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Utah parole board reconsidering sex offender’s release after hearing from victims

Mar 5, 2024, 8:20 PM | Updated: 8:42 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah’s parole board is reconsidering its decision to release a convicted sex offender after hearing from survivors who want him to stay behind bars.

“I have been failed,” Cami Johnson said during a hearing on Monday for her ex-husband, Byron Thad Haderlie.

More than two dozen people – many wearing white sweatshirts – packed the parole board hearing room to show their support for Johnson and another victim who asked to only be identified by her first name, Paige.

The special victim impact hearing marked an effort by the parole board to make things right after it granted Haderlie’s parole without input from the victims, who say they received no notification of a January parole hearing.

Cami Johnson hugs a family member at a parole board hearing for her ex-husband, Byron Thad Haderlie. (Josh Szymanik, KSL-TV)

Cami Johnson hugs a family member at a parole board hearing for her ex-husband, Byron Thad Haderlie. (Josh Szymanik, KSL-TV)

The Board of Pardons and Parole has publicly promised in reporting by the KSL Investigators to improve how it communicates with victims. And a bill recently passed by the Utah Legislature could help, but that progress hasn’t come soon enough for the survivors in Haderlie’s cases.

Background

Johnson reported to police in Cache County in 2017 that Haderlie drugged and raped her. Despite Johnson reporting to police quickly and undergoing a forensic exam at the hospital, failures by police to properly investigate her case left Haderlie free.

More than a year later, Paige, a 16-year-old at the time, reported to police in a different county that Haderlie drugged and attempted to sexually assault her too.

Haderlie was sentenced in the case involving Paige in 2019. Then, in October last year, he was sentenced to zero to 15 years for lesser charges he pleaded guilty to in the case involving Johnson.

Convicted sex offender Byron Thad Haderlie, 53, speaks at a victim impact hearing held by Utah's Board of Pardons and Parole on March 5, 2024. (Josh Szymanik, KSL-TV)

Convicted sex offender Byron Thad Haderlie, 53, speaks at a victim impact hearing held by Utah’s Board of Pardons and Parole on March 5, 2024. (Josh Szymanik, KSL-TV)

But within three months, Johnson learned Utah’s parole board had granted Haderlie’s release, set for February 2025, without input from the victims. The letter the board mailed to notify Johnson about Haderlie’s January hearing was returned to sender.

During the original hearing that lasted just over 15 minutes, Haderlie said he’s changed during the time he’s been incarcerated, and “would like an opportunity to be able to, to get back out into society.”

Victim Impact Hearing

During Monday’s hearing, Paige detailed years of abuse and violence at the hands of Haderlie, stressing that what happened to her was not the result of a one-time mistake.

“To this day, I often wonder how many times he actually violated me,” she said.

She said she now lives with diagnosed PTSD and has struggled with suicidal thoughts.

“I almost did not complete high school,” she said tearfully. “I almost walked away from my dream of being an athlete because of the physical and mental trauma that this man has put me through.”

Johnson urged the hearing officer to consider the many people who took time off work and traveled to attend the hearing in support of the victims. Among the crowd was Haderlie’s own mother.

“I want those to please raise their hand that is sitting here because they are a victim of Thad Haderlie, whether it is physical, financial, mental, or sexual. Please just raise your hand,” Johnson asked Monday, as several people put their hands in the air.

More than two dozen people packed a parole board hearing room on March 5, 2024, to support survivors asking Utah's parole board to keep Byron Thad Haderlie incarcerated. (Josh Szymanik, KSL-TV)

More than two dozen people packed a parole board hearing room on March 5, 2024, to support survivors asking Utah’s parole board to keep Byron Thad Haderlie incarcerated. (Josh Szymanik, KSL-TV)

“I have felt so let down from day one with my case. It took me over six years to get to sentencing,” Johnson continued. “We all deserve to be protected and safe from him.”

Paige’s mother also spoke along with Johnson and Haderlie’s son. Both urged the board to keep Haderlie in prison longer.

Haderlie did not show emotion during the hearing, but did make a brief statement in response.

“I apologize again and have taken full responsibility and accountability and want to continue to move forward,” he said.

The parole board is now reconsidering Haderlie’s parole and is expected to release its decision in writing in the coming weeks. The board could keep Haderlie incarcerated for as long as 15 years. Its jurisdiction over him expires in March 2039.

Victim Notifications

Utah’s Board of Pardons and Parole has promised to improve its victim notification services by creating a victim-centered notification system that is currently in the works.

During the recent legislative session, Utah lawmakers passed a bill that will allow the board to use modern communication methods like email to notify victims of hearings, rather than mailing letters.

Jennifer Yim, Administrative Director of Utah’s Board of Pardons and Parole, has said many victims do not wish to be notified. And because of protections in place for victims’ information, the board sometimes has a difficult time getting in touch with those who do. She said she is committed to working on a system that honors the preferences of each individual survivor.

“I hope they really do do better,” said Johnson. “I feel like in the year 2024, it’s absolutely unacceptable to not notify a victim.”

Until the new victim notification system is up and running, Yim said the best thing a victim who wants to participate in parole hearings can do is call or write to the board and let them know their preferences for when and how the board contacts them.

The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole can be reached at 801-261-6464.

This report is part of a series examining how apparent gaps at every level of Utah’s criminal justice system fail to protect Utahns.

If you have experienced sexual violence, you can access help and resources by calling Utah’s 24-hour Sexual Violence Helpline at 1-888-421-1100. You can also call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 for free, confidential counseling.

Have you experienced something you think just isn’t right? The KSL Investigators want to help. Submit your tip at investigates@ksl.com or 385-707-6153 so we can get working for you.

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Utah parole board reconsidering sex offender’s release after hearing from victims