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Michael Schnell, special to the Daily Herald 

Kelton Ballzly nears the end of a pull at the Salem Days Tractor Pull on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, at the Rodeo Arena in Salem. Kelton pulls in the 4500 class, and he has been doing so since he was 12 years old. Tractors are split into classes based on their power and how much weight they can pull, and they pull until the wheels spin or the tractor stalls from the weight. 


Crime-and-courts
featured
Authorities keep searching for bodies of Orem mother, son after boyfriend admits to murder

The day after a Smithfield man admitted to murdering his girlfriend and her son almost four years ago, authorities announced they are still searching for the missing bodies.

At a press conference on Wednesday morning, officials with the Utah County Attorney’s Office, the Orem Police Department and the FBI shared further details about the ongoing investigation.

“At this point, we have still not recovered the bodies of Gabe and Emily,” said Orem police chief Gary Giles. “We will not stop looking for them. We are going to find them someday. I hope that is sooner than later, but we will not give up.”

He explained that when Emily Almiron, 23, and her 3-year-old son, Gabriel, were reported missing on Sept. 12, 2015, investigators never believed she had simply run away.

“We have known from very early on that there was something wrong,” Giles said. “It was very frustrating for a very long time when we did know something was wrong and we were trying to piece it all together.”

Years of looking for answers came to an end on Tuesday when Christopher Poulson, 30, pleaded guilty to killing his girlfriend, 23-year-old Emily Almiron, and her 3-year-old son, Gabriel.

In exchange for a plea agreement, Poulson agreed to tell investigators what happened and reveal where he buried the bodies.

During the press conference, Almiron’s mother Brenda Marsh became emotional as she stated she has forgiven Poulson and holds no animosity against him.

“We want him to do what is necessary to obtain forgiveness and peace from God,” she said in a statement. “We are grateful for his confession and his willingness to help in the recovery of Emily and Gabe’s remains.”

She thanked members of the Poulson family who showed love and concern to her family during the court proceedings.

Marsh also expressed gratitude for those involved in the ongoing investigation, including officers, prosecutors and staff members who “spent days in the hot desert” searching for the bodies.

“These good people have cried with us, mourned with us, laughed with us, celebrated with us, prayed for us, and sacrificed for us,” Marsh said.

Through a translator, Gabriel’s grandmother Maria Almiron also thanked the police department and FBI agents who searched for the missing mother and child.

If the bodies are not recovered soon, Utah County deputy attorney Lance Bastian said he may ask public volunteers to help locate the bodies.

“Right now, we want to keep the area where we are looking as pristine as possible so when we send out dogs and trained individuals searching that nothing has been disturbed,” he said. “But at some point, we might be asking for a larger effort.”

According to court documents, Poulson was babysitting Gabriel on the evening of Sept. 8, 2015 while Almiron attended school.

At some point, Poulson severely injured the child. Instead of seeking medical attention, he put the boy to bed. No details were released about the nature of the injury or the incident.

When Almiron arrived home, she reportedly also went to bed. In the morning when Poulson checked on Gabriel, he found the boy had died and “at that point, he panicked,” prosecutors said.

He then took a handgun and shot Almiron while she slept. No further details were released about what occurred after the killings.

Prosecutors said Poulson was drinking alcohol and using meth while he was babysitting.

“As a police department, this has been a case that has affected a lot of our officers,” Giles said. “This has been a stressful case. It’s been an emotional case.”

When questioned by investigators, Poulson said he and Almiron broke up on Sept. 8 and she had left their apartment with her son in a red Toyota Prius.

Investigators discovered after that night, Almiron missed shifts at work, classes at the Utah College of Massage Therapy and a child custody exchange with her ex-husband.

She also had not contacted family members or friends, although her mother and one of her friends told investigators they had received odd text messages from Almiron’s phone number on Sept. 10 and 11.

The last transaction from her bank account was at a McDonald’s in Orem on the day of the reported break-up.

Her vehicle was later found abandoned in St. George with many belongings still inside, including a child’s car seat.

When investigators searched the apartment where Poulson continued to live, they found Almiron’s belongings like shoes, toys, makeup and a guitar and amplifier were still there, according to charges.

Police searched Poulson’s phone history and found he reportedly bought a shovel and work gloves and traveled to a rural area near Payson the day after the disappearance.

He also sold his vehicle soon afterward and police later found evidence of human remains in the trunk.

“Soon after being confronted with all of this evidence, defendant offered no explanations for his clear involvement and almost immediately moved to Hawaii,” charges state.

Police arrested Poulson in Hawaii and extradited him to Utah in 2017.

The sentencing is set for Sept. 26 at the 4th District Courthouse in Provo.


Govt-and-politics
featured
Spanish Fork, Payson vote to increase property tax revenue

Spanish Fork and Payson both voted this week to increase property tax revenue — Spanish Fork to plan for a library, and Payson for a new phone system and branding.

Spanish Fork

Spanish Fork City Council voted Tuesday night to increase its property tax rate over last year’s enough to bring in an additional $180,000 per year to help pay to plan a new city library, which is expected to cost approximately $12 to $14 million.

The main cost of the library is expected to be paid for through a bond, said Kent Clark, Spanish Fork’s finance director, in a presentation to the City Council before the vote. The $180,000 in additional property tax revenue for this year and the following two years would help with planning.

The new library is expected to be built across the street from Spanish Fork’s existing library, next to the city office building on Main Street. A proposed timeline shows the library’s construction complete in 2022.

The new tax rate is estimated to increase budgeted revenue by 15.23% above last year’s property tax budgeted revenue, not including new growth. That means a median home in Spanish fork valued at $293,000 would increase from $138.59 to $159.70, or about $21 per year. Spanish Fork makes up about 9% of total property tax collected on a home, with the vast majority going to the school district.

In 2018, Spanish Fork “held” the tax rate, meaning they kept the rate the same rather than letting it automatically adjust down to collect the same amount of revenue. The extra $150,000 per year from holding that rate is going toward a new fire station, which is planned to be completed in 2020.

Payson

Payson City Council voted Wednesday to increase its property tax budgeted revenue excluding new growth by about 10% over last year’s. That comes out to $16.21 per year on an average residence valued at $254,000, taking Payson’s portion of a person’s yearly property tax from $161.49 to $177.70.

Payson’s portion of a person’s property tax is about 11% of the total amount someone pays in property tax. The majority of a property tax bill can be attributed to the school district.

The city’s revenue will increase by about $130,000 per year. For this budget year, $80,000 of that money will go to a new phone system, and $50,000 will go toward city branding.

Payson councilman Doug Welton said there have been complaints of people not being able to reach anyone through the city phone system. That’s frustrating for callers, Welton said, and an important service to have functioning in the city. Welton also said the branding is exciting and overdue.