A parent’s worst nightmare
The child-killing spree of Arthur Gary Bishop
From 1979 to 1983, five young boys, ages 4 to 13, went missing in the Salt Lake City area. There was nothing to connect these boys. They didn’t know one another. They weren’t the same age or race. It wasn’t until Salt Lake Police were investigating the June 14, 1983, disappearance of Graeme Cunningham, 13, that they realized there was a connection with the other cases and one Roger Downs. Downs had been questioned in an earlier investigation and lived in the apartment complex where the first boy, Alonzo Daniels, 4, had gone missing. “Roger Downs” was actually Arthur Gary Bishop, a child molester and serial killer whose single-minded cruelty establishes his noteriety among Utah criminals, says Marty Vuyk, the sergeant in charge of the investigation.
“He has to be high on the list,” Vuyk says. “He murdered five little boys.”
Bishop was arrested in connection with the Cunningham case on July 24, 1983, and that evening confessed to not only Cunningham’s murder but the murder of four other boys. That night police went with Bishop to an area west of Utah Lake called Skull Valley where he pointed out graves for three of the children. The next morning, Vuyk and his team dug up the bodies. The first two bodies had been thrown into a creek in a wooded area up an eastern canyon.
In 1984, a jury convicted Bishop of five counts of capital murder, five counts of aggravated kidnapping, and one count of sexually abusing a minor, and sentenced him to death. He made only one appeal and was executed by lethal ejection on June 10, 1988, at the Utah State Prison.
“He wanted to end what was happening,” Vuyk says of the night Bishop confessed. “He’d reached a point where apprehension was a relief in his mind.”
Murder at Hell’s Hollow
The Clyde Felt case
On a warm day in June of 1902, a group of boys on a hike discovered the naked and bound body of an elderly man inside a cave on Ensign Peak. The Salt Lake Herald described the boys’ discovery luridly alongside front-page photos of the decaying body.
“The sunlight trickled into the cavern enough for them to see, dimly outlined, a ghastly face, a throat cut open by a gaping and bloody wound, and the naked body of a man.”
The man’s name was Samuel Collins, described by the Herald as a queer and mysterious character about 65 years of age.
The murder captured the public’s imagination and newspaper accounts were filled with speculation about “mysterious strangers” seen in his company, suicide theories, and rumors of foul play at the hands of business associates. Eventually, however, attention began to focus on a 14-year-old boy, named Clyde Felt, the son of a prominent Salt Lake City publisher. Young Felt had accompanied Collins on his mountain excursion the day he disappeared.
“Collins was a pedophile,” explains Kirby. “He asked Clyde Felt, a boy he’d victimized, to tie him up and castrate him to stop him from molesting children. But Clyde, once he got the old man tied up, slit his throat.”
The newspaper accounts were much more circumspect on this issue, referring to Collins as a “moral degenerate” and delicately alluding to secrets the prominent family would rather not have widely known. In the end, charges were dismissed and the matter was quietly forgotten.
Natural Born Killers
The armed robbery spree of Lance and Kelbach
In 1966, two 18-year-old gas station attendants were kidnapped and stabbed to death. The bodies of Steven Shea and Michael Holtz were discovered stripped of their clothing in remote locations. The brutality of the crimes caught Salt Lake residents off guard.
“It wasn’t that we didn’t have robberies and even murders in Salt Lake City at the time,” says Diamond. “It was the harsh nature of these killings that got the attention.”
On a wintry night of that year, two men, Myron Lance and Walter Kelbach, were drinking at Lalley’s Tavern on the west side of Salt Lake City. The bartender was chatting with them about the recent crime spree that was the talk of the town.
“He [the bartender] said something like, ‘I wish I had the guys who killed those kids right here. I’d teach them a lesson,’” says Kirby. “Lance and Kelbach told him that he had his chance, brought out their guns and started blazing away.”
Fred Lillie, 21, James Sisemore, 47, and Beverly Mace, 34, were gunned down that night at the bar. The duo emptied the register and fled. They were captured later that evening at a police roadblock. It was uncovered that they had killed Shea and Holtz and that before the tavern shootings, Lance and Kelbach had shot a cabdriver, Grant Strong. The final body count was six. Prior to their trial, the duo gave a startling interview for local media.
