The Hi-Fi Murders was an infamous criminal case involving murder, torture, rape, and robbery that occurred in the Hi-Fi Shop in Ogden, Utah, on April 22, 1974. The crimes were committed by United States Air Force airmen Dale Selby Pierre, William Andrews, and Keith Roberts. Pierre and Andrews took five people hostage, killed three of them, and left the two who survived with horrific injuries. Roberts had assisted Pierre and Andrews in the robbery. Following a trial, both Pierre and Andrews were found guilty and sentenced to death. The NAACP campaigned to commute their death sentences but eventually failed.
Pierre and Andrews entered the Hi-Fi store in Ogden just before closing time, brandishing handguns. Two employees, Stanley Walker, age 20, and Michelle Ansley, age 19, were in the store at the time and taken hostage. Pierre and Andrews took the two into the basement of the store, bound them, and then began robbing the store. Later, a 16-year-old boy named Cortney Naisbitt arrived to thank Walker for allowing him to park his car in the store's parking lot as he ran an errand next door. He was also taken hostage and tied up in the basement with Walker and Ansley. Later that evening, Orren Walker, Stanley's 43-year-old father, became worried that his son had not returned home. Cortney Naisbitt's mother Carol Naisbitt, also arrived at the shop looking for her son who was late getting home. Both Orren Walker and Carol Naisbitt were taken to the basement and tied up. At this point, Ansley began begging and crying, as did Cortney Naisbitt.
Pierre then ordered Andrews to go out to their van and bring him back something. Andrews returned with a bottle in a brown paper bag, from which Pierre poured a cup of blue liquid. Pierre ordered Orren to administer the liquid to the other hostages, but he refused, and was bound, gagged and left face-down on the basement floor.
Pierre and Andrews then propped each of the victims into sitting positions and forced them to drink the liquid, telling them it was vodka laced with sleeping pills. Rather, it was liquid Drano. The moment it touched the hostages' lips, enormous blisters rose, and it began to burn their tongues and throats and peel away the flesh around their mouths. Ansley, still begging for her life, was forced to drink the drain cleaner too, although she was reported to have coughed less than the other victims (by Mr. Walker). Pierre and Andrews tried to duct-tape the hostages' mouths shut to hold quantities of drain cleaner in and to silence their screams, but pus oozing from the blisters prevented the adhesive from sticking. Orren Walker was the last to be given the drain cleaner, but seeing what was happening to the other hostages, he allowed it to pour out of his mouth and then faked the convulsions and screams of his son and fellow hostages.
Pierre became angry because the deaths were taking too long and were too loud and messy, so he shot both Carol and Cortney Naisbitt in the backs of their heads. Pierre then shot at Orren Walker but missed. He then fatally shot Stan Walker before again shooting at Orren, this time grazing the back of his head.
Pierre then took Ansley to the far corner of the basement, forced her at gunpoint to remove her clothes, then repeatedly and brutally raped her, after telling Andrews to clear out for 30 minutes. When he was done, he allowed her to use the bathroom while he watched, then dragged her, still naked, back to the other hostages, threw her on her face, and fatally shot her in the back of the head.
Andrews and Pierre noted that Orren was still alive, so Pierre mounted him, wrapped a wire around his throat, and tried to strangle him. When this failed, Pierre and Andrews inserted a ballpoint pen into Orren's ear, and Pierre stomped it until it punctured his eardrum, broke, and exited the side of his throat. Pierre and Andrews then went upstairs, finished loading equipment into their van, and departed.
The victims were discovered almost 3 hours later when Orren's wife and other son came to the store looking for them. Orren's son heard noises coming from the basement and broke down the back door while Mrs. Walker called the Ogden police. Stan Walker and Ansley were already dead; Carol Naisbitt lived long enough to be loaded into an ambulance, but she was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. Although Cortney was not expected to live, he did survive, albeit with severe and irreparable brain damage, and required hospitalization for 266 days before being released. Orren Walker survived, although with extensive burns to his mouth and chin, as well as the damage to his ear caused by the pen.
Hours after news of the crime broke, an Air Force officer called the Ogden police and told them that Andrews had confided in him months earlier, "One of these days I'm going to rob that hi-fi shop, and if anybody gets in the way, I'm going to kill them." Hours after that call was received, two teenage boys dumpster diving near Hill Air Force Base where Pierre and Andrews were stationed discovered the victims' wallets and purses, and, recognizing the pictures on the drivers' licenses, called the police. A crowd of airmen quickly formed, including Pierre and Andrews. The detective who responded to the scene, believing that the killers might be in the crowd, put on a show, speaking dramatically and waving each piece of evidence in the air with tongs as he removed them from the dumpster. He later noted in his report that out of all the Airmen gathered around the dumpster, most of whom stood still and watched in relative silence, two in particular paced around the crowd, spoke loudly, and made frantic gestures with their hands. The detective later identified these two Airmen as Pierre and Andrews. The detective later received an award from the Utah branch of the Justice Department for his use of proactive techniques.
Based on Pierre's and Andrews's reactions to the evidence being removed from the trash bin, and the officer's implication of Andrews, Andrews and Pierre were taken into custody and a search warrant was issued for their barracks. Police found fliers for the hi-fi shop and a rental contract for a unit at a public storage facility. Police obtained a warrant for the storage unit, where they discovered several pieces of stereo equipment which were later identified from serial numbers as having been taken from the hi-fi store. During the course of removing the equipment from the storage unit, detectives discovered the half-empty bottle of Drano that had been used on the hostages. Based on this evidence Pierre and Andrews were formally charged with the crimes.
