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Parole denied to man who served 23 years in Montana prison

Parole denied to man who served 23 years in Montana prison

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The state Board of Pardons and Parole has determined that Robert Lee Sales will serve "natural life" in prison for a 1971 Weber County rape and murder.

Sales, 58, of Ogden, was convicted in the strangulation of Joann Poulsen, 19, and DNA evidence has pointed to him in the 1972 rape-murder of Roylene Alexander, 17, whose body was found in Davis County.

Following his 1974 conviction for Poulsen’s death, Sales was sent to Montana to serve a sentence for the kidnapping, rape and attempted murder of a woman in the Great Falls area.

Sales served 23 years in Montana before he was paroled in 1995 and sent to Utah to begin serving time for Poulsen’s murder.

Sales recently had a parole hearing, and the board decided he will never be paroled from the Utah State Prison.

Board Chairman Michael Sibbett said Sales was a “real, cold-hearted predator” who has shown no remorse and the crimes Sales already has been convicted of were “serious enough to vote to give him natural life.”

“I wish I could say there was one mitigating, redeeming factor — but there was none,” Sibbett said. “This board doesn’t give natural life on a whim. We don’t give it lightly. We agonize over it. But there are some people that should not leave the prison, and he’s one of them.”

That has left Davis County authorities uncertain whether to prosecute in the Alexander case. Sales had long been suspected in the slaying and recent DNA evidence has linked him to the murder.

“Our major concern is, are we going to accomplish anything at this juncture (by trying Sales)?” Davis County Attorney Melvin Wilson said this week.

Wilson said there are legal and evidentiary problems with trying a case that old.

In the early 1970s a “different statutory construction” was in place, especially about the death penalty, he said previously. A short-term death penalty moratorium that ended in 1977 may complicate that, Wilson said.

“Do you really want to go to the expense of trying a case of that magnitude with those kinds of problems, merely to be adding another conviction to the record?” Wilson said this week.

Davis County Sheriff’s Lt. Kevin Fielding said Alexander’s family “absolutely wants a resolution to the case.

“We need to pursue this,” Fielding said. “We’ve got the case resolved. We know who did it. To not prosecute it would be a shame. These people lost their daughter and someone needs to be accountable for it.”

Alexander’s body was found in June 1972.

Poulsen disappeared in August 1971 after a dance at Hill Air Force Base. A year later, Sales, hoping to claim a $1,000 reward, led officers to her body, which was locked in the trunk of her car, which was submerged in Pineview Reservoir. He claimed he had heard about the car from two strangers.

AP-WS-08-10-01 1255EDT

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