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Niles police officer’s killer up for parole

Trumbull prosecutor opposed to inmate’s second bid for freedom

WARREN — Many Trumbull County residents remember the murder of Niles patrolman John A. Utlak, 26, in December 1982. They are reminded of it by driving by the street near the Niles Safety and Services Building named after the slain policeman.

One man charged with that 40-year-old murder is up for parole sometime in August, and Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins is writing parole board members in an effort to keep him locked up.

Randy Fellows, 57, is scheduled for a hearing before three members of the Ohio Adult Parole Authority, to be held outside his cell at Trumbull Correctional Institution.

Watkins in the letter mentions Fellows’ “character flaws with explosive and impulsive tendencies” continue because of his years of rule infractions in prison.

Fellows was convicted in 1983 of the premeditated murder and robbery of Utlak, and was sentenced to life in prison with parole eligibility after serving 30 full years. He was denied parole 10 years ago.

His co-defendant, Fred Joseph Jr., also was convicted and serving the same sentence as Fellows.

Joseph, however, was only 17 when he murdered Utlak, so a recently passed state law allows juvenile offenders more chances at parole. Joseph was denied parole last year, but is up for another chance for freedom in 2026, according to prison records.

TRIAL TESTIMONY

In his letter, Watkins talks about the “insightful and chilling ” testimony of witness Arthur A. Krause, a hitchhiker who was picked up by the pair as they were on the run after the murder.

Fellows and Joseph picked up Krause while they drove on Interstate 80 outside Joliet, Illinois. Krause stated when he entered the four-door GMC Ambassador driven by Fellows, he saw the driver stick a gun down the front of his pants.

The gun — a Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum — and later a 12-gauge sawed off pump shotgun that the pair showed off to the hitchhiker, were taken from the dead patrolman, Watkins wrote.

“The plan to kill officer Utlak was thought-out in advance and done in cold blood,” Watkins wrote, saying the older Fellows, who was 18 at the time, was the driving force behind the murder.

“It was his gun that killed the officer, it was his ammunition … it was his mother’s car that he used to drive to that fatal ambush, it was his phone call and falsehoods to officer Utlak that brought the officer to meet the vicious duo,” Watkins continued.

Watkins said Fellows gave Joseph his weapon — a .22 caliber revolver — to shoot the officer at point-blank range in the head with bullets that were bitten.

“I remember seeing the teeth marks on those two bullets,” Watkins said, noting biting bullets would try to mess up the ballistic evidence in the case. A coroner investigator found one of the bullets in the victim’s stomach during the autopsy, Watkins remembered.

The murder took place in an empty parking lot of a steel mill in Weathersfield. Fellows and Joseph were arrested in Cheyenne, Wyoming, a few days after the murder.

The hitchhiker testified at trial the two talked about the gun that they “wasted the cop with.” Watkins said Fellows’ girlfriend also testified Fellows told her he was willing to kill any police officer.

Krause testified as they told the story of the murder, the pair didn’t show any emotion or remorse or didn’t even seem scared. The hitchhiker testified he learned the motive for the crime was the money the officer had on him and the fact that Utlak was telling people on the streets that the two were “narc-ing.”

PSYCHOLOGICAL TESTS

Watkins noted psychological testing of Fellows shows “his interpersonal relationships are marked mainly by attempting to manipulate and control others.”

He said Fellows tends to demand approval and affection of others without earning it.”

Watkins included in his letter a report by clinical psychologist Dr. Kenneth Wallace, who diagnosed Fellows as “that of psychopathic personality with paranoid schizophrenic aspects.”

The prosecutor notes Fellows has not completed a self-help program in prison called “thinking for change.” Watkins told the board he thinks Fellows if released would present a “clear and present danger” to the public.

A lawyer with the Ohio Public Defender’s office, Laura E. Austen, said her policy is not to comment on a defendant’s parole hearing.

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