Utah Boat Owner Sentenced in Swimmer’s Death

January 25, 2013

A Utah judge on Wednesday sentenced a powerboat owner to 2 1/2 years in jail in the death of a swimmer who was cut down by his boat and left to bleed in a reservoir.

Second District Judge Ernie Jones said Skyler Shepherd, 22, showed little remorse. Shepherd was convicted in December of reckless endangerment in the 2011 boat strike and failing to render aid to the victim, Esther Fujimoto, 49.

Fujimoto’s legs were sliced by the boat’s propeller, causing “horribly painful” wounds that led to her death, Utah Medical Examiner Todd Grey testified in December.

“What you did after this accident was callous, it was reckless and it was absolutely spineless,” Jones said Wednesday.

Fujimoto was swimming Aug. 21, 2011, at Pineview Reservoir east of Ogden when a witness said she let out a horrifying scream.

Shepherd, who was not driving the boat when it struck Fujimoto, told investigators he took the wheel to circle back. He said he believed the woman was uninjured but angry and took off.

Defense attorney Glen Neeley argued that his client had no idea what had happened that night and made a youthful mistake. Prosecutors argued the men had to have known they left the women critically injured.

Two other men aboard the boat are facing trial together in February. Colton Raines and Robert Cole Boyer are charged with reckless endangerment and failure to render aid. They have pleaded not guilty.

Fujimoto was a lab specialist and part of a University of Utah team that helped identify a breast cancer gene.

In response to her death, the Utah Legislature made leaving the scene of a boating accident a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Prosecutors were limited to misdemeanor charges for the Pineview Reservoir defendants.

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