faces from one to 15 years on the second-degree felony manslaughter charges and up to a year in the Grand County Jail on a count of attempted aggravated assault on Sawyer, a misdemeanor.

    He also told Balls he was not bound by the AP&P recommendation. The state agreed to drop four other charges in exchange for Balls’ guilty pleas. He will be sentenced Aug. 25.

    Torgerson initially set an earlier hearing date, but extended it to accommodate Camey’s widow, who is expected to deliver his child on Aug. 9.

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