“They were without remorse,” Diamond says. “They were so cold-blooded. It shocked everyone.”
Lance and Kelbach were convicted and sentenced to death in April 1967. But in 1972, the U.S. Supreme court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional and their sentences were reduced to life in prison. After capital punishment was reinstated, the state sought the death penalty again for Lance and Kelbach, but a 5th Circuit Court judge threw out the case because of its age. They remain locked up in Utah State Prison today.
In 1968, Lance attacked a prison guard with a sharpened spoon. That same year the duo escaped with seven other inmates but were captured in Idaho. During the ’70s, Kelbach attempted to adopt a younger, male parolee. His request was denied.
The lynching of Samuel Harvey
The murder of the city Marshall sparks mob rule in SLC
Salt Lake City Marshall Andrew H. Burt was gunned down in Salt Lake City in 1893. Burt’s killing sparked the only recorded lynching of a black man in city history.
“There was a period of time in Utah history where if you were a black person and killed somebody in authority there was no way you were going to jail,” Kirby says, implying that mob lynching was the usual response.
On August 25, a man named Samuel Harvey stopped into a restaurant owned by F.H. Grice to ask for work. “Little is known of Harvey, other than he was African-American and had garnered some fame as a boxer while serving in the U.S. Army,” Kirby writes in his book about Utah law enforcement deaths The End of the Watch. “ … Harvey had a reputation for irrational behavior and was prone to violent confrontation.”
Retired Salt Lake Police Lieutenant, Steve Diamond, Burt’s great-great grandson, says that Grice offered Harvey a job outside of the city. “For some reason, Harvey went off. Insults were exchanged, and then he pulled a pistol on Grice.” Grice called police. Burt and one other officer, Charles H. Wilcken, were the only lawmen in the station.
“They found Harvey leaning against a pole at 200 South and Main Street. He’s got a .45 Springfield Rifle cradled in his arms,” says Diamond. “Burt goes up to him and he asks Burt, ‘Are you an officer?’ Before Burt can reply, Harvey shoots him in the chest.”
Wilcken fought with Harvey and took the rifle away. Other officers soon arrived, but a mob started to form as they escorted Harvey to the nearby jail. He’s taken inside and the mob grows to the thousands, shouting, Kirby writes, “hang the son of a bitch.”
“The back door to the jail opens up, they throw him out and close the door,” Diamond says. Alternate accounts describe an officer ordering the crowd away at the point of a pistol while the mob surges into the building.
“In either case, the furious citizenry of Salt Lake City was waiting for him,” Kirby writes.
Harvey was beaten, hanged in the jail yard, and dragged behind a horse until Mayor William Jennings arrived and imposed order.
Minister of Murder
Utah’s first serial killer was a man of God
In 1893, a Methodist minister and English immigrant named Francis Hermans arrived in Utah with his wife, Martha, and settled in for the quiet life. But a series of mysterious deaths and disappearances proved Hermans was no mild-mannered man of God. He was, perhaps, Utah’s first serial killer.
“Most serial killers, at least as we define them today, have a deeply personal agenda,” Kirby says. “They’re driven by mental illness, greed, or lust to systematically seek and dispose of their victims. In that regard, I have yet to come across anyone in Utah history before Hermans who fits that bill. It would be fair to say that he’s Utah’s earliest, most recognizable form of a serial killer. There were others before him who killed more, but they were mass murderers.”
On April 15 and 16, 1895, Herman’s infant daughter and wife died. That fall, after Sunday services at the church, Henrietta Clausen, Hermans’ housekeeper, disappeared and was never seen again. On the following Monday, Hermans mysteriously asked the church janitor to start up the coal furnace. Hermans claimed he was testing the furnace out for the coming winter.
Shortly after Clausen’s disappearance, a domestic servant, Annie Samuelson, started a romantic liaison with the minister, and by the end of January 1896 she was missing. Hermans left Utah around this time on a church fundraising tour but was called back to answer charges of embezzlement of church funds. He left again supposedly to raise funds to repay the embezzled monies but never returned.
Meanwhile, a church supervisor and friend of Clausen started poking around the church furnace and found bones. Police searched the church and discovered a blood-spattered furnace door, razors and knives, bloodstained coveralls, and Clausen’s false teeth. A search of local pawnshops yielded Clausen’s belongings. Evidence of Samuelson’s murder was also recovered.
