Haught Denied Early Probation Release

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Roy George Haught will not be released from probation eight months early as he had hoped.

Last Wednesday, Nov. 6, Graham County Judge Douglas Holt rejected the Star Valley businessman’s request for early termination of his four-year probation two years of which had been served prior to Haught’s sentencing July 12 of last year.

“Actually, he’s been a model probationer,” said Gila County Attorney Daisy Flores, who prosecuted the case. “But the court decided he needed to finish out the term of his probation.”

Haught, the owner of Roy Haught Excavating, was freed from jail last Dec. 23 after serving five months of a 12-month work-release sentence for his involvement in the 1997 beating death of Strawberry mechanic James Cooper.

His probation is due to expire July 12, 2003.

Haught and his attorney, Art Lloyd, had requested the termination last month in a Payson courtroom.

Vanessa Beckham, James Cooper’s stepdaughter, said this week she was glad that Haught must serve the rest of his original probation sentence.

“We do wish that other things in this case could have worked out better for us, but we’re happy that this happened,” Beckham said. “It’s the least bit of justice that could have been done.”

Haught, contacted by phone at his business, declined to comment and referred questions to his attorney. Lloyd did not return calls by press time.

Haught has been in and out of Gila County’s courtrooms ever since he and Cooper crossed paths Dec. 17, 1997.

Haught admitted that he punched Cooper once in the left side of the head, knocking him unconscious, but told investigators that Cooper instigated the fight by yelling and hitting Haught.

Six days following the incident, Cooper died in a Valley hospital from what was determined to be a blow to the head that severed his carotid artery.

After pleading guilty to negligent homicide in July of 2001, Haught was sentenced to one year in jail and two years of standard probation consecutive to the two years he had already served. He was later granted work release, allowing him to leave Payson jail during his regular work hours.

He was released from incarceration five months later.

Haught’s failure to win release from probation represented the first victory in the five-year-old case to be handed Cooper’s widow, Esther Cooper, and her family.

In May of this year, a wrongful death civil suit filed by Esther Cooper against Haught and a number of John and Jane Does was dismissed in a Phoenix courtroom.

According to Beckham, the dismissal resulted from Esther Cooper’s inability to produce proof of her divorce from her first husband, Buddy Johnson Beckham’s biological father, who now resides in Kentucky. It was the view of the court that, without such proof, Esther Cooper’s subsequent marriage to James Cooper was not valid, and that she therefore was not entitled to an award for damages, Beckham said.

Phoenix attorney A. Jerry Busby, who represented Haught in the civil case, offered a harsher defense view of that reason for dismissal in a telephone interview last month.

“Under the Arizona wrongful death statute, the only people that can collect or benefit from a wrongful death is a surviving spouse or children,” Busby said. “Esther was not a surviving spouse, because her marriage to Cooper was void because she was never divorced from her first husband. She was really a bigamist.”

Such language infuriates Beckham.

“My mother knows exactly when and where she was divorced,” she said. “Just because the documents can’t be found doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. This was really a case of the victim being punished for the crime all over again.”

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