Jury finds boat owner guilty in swimmer's death

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A jury found a boat owner guilty Friday in the death of a noted university researcher whose legs were sliced by the boat's propeller while she was swimming at an Ogden-area reservoir last year.

After less than two hours of deliberation, the six jurors convicted Skyler Shepherd, 22, of reckless endangerment, obstruction of justice and leaving the scene of an accident, the Standard Examiner reported.

Shepherd wasn't driving when the boat hit University of Utah scientist Esther Fujimoto, 49, on Pineview Reservoir. He took the wheel to circle back and says the woman appeared irritated but uninjured, so he took off.

During a three-day trial this week in 2nd District Court, Shepherd's lawyers argued that Fujimoto put herself in danger by swimming in open water.

Prosecutors argued that Shepherd and his two friends on the boat knew they had hit her, and that she died because they drove away and didn't help her, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Prosecutors say the men erased any evidence by quickly wiping down the sleek power boat. State Medical Examiner Todd Grey testified Esther Fujimoto's legs were sliced by the boat's propeller, causing "horribly painful" wounds that led to her death.

During closing arguments, a prosecutor told the jury that Shepherd can say all he wants but the screams heard 200 yards away by a lake resident are the best evidence of the damage caused by the boat running over Fujimoto.

Fujimoto was a senior lab specialist and part of a team at the University of Utah that helped identify a breast cancer gene. She also worked as a hospital pharmacy technician on the weekends, her sister said.

Two other men, Colton Raines, 23, and Robert Cole Boyer, 30, face a separate trial in February. They face charges of failing to render aid, reckless endangerment and obstructing justice.

Sentencing for Shepherd is scheduled for Jan. 23.

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Information from: Standard-Examiner, http://www.standard.net

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