In September of 1896, Methodist leaders in Utah received a letter from a man in England named Adam Smith, who was the brother of Hermans’ first wife. Smith wrote that his sister died under mysterious circumstances, and a woman who was sent to help Hermans care for the two sons from the marriage, died equally mysteriously, along with his oldest son, just before Hermans left for America.
A nationwide search yielded a few sightings and false arrests but he was never captured.
Was the real D.B. Cooper the real McCoy?
A criminal legend, D.B. Cooper hijacked a plane in 1971. After extorting $200,000 from the airline, he jumped from the cargo bay into a forested area northwest of Portland, Ore. Neither Cooper nor the money was ever found. In 1972, Cooper’s heist inspired a possible copycat named Richard McCoy, a former Green Beret and Sunday school teacher attending BYU at the time. McCoy, holding what appeared to be a hand grenade, diverted a flight from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey, to San Francisco where his ransom demand of $500,000 was met by United Airlines. Once airborne, McCoy bailed out over central Utah. He was captured by the FBI two days after the hijacking and sentenced to 45 years in federal prison. McCoy was shot after escaping a medium security prison in 1974. There is speculation that McCoy and Cooper were the same man.
Before “Helter Skelter”
Charles Manson, the mastermind of a series of brutal murders in Los Angeles during the summer of 1969, once reportedly received a speeding ticket in Beaver.
Check Forgery 101
Frank Abagnale Jr. was an international con artist known primarily for his proficiency in forging checks. In his best selling tell-all, Catch Me if You Can, Abagnale claims to have impersonated a sociology professor during a summer semester at Brigham Young University. The 1980 edition of the book contains a photo of Abagnale in a BYU classroom. Catch Me if You Can was made into a 2002 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
Butch Cassidy was a notorious bank and train robber who operated around the turn of the century throughout the intermountain west. He was born in Beaver and later raised on a ranch in Circleville in Paiute County. He and his gang “The Wild Bunch” would hide out in a rugged area of Southeastern Utah since dubbed “Robber’s Roost.” Robert Redford famously played the outlaw alongside Paul Newman’s Sundance Kid in the 1969 Oscar-winning film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
The Moormeister Affair
The unsolved murder of a Salt Lake Socialite
The victim is the young wife of a prominent and wealthy physician. There are suitors, insinuated affairs, missing jewels, and even a Persian prince. It sounds like an Agatha Christie novel, but it all happened in Salt Lake City.
Just after midnight on February 22, 1930, the brutally disfigured body of Dorothy Dexter Moormeister, 32, was found on the western edge of Salt Lake City. She had been repeatedly run over with her own car and nearly every bone in the body was crushed. Dorothy’s husband was Dr. Frank Moormeister, a wealthy physician and abortionist for the local brothels. Dr. Moormeister was much older than his wife, who had a wild social life and actively solicited the attentions of other men.
One of these men, Charles Peter, was a prime suspect in her death. He had allegedly urged Dorothy to divorce her husband and fleece him in the settlement. Additionally, the doctor had once loaned Peter a large sum of money and, as partial payment, taken from Peter a valuable pendant. The pendant was among the jewelry missing from Dorothy’s body. Another suitor, Prince Farid XI, who had met the Moormeisters during an excursion to Paris, was rumored to have been in Salt Lake City at the time. There were letters discovered afterwards intimating that Dorothy had designs to run away with him.
“Let’s just say she wasn’t staying at home doing needlepoint,” says Diamond “The doctor had his own life as well. They kind of lived separate lives.”
On the night of her murder, Dorothy was seen entering the Hotel Utah at around 6 p.m. She left a short time later with two men and another woman. Dr. Moormeister claimed to have gone out to see a movie alone during this time period. The autopsy revealed traces of absinthe in Dorothy’s stomach.
A search of her letters also revealed that she had been hiding money in various safety deposit boxes around town and had drafted some recent changes in her will but had not signed them officially.
However, despite all the intrigue and a massive effort by county investigators who even brought in a private detective who was considered popularly as the “Sherlock Holmes” of his time, the killer was never brought to justice.m