ST. GEORGE — A man suspected of shooting a man to death at the Eagles Lodge in Hurricane last year appeared for sentencing this week.

Bailiffs stand in the courtroom where defendant, Bryan Edwin Hill, 56, appeared before District Judge Jay Winward for sentencing in St. George, Utah, Jan. 16, 2024 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

In a courtroom packed with dozens of the victim’s family members and eight bailiffs on Tuesday, 56-year-old Bryan Edwin Hill appeared before District Judge Jay Winward for sentencing on one count of first-degree murder.

Hill originally was charged with multiple felonies, including one count each of aggravated assault, felony discharge of a weapon, use of a concealed weapon in a violent felony and possession of a weapon under the influence of alcohol or drugs, all of which were dismissed in exchange for a guilty plea.

The shooting 

Shortly after 11 p.m. on Aug. 5, 2023, Hurricane City Police officers were dispatched on a report of shots fired at the Eagles Lodge, located at 495 E. 800 North in Hurricane. They arrived to find Hurricane resident, Sean Moore, 41, dead at the scene from an apparent gunshot wound, previously reported by St. George News.

Multiple witnesses identified the shooter as Hill, and officers located Hill’s vehicle a short while later. Washington County Metro SWAT responded and took Hill into custody without incident, according to charging documents filed at the time.

This booking photo shows the defendant, Bryan Edwin Hill, 56, of Hurricane, who appeared before District Judge Jay Winward on a first-degree murder charge, Washington County, Utah, Aug. 5, 2023 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Ultimately, Hill admitted to shooting the victim “right in the heart,” after he said the victim pulled a gun on him. Surveillance footage at the scene showed a different scenario. And several witnesses told officers that Hill was acting belligerent and as his anger escalated, the victim intervened to try to remove Hill from the bar, which is when Hill shot him.  

When confronted about the footage, authorities say Hill changed his story and told officers they would find the weapon used in the shooting in his trailer. He was then booked into jail on multiple charges. He has remained in custody since his arrest. 

The family speaks 

During the hearing Tuesday, the victim’s wife said the two were married for 23 years, and she believed they would have many more years together, but those years were taken away the night her husband was killed.  

In the months following his death, she said there were birthdays, the holiday season and other family celebrations taking place but she didn’t “want to celebrate anything without him.”

This 2023 file photo shows a memorial that is set up near the Eagles Lodge in Hurricane where Sean Moore was shot and killed in Hurricane, Utah, Aug. 7, 2023 | Photo by Ron Chaffin, St. George News

One of the victim’s three daughters told the court that her dad would always know the right things to say when she was having a hard day, and knowing that her dad would never be back is the hardest thing to have to face.  

“Life has changed a lot … going from having a father who was always there to having him just be gone in what feels like the snap of a finger,” she said.

It’s the realization of the things her father would miss that hurt her most, such as being at her high school graduation, teaching her to drive a car, coaching her softball team, and being a grandpa to her children someday. 

“I, of course, will tell them what a wonderful man he was so his legacy lives on,” she said. 

The victim’s brother said that Moore was not only his older brother but also the rock of their large, extended family. His death has left him with “a lot of regret,” he said, adding that this tragic ending nearly destroyed their mother.

He said it was painful to think that Moore, who was known as the “bucket coach” on his daughter’s softball team, would miss out on spending so much time with his child on the field. On top of losing a brother, he said his sister-in-law “lost her soulmate that night.”

The defendant, “will never feel the pain that we are feeling,” he added.

The defense weighs in

Hill’s defense attorney, Ryan Stout, said his client has taken full responsibility for his actions since the beginning. In the months before the shooting, alcohol had taken over his client’s life, so much that his client, who had served in the military and was honorably discharged, was left weakened and disabled from the withdrawals following the arrest, he said.

That is in no way an excuse, Stout said, but rather was a contributing factor in the events that took place that night.

Prosecutor Jerry Jaeger, (far right) represents the state during the sentencing hearing of 56-year-old Bryan Edwin Hill, St. George, Utah, Jan. 16, 2024 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

The attorney said his client has not fought the case in any way. In fact, Stout said, the case was only hampered by his efforts to represent his client, as he is bound to do.

Stout then recalled something Hill told him after the incident:

“He said, ‘I wish I didn’t do what I did that night, and I just want to apologize to the family, but there are no words, and I don’t want to say anything because nothing I could say would dignify their pain.’”

Stout said Miller was accepting of the law and prepared to accept the prison sentence rendered in the case.

‘Imperfect justice’ 

Prosecutor Jerry Jaeger said it was clear Moore was a good man, as evidenced by the number of people present in the courtroom, where extra chairs were brought in to accommodate the large crowd of family members. 

“And just in looking around I cannot believe how many people are here to represent (Moore) and to show support and love for him,” he added. 

Unfortunately, the prosecutor said, there is no perfect justice in the case; otherwise, the system would have been able to return the victim to his family. 

“So all we can ask for is imperfect justice,” Jaeger said, and with this, the state asked the court to follow the recommendations as outlined in the presentence report and to sentence the defendant to serve 15 years to life in prison. 

The sentence 

The judge also commented on the number of family members present in support of the victim, who was one of 10 children that made up the large extended family that includes grandchildren, nieces, nephews and the victim’s wife and three daughters.

The judge commended the victim’s wife for her strength and for raising such strong children, and in doing so, Winward said, the family would keep the victim’s legacy alive.

He also commended Moore’s mother for raising such a wonderful family, one that she should be proud of, he said.

Winward said it was the love and support demonstrated in the courtroom that would help them through the loss.

Out of tragedy is born greatness and there will be greatness coming out of this room,” he said. “It’s not a prediction. It is a truth.” 

To the defendant, the judge said:

“Your punishment is going to be dying in prison, and you’ll hear the echoes, and you’ll know that your potential ends in prison, whereas Mr. Moore’s gets to live on and on in this life.” 

With that, the defendant was sentenced to serve 15 years to life in Utah State Prison on the murder charge and the transport order was signed during the hearing.

“You’re remanded to prison right now.”

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