A third person, Keith Roberts, who had waited outside the hi-fi shop in a car, was also charged with robbery.
Pierre, Andrews, and Roberts were tried jointly for first-degree murder and robbery. Pierre and Andrews were convicted of all charges and sentenced to death. Roberts was convicted only of robbery and was sentenced to imprisonment. He was paroled in 1987.
During the trial, it was revealed that Pierre and Andrews had robbed the store with the intention of killing anyone they came across, and in the months prior to the robbery had been looking for a way to commit the murders quietly and cleanly. The two then repeatedly watched the film Magnum Force, in which a prostitute is forced to drink Drano and is then shown immediately dropping dead. Pierre and Andrews decided that this would be an efficient method of murder and decided to use it in their crime.
Survivor Orren Walker was the star witness for the prosecution. Due to his amnesia of the events, Cortney Naisbitt was unable to testify. His father, Dr. Byron Naisbitt, did testify.
- Dale Selby Pierre (January 21, 1953 – August 28, 1987): Pierre was 21-years-old at the time of the crime. He was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago, until moving to Brooklyn, New York, at the age of 17. In May 1973, Pierre entered active service with the United States Air Force. On November 16, 1974, Pierre was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated robbery. On November 20, 1974, he was given three death sentences, one for each of the murder victims. While in prison, Pierre frequently changed his name, reportedly to protect his family name from notoriety. In all, he changed it 27 times, finally settling on "Pierre Dale Selby" (simply transposing his first, middle, and last names from birth) as his legal name. After exhaustion of appeals, Pierre was executed by lethal injection on August 28, 1987, at the age of 34. At the time of his death, Pierre bequeathed all of his money ($29) to Andrews.
- William Andrews: Andrews was 19-years-old at the time of the crime. He was put to death by lethal injection on July 30, 1992.
- Keith Roberts: The court found that Keith Roberts had no role in, or knowledge of the murders, though he was convicted of armed robbery. Roberts was paroled in 1987.
The victims included the following five individuals, three of whom were murdered. Each of the victims was bound, forced to drink Drano, and later shot. Nonetheless, two individuals survived their horrific injuries.
- Michelle Ansley: Ansley, age 19, was an employee of the Hi-Fi Shop. She had been hired only a week before the murders. Ansley was raped and killed by Pierre.
- Byron Cortney Naisbitt (September 25, 1957 – June 4, 2002): Cortney Naisbitt was a 16-year-old Ogden High School student at the time of the crime. Although he survived his injuries, he had amnesia of the events at the Hi-Fi Shop and was thus unable to testify at trial. Naisbitt was able to return to school more than a year after the incident, and he graduated with his class at the high school in 1976. Due to the brain damage from his head wound, however, he was forced to drop out of college. Because he could not hold down a job, he had to apply for Social Security assistance. On November 15, 1985, Naisbitt married Catherine Hunter. He suffered chronic pain for the rest of his life, and he died at the age of 44 on June 4, 2002. The experiences of Cortney Naisbitt and his family were detailed in Gary Kinder's 1982 book Victim: The Other Side of Murder.
- Carol Naisbitt: Carol Naisbitt, age 52, was the mother of victim Cortney Naisbitt. She was killed.
- Orren W. Walker (September 17, 1930 – February 13, 2000): Orren Walker, the father of victim Stanley Walker, was 43 years old at the time of the crime. Having survived the brutal attack, Orren Walker testified at trial against the perpetrators. He died at the age of 69 on February 13, 2000.
- Stanley Walker: Stanley Walker, age 20, was an employee of the Hi-Fi Shop. He was killed.
Following the issuing of death sentences, the NAACP demanded that Pierre's and Andrews' sentences be removed; claiming that Pierre and Andrews had been unfairly convicted since they were both black, and the victims and jury were all white. Andrews was quick to accuse the judicial system of racism following the NAACP's request for reduced sentences, and in an interview with USA Today, he claimed that he had never intended to kill anyone. This was later rebutted when detectives cited a statement by Andrews in which he admitted being the one to purchase the drain cleaner and bring it to the store on the night of the killings.
Pierre and Andrews became notoriously hated prisoners. They were particularly reviled on death row, especially by convicted murderer Gary Gilmore (also facing capital punishment and imprisoned at the same facility), whose final words to his fellow inmates before being taken to face the firing squad were, "I'll see you in Hell, Pierre and Andrews!" Gilmore is reported to have laughed at Pierre and Andrews as he passed by their cells.
Despite movements by the NAACP and Amnesty International to overturn the court's decision, Pierre and Andrews were both put to death by lethal injection, Pierre on August 28, 1987, Andrews five years later on July 30, 1992.
The Hi-Fi Murders are still considered as among the worst crimes ever committed in the state of Utah. The case is now taught to FBI trainees at the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia, and it was included as a sample case in the FBI's Crime Classification Manual.
The experiences of Cortney Naisbitt and his family became the basis for the 1982 book Victim: The Other Side of Murder by Gary Kinder. This book was viewed by many as pioneering because it was one of the first true-crime books that focused on the victims of a violent crime rather than on the perpetrators.