Utah appeals court upholds conviction over swimmer’s death at Pineview Reservoir

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction of a man accused of hitting a swimmer with a boat in Pineview Reservoir and leaving her to die.

In a ruling handed down on Thursday, the court upheld the misdemeanor convictions of Skyler Shepherd. He was convicted of reckless endangerment, obstruction of justice and failure to render assistance at the scene of an accident in the death of Esther Fujimoto.

fujimoto

In 2011, Fujimoto was swimming in Pineview Reservoir when she was hit by a boat. Prosecutors said Shepherd and his friends, Colton Raines and Cole Boyer, stopped and someone spoke with her as she struggled in the water, asking: “Hey lady, are you OK?” Fujimoto, they said, was cut up by the boat’s propeller. Weber County prosecutors alleged the trio sped off in the boat and left Fujimoto to die in the water.

In his appeal, Shepherd challenged the evidence — including an interview he gave to police. He also challenged the testimony of a boating expert at his trial.

Skyler Shepherd in a 2012 court hearing in Ogden. (Court pool photo)

Skyler Shepherd in a 2012 court hearing in Ogden. (Court pool photo)

“All of Defendant’s arguments on appeal are without merit. There was sufficient evidence to support his conviction for reckless endangerment because he owed the victim a legal duty to render aid and he opted not to fulfill that duty. In so doing, he consciously disregarded a substantial risk that the victim would die or at least sustain serious bodily injury,” the court wrote in its ruling.

“This sufficient evidence largely resolves almost every other issue before us, because even if there were errors in the admission of particular bits of evidence, those errors did not prejudice Defendant.”

Read the ruling here:

Shepherd was sentenced to serve two-and-a-half years in jail. In a statement Thursday, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes praised the ruling.

“This case demonstrates our office’s continued commitment to protect valid criminal convictions when they are challenged on appeal, as well as our commitment to protect the rights of crime victims and their families,” he said. “We seek justice for victims throughout the state of Utah — and in today’s unanimous court decision, justice was served.”

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