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Prosecutors seeking death penalty for Hover in 2010 murders case

Gregory Hover’s life now rests in the hands of 12 jurors.

During closing arguments Thursday, prosecutors argued that Hover should be sentenced to death for killing two people during a crime spree in 2010.

But defense attorney Christopher Oram argued that life in prison would be the worst punishment for Hover, who attempted suicide twice after his arrest.

“He’ll live a life that will be horrendous,” Oram said.

Earlier Thursday, Hover read a statement to the jury.

Because the defendant chose to make an unsworn statement, he was limited in what he could say. Prosecutors also were precluded from cross-examining him.

District Judge Carolyn Ellsworth told Hover his statement could contain only expressions of remorse, pleas for leniency and a discussion of his hopes and plans for the future.

Hover, 41, stood at the defense table as he spoke.

“I have started to write this statement many, many times,” he began, “because honestly, no amount of words can even begin to convey the extent of my regret, of my remorse, for everything I’ve done, the pain I’ve caused. I am truly sorry.”

Hover kidnapped, raped and stabbed Prisma Contreras, 21, in what one prosecutor described as “an egregious act of sexual sadism.” The woman’s body was found in a burned-out car south of Boulder City on Jan. 15, 2010.

About 10 days later, Hover broke into the home of Julio and Roberta Romero and shot them both. Julio Romero, 64, died, but his wife survived.

In March 2010, after his arrest, Hover used a pair of scissors to slash the back of his cellmate, Marcos Ramirez, at the Clark County Detention Center. Hover had been given the scissors to cut Ramirez’s hair.

Prosecutors said evidence showed that Hover does not like Hispanics.

“Let’s just say what he is,” Chief Deputy District Attorney David Stanton said. “He’s a racist. He treats Hispanics like they’re not even human beings.”

Hover told jurors they had heard testimony about his difficult childhood and about the death of his infant son.

“You’ve also heard that even though I’m not perfect, I was a decent person, OK husband and an exceptional, loving father, married to my childhood sweetheart for over 20 years,” said the defendant, who is now divorced. “Until after my arrest, I was kind, caring, helped some of the poor, fed the homeless.”

Hover, whose two adult children testified on his behalf, also said he had served as his son’s Cub Scouts master for several years and regularly coached his children’s sports teams. The defendant, a former process server, said he rarely drank alcohol and stayed away from drugs.

“So why, when offered that first hit of meth, I took it, I honestly don’t know,” Hover said. “I wished I had said no.”

The defendant said the drug altered something in his mind. He recalled the feelings he experienced after his arrest, as the drugs began to leave his system.

“I couldn’t live with the shame, the pain, the guilt,” he said.

Hover recounted his suicide attempts, and said he begged God to let him die.

“He said no,” Hover told the jury.

The defendant said he is now ready to accept responsibility for his crimes.

“I stand here today not making excuses, not begging for leniency, or mercy,” he said.

As tears dripped off his face, Hover told the jury that he is often visited in his dreams by a sad, 4-year-old girl who asks him why he took her mommy away. Contreras was married and had a 4-year-old daughter at the time of her death.

Prosecutors told the jury there is no evidence that Hover was under the influence of drugs when he committed his crimes.

Another defendant in the case, 22-year-old Richard Freeman Jr., escaped the possibility of a death sentence by pleading guilty last month to two counts of first-degree murder with a deadly weapon.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Marc DiGiacomo said Freeman acted as Hover’s co-conspirator and driver but did not participate in the acts of violence.

Jurors deliberated about two hours Thursday afternoon without reaching a decision. They are expected to resume their discussions today .

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710.

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