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Idaho Falls man sentenced for the murder of his adoptive father

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IDAHO FALLS – A local man who murdered his adoptive father will serve at least 27 years in prison.

Westley Jonathon Hightower, 19, was sentenced Friday to 27 years fixed and 40 years indeterminate, meaning Hightower could potentially serve 67 years behind bars. He will be eligible for parole in 2049.

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Hightower was charged with first-degree murder after shooting and killing Larry H. Powell on Sept. 28 inside his home on Ammon Road.

During the sentencing, Powell’s daughter, Nicole McDonald, read a victim impact statement and asked Judge Dane Watkins to give Hightower the maximum sentence.

“My dad was a good and mild-mannered person,” said McDonald. “His last words to me were, ‘You’ve done very well sweetheart. I’m very proud of you and your little family.'”

McDonald showed photos of her family, including Powell attending weddings, graduations and spending time with loved ones. Judge Watkins noted the pictures were striking, eliciting emotion throughout the courtroom.

“I was struck by a photograph of two hands with rings holding hands,” Watkins said before announcing the sentencing. “Life is not simple. We all in this courtroom know it. But it was cut short. You ended this. Those photographs demonstrated an aging process, accumulating memories and we turned from that to an end.

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Powell’s wife and Hightower’s adoptive mother Carol Powell also provided a statement, which was read by a family member after she became too emotional to finish.

“Today, I am torn between two facts as a result of my husband’s murder,” said Powell. “One: one of the murderers, Westley Hightower, is my son whom I love dearly. Two: the two monsters are, Westley and Daniel, who murdered my husband…”

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Daniel Wood, an accomplice in the murder, was sentenced in March to serve at least 20 years in prison for playing a part in Powell’s murder.

Justin Ferguson, a Bonneville County Jail inmate, testified during the sentencing hearing that he overheard Wood bragging about Powell’s murder while both were incarcerated.

“It was like he was trying to get credit for it. He was telling the story as if he was trying to impress people,” said Ferguson. “It was like he wanted the recognition for something that he didn’t do. He was smiling and thinking that it was humorous.”

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Hightower provided a statement himself, apologizing to his mother, family and neighbors.

“I would like to say I’m sorry to my mom for taking so much love that she built a life with,” said Hightower. “I can only imagine the pain and suffering that she is going through, and because of my selfish actions, she did not just lose a husband, she lost a son too.”

Watkins responded to Hightower’s statement before the official sentencing.

“As you made your statement, you began by speaking directly to your mother. You didn’t see her reaction to your words. She held her face in her hands,” said Judge Watkins. “I don’t know all of those emotions that she might be feeling, all I can say is that it demonstrates complete and utter anguish. And it’s because of you.”

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