Mar 17, 2013 - By Christina George, Staff WriterFacing a life sentence in prison, Laziur Stephen Hanway Jr. said he will never stop being sorry for stabbing Eric Likes and Elva Quiver to death at the couple's trailer house in Hudson in late 2011.
"I'm sorry, not because I got caught or because I'm going away for a long time, but because I could have stopped it," the 20-year-old said at a sentencing hearing March 15 in Lander's 9th Judicial District Court. "I chose to be a coward and help my sister and her husband rob Eric and Elva, which ultimately ended in their death."
Standing with shackles at the defense table, Hanway directed his comments to the victims' family members sitting in the audience.
Amid weeping from both Hanway and attendees, the Ethete resident continued.
"I wish I could have kept to my traits growing up and made better choices," he said. "I hope that you all find it in yourself to forgive me one day. ... I'll always be sorry."
Still emotional, Hanway turned his attention to the other side of the packed courtroom where his supporters sat.
"To my family, I'm sorry for letting you all down," he said. "I hope you all forgive me."
Per a plea agreement, Judge Norman E. Young sentenced Hanway to life in prison for the two Nov. 15, 2011, murders.
"It's a hard, tough day," Young said. "It's a hard, tough day for the judge to see two families sit here hurt and with so much pain -- three families I should say."
Hanway last month pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder as part of an agreement filed jointly with amended charges.
Second-degree murder carries a penalty of 20 years to life and a fine of up to $10,000.
But under the plea deal, Hanway was to be sentenced to life in prison for each charge. Young said the sentences will run concurrently, and Hanway will serve his time at a facility deemed appropriate by the Department of Corrections.
Hanway originally faced four first-degree murder charges; two counts each of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery; and a single arson charge.
He pleaded not guilty to the original charges in August, and trial was later scheduled for May 20. Prosecutors previously took the death penalty off the table, but six of the charges were punishable by death, life in prison without parole or life in prison. The remaining five charges collectively could have added 95 years of prison.
First to be sentenced
Hanway's sentencing comes one year and one week after his March 8, 2012, arrest. He was the first of five taken into custody for the crimes and the first to be sentenced.
Law enforcement discovered the bodies of Likes, 42, and Quiver, 20, after responding to a house fire the night of Nov. 17, 2011. After an autopsy showed the two were deceased before the fire broke out and died as the result of, but not limited to numerous stab wounds, officials initiated an investigation that they remained tight-lipped about for several months.
A blood-spotted "Zippo"-type cigarette lighter discovered by a neighbor near the trailer house the night of the blaze eventually led police to Hanway.
Multiple law enforcement agencies on March 6, 2012, conducted a search at Hanway's residence on 17 Mile Road and discovered an underground bunker on the property that contained evidence linking Hanway to the crimes.
Hanway was arrested for the murders, robbery and arson. Hanway and co-defendants, including his sister Samantha Hanway and her husband, Joseph Jude Jenkins, previously testified some of them robbed and murdered the couple on Nov. 15, 2011, and returned to the scene two days later and set the trailer house on fire in an attempt to cover up the crimes.
Before Young handed down Laziur Hanway Jr.'s sentence, supporters for both the defendant and victims testified.
Friday's hearing was the first court proceeding Hanway attended in street clothes rather than the bright orange Fremont County Detention Center jumpsuit.
Wearing a gray and white plaid shirt and flanked by public defense attorneys David L. Serelson and Elizabeth Lance, Hanway kept his head forward during 45-minutes of testimony.
"She was a good girl," Tara Friday said about Quiver. "She never hurt nobody."
Friday said Quiver was one of five children.
"It's really taken a toll on him," Friday said about her uncle, Quiver's father. "We want the maximum you can give."
Brian Likes thanked those involved in "doing their job and catching these folks."
He said his family has been going through a tough time since his older brother's death.
"My brother was a hell of a mason, one of the best in the country," he said, adding that his brother was a good man. "He didn't deserve what he got."
An emotional Brian Likes said his brother's death shattered his whole world.
"We miss him a lot," he said with tears. "He loved Elva. ... They were two good people. ... He's my only brother, my older brother. I looked up to him."
Brian Likes reiterated how much he missed his brother.
"I hope this gentleman here gets the maximum penalty you can provide," he said about Hanway. "I hope this gentleman never makes it out to see light."
Fremont County deputy attorney Pat LeBrun said life in prison was an appropriate sentence.
He summarized some of the facts behind the crimes, pointing out that Eric Likes had invited Hanway and Jenkins into his house and trusted them. He said Likes invited them to stay the night and even showed them how to operate his television.
"He opened his home to this person sitting in front of you and trusted him," LeBrun said, pointing toward Hanway.
LeBrun said Likes "bravely" fought for his life when he and his girlfriend were being stabbed to death. He said Likes asked Hanway for help at some point.
"Steve thanked him by stabbing him in the face," he said about Hanway.
Although Hanway accepted responsibility by pleading guilty, LeBrun said it wasn't enough at the end of the day.
"He directly murdered two people in their own home who had invited him in," LeBrun said.
Serelson said it is important for the victims' families to know Hanway is remorseful.
Serelson said Hanway wrote to the victims' loved ones, writing, "I'm extremely sorry for the pain I caused you. ... The only thing I can offer you is closure. I'm sorry."
Serelson said Hanway didn't write the letter for any benefit to himself.
He then read several letters provided by family and friends of his client, including from a family who said they acted like foster parents to Hanway in his younger years.
The family said Hanway had integrity, passion and a sense of responsibility.
Former biology teacher Frank Symington said Hanway behaved respectfully.
"He was easily the brightest student there," he wrote.
Others wrote about Hanway's good character, his honesty and respect for his family, especially his grandmother Helen Hanway.
Laziur Hanway Sr. acknowledged that his son came from a "dysfunctional single-parent family."
Despite the hardship, the younger Hanway graduated high school, earned academic awards, and completed a semester of classes in carpentry at Central Wyoming College.
Seattle Hanway wrote that his older brother always gave everyone in the family something for Christmas. That wasn't the case this past holiday as he was in jail.
"I really miss him," the younger sibling wrote.
Laziur Hanway Jr.'s pastor, Don Nemec, said a few words from the podium about the person he's known for 10 years through church and youth activities.
"I know he's caused a lot of pain," Nemec said.
Nemec recalled Hanway and his dad helping paint the church.
"He has been helpful," he said.
Nemec said he hopes and prays for those who have been hurt to find peace through forgiveness.
Serelson said he wasn't arguing about the sentence or crime.
"We understand that their grief is deep," he said about the victims' families, adding healing will take more than the case being closed. "This case is a tragedy for many people."
He said Hanway told him countless times that he would give his life if it would bring back Likes and Quiver.
"He can't change what he did," Serelson said. "He was 19 years old with so many good qualities that the people who knew him best have described. ... All he can do is have them knowing and understanding that he wishes he could take it back."
Serelson said his client repeatedly asked him not to make excuses for him to blame anyone else.
"He knows what he did on Nov. 15 was evil," Serelson said. "I know he is not evil."
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