HOLBROOK — Jason Michael Hill, having pled guilty to second degree murder in the 2016 death of Show Low Police Officer Darrin Reed, was sentenced on May 29 to 35 years in prison. The courtroom of Judge Dale P. Nielson of the Navajo County Superior Court was jam packed with law enforcement officials, including officers from Show Low Police, the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office, the Arizona State Gang Task Force, DPS, and the Game and Fish department.
Also present were Officer Reed’s widow and his children.
The sentencing hearing began late. Sitting at the defense table was his attorney, Navajo County Public Defender Mariclare Hannah and Hill, who was dressed in jail-striped shirt and orange jail-issue trousers; the clothing looked soiled. His hands and ankles were chained. He is mostly bald and it looked like he hadn’t shaved in a few days. Hannah stepped out of the courtroom briefly and returned with a box of tissues—they would be needed.
Prosecutor Lee White scurried around the courtroom putting final touches on her presentation which consisted of letters and statements from victims. They were read from the witness stand by surrogates.
Hill’s live witnesses included himself and his 18 year-old daughter Nicollette. She was the 15 year-old girl present in the infamous Days Inn hotel room with Reed’s killer, Daniel Erickson. She was also taken hostage by Erickson. Erickson was later killed in by police.
Nicolette stood by her father, tearfully saying from the witness stand that she wished people would be more open-minded, that her father is a “very good man.” She apologized to the Reed family and said that she is sorry for their loss.
Prosecutor White called Show Low Police Sergeant Shawn Roby to the stand, who read statements by Commander Jeff McNeil and Police Chief Joe Shelley, who responded to Day’s Inn with Reed on November 8, 2016. In his statement, McNeil bemoaned the influx of drugs and crime into the community which he said started about 15 years ago. McNeil said that “in time” he hopes to forgive Hill, who he said, picked up shooter Erickson and drove him away from the scene. He said that he “hopes every day in prison rips (Hill) to the core,” as Darrin Reed, and his family have been.
Roby also read a statement from Chief Joe Shelley who profusely thanked other area law enforcement agencies for their tireless assistance with this case, and fondly remembered Officer Reed as loving the Denver Broncos, enjoying his woodworking hobby, and noted that Reed was only four months away from retirement when he was murdered.
Then it was Hill’s turn. “I don’t hurt people,” he said, and apologized for his actions, and said that he prays for Reed every day. He claimed that he has been the victim of five attempts on his life, that it’s all in his “jail file.” Hill said that he is not a “horrible person,” that he was abused by his stepfather and became addicted to meth, a habit he kicked for 9 years, but started up again merely six weeks before the incident at Day’s Inn. Hill claimed he only went there to help Erickson move, and didn’t know Erickson was doing meth.
On that day, he heard the gunshots, Hill said, and picked up Erickson in a moment of “panic.” He said that Erickson then pointed his gun at Hill and his daughter, and told Hill that he would kill his daughter if the police came to where Erickson planned to hide. After dropping off Erickson and his hostage, Hill turned himself in to the probation office, but lied to the police about Erickson’s whereabouts, because Hill believed Erickson’s threat to his daughter, and because Hill had learned during his childhood trauma that the police “can’t be trusted.”
The prosecutor spoke next. White argued that Hill was not a victim of circumstances, that he had been selling meth “from Concho to Pinetop-Lakeside,” and it was Hill’s “greed” that was at the heart of this tragedy. That’s when Nicolette stormed out of the courtroom. White went on to remark that Hill’s story in court was the first time the prosecution had ever heard of some incidences Hill said happened (like Erickson pointing a gun at Hill and his daughter), that such things had not been raised in the many interviews her team had conducted over three years, and argued that Hill was lying and not remorseful at all.
Finally, the statement of Reed’s widow Cathy was read. She noted that she had been happily married to Officer Reed for 26 years, that the trauma and pain is “life shattering,” and “life changing.” She said that she can’t even describe what it’s like, but that it is “constantly there.”
Then came time for the sentence. The judge remarked that he doesn’t believe Hill was being honest in his statements to the court, that Reed’s family would never recover; therefore, he said, “a harsh sentence is deserved.” Judge Nielson proceeded to sentence Hill to 25 years on the murder charge, and once Hill has served that time, he will then begin to serve another 10 years on transporting dangerous drugs for sale. The judge then maxed out the sentences on the remaining two charges (10 and 15 years respectively) but those sentences will be satisfied by Hill serving 25 years on the murder charge, — concurrent sentences — and pay a $2,000 fine per the plea agreement.
Hill got credit for 932 days already served and if he behaves in prison, is eligible to have 15% of his time spent in “community supervision” instead of in prison. That means he could be out after about 27 and one-half years; when he is 64 years old.