by L. Kay Gillespie
Other Executions and Punishments
[p.191]Not all killers are sentenced to die. Sex, age, plea bargaining—many factors affect the outcome. Utah crimes just as bizarre and sensational as those described in this book have not resulted in executions. Also there have been a number of famous criminals with Utah connections who were imprisoned or executed elsewhere.
For example, Milda Hopkins Ashdown, age thirty-five, confessed to the 1955 killing of her forty-four-year-old husband Raymond, to whom she gave a drink of lemonade mixed with strychnine. The Ashdowns lived in Cedar City and had seven children. Mrs. Ashdown was taken into custody immediately after her husband’s funeral. At the time of her arrest, her sister Elizabeth Lottie Lacey was serving a sentence in Idaho State Prison for killing her husband, Vivian Ashdown. Both sisters had married brothers. Vivian died after eating hamburgers containing strychnine.
Milda Ashdown was charged with first degree murder. A jury of eight men and four women found her guilty but recommended a sentence of life in prison rather than the [p.192] death penalty. Fifth district judge Will L. Hoyt sentenced her to Utah State Prison, but at the time female prisoners served their time at the women’s prison in Canon City, Colorado. Ashdown served there until 4 November 1970, when she was released.
Jean Sinclair, age forty-five, a nursing home operator, was arrested in 1963 and charged with first degree murder for the ambush killing of thirty-one-year-old Don LeRoy Foster of Salt Lake City. He was killed by a shotgun blast in the parking lot at the Susan Kay Arms Apartments, 650 North 200 West. LaRae Peterson, age thirty-two, who was in Foster’s car at the time, was the object of Sinclair’s affection but had recently engaged Foster. The prosecutor claimed Sinclair became jealous and after unsuccessfully attempting to hire an ex-con to do the killing she did it herself. The all-male jury found her guilty but recommended leniency. She was sentenced to life in prison and served until 15 May 1973, when she was paroled to a nursing home where she died 3 July 1973.
Ira Lee Gillian, age forty-nine, was arrested in Salt Lake City in 1967 for murdering Jesse A. Melton, age fifty-five. He was found dead in his apartment, shot in the head, and Gillian was charged with first degree murder. An all-male jury found her guilty but recommended leniency. Third district judge Marcellus K. Snow sentenced her to life in prison. She entered prison on 16 February 1968, but after an appeal overturned her conviction, she was released on 13 February 1970. She was retried and on 2 March 1970 sentenced for voluntary manslaughter.
Frances Bernice Sehreuder, age forty-five, was convicted of first degree murder in 1983 for planning the killing of her seventy-six-year-old father, Franklin James Bradshaw. Her son Marc, seventeen years old at the time, did the actual killing. Testifying at his mother’s trial, he said she planned the murder “so she could inherit a great deal of money very quickly” (Salt Lake Tribune, 20 Sept. 1983). She was convicted [p.193]of first degree murder by a seven-woman, five-man jury and, although eligible for the death penalty, was sentenced to life in prison by third district judge Earnest F. Baldwin. The Utah board of pardons granted her a parole date of 8 October 1996. Her son Marc, who was certified as an adult to stand trial, will be eligible for parole in July 1994.
Other women in Utah have been involved in murders. The 5 June 1922 Salt Lake Tribune indicated only one woman up to that time had served time in Utah State Prison for first degree murder: Mary Jane Smith, sentenced for killing a man in 1903 with “knockout drops.” She was sentenced to serve twenty years and died in prison before her sentence was completed.
The same article also identified other women who killed:
Amy Ellen Hill shot and killed Ross M. Bonney, a Salt Lake attorney who refused to marry her, in 1916. She was charged with first degree murder but later pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and served her sentence of nine months in the Salt Lake county jail.
Rora Hodge in 1902 was charged in the murder of a “spectacles vendor” she was traveling with. The murder occurred on Cottonwood Creek. She apparently killed him for his money. Prior to her trial she was taken to the hospital suffering from appendicitis and committed suicide there.
Marie Arthur in 1914 shot and killed “Broadway” Jones, her lover, because he was unfaithful. The Tribune reported she served “several months in the County jail.” After being paroled, she was subsequently charged with assault with a deadly weapon for shooting a male companion who insisted on accompanying her home from a party.
In 1922 Judge Ephraim Hansen dismissed the jury after they became deadlocked following fourteen hours of deliberation. Seventeen-year-old Angeline Wacaster was being tried for the first degree murder of Charles A. Faus, a Salt Lake businessman. Two others involved in the killing, both males, were found guilty during their first trial. Roy E. [p.194]Donnell, seventeen, who did the actual killing, was sentenced to life in prison, as was Gilbert L. Brighton, age twenty-one. Wacaster was a maid in the Faus home and plotted with the men to commit the crime. The jury deadlocked over the severity of a life sentence for such a young girl and over concerns that the board of pardons could not act in a first degree murder sentence until the person had served fifteen years. After her second trial, Wacaster was sentenced to prison and served approximately seven and a half years before being paroled.
Further evidence of Utah juries’ reluctance to mete out harsh sentences to women is the case of Mrs. Leland Sheddon of Richfield, who in 1943 fatally shot her husband during a family argument in the presence of witnesses. Her husband, accompanied by another woman, had recently been arrested in an automobile theft. Sheddon admitted to involuntary manslaughter and was given a ninety-day suspended jail sentence so she could be at home to take care of her nine-month-old daughter and five-year-old son.
Some states have sentenced juveniles as young as ten and eleven years of age to death, but Utah has not, although violent crimes have been committed by juveniles. For example, George Metropolis and Dale Johnson, both escapees from Salt Lake Detention Home, were arrested after the shooting death of a night watchman in 1960. Metropolis, age fifteen, and Johnson, age fourteen, had been discovered by Gordon William Bloxham, age eighteen, who was substituting for the regular night watchman at Allied Development Company in Salt Lake City. Both juveniles were tried together as adults. They were found guilty of first degree murder, but an all-male jury recommended mercy. They were sentenced to life in prison and subsequently transferred to California. In 1970 both were freed on a writ of habeas corpus ordered by Chief Judge Willis W. Ritter, U.S. District Court for Utah. He ruled they were entitled to separate trials and that their confessions prejudiced the jury [p.195](Salt Lake Tribune, 19 Sept. 1970).
Michael Patrick Jones, age sixteen, on 16 October 1963 shot and killed Detective Sergeant Marshall N. White of the Ogden police department. Jones and a companion had escaped from the Utah State Industrial School and were hiding in a nearby home when police officers began searching for them. Jones fired a shot from a rifle and hit White in the abdomen. White died a few days later. Jones pleaded guilty to first degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison. In 1968 the Marshall N. White Center, a community center for youth in Ogden, was dedicated as a memorial to White.
Brian Russell Johnson, a seventeen-year-old from Bountiful, Utah, was involved in the murder of police detective Percy L. Clark in 1973. He was tried as an adult and sentenced to serve ten years to life at the Utah State Prison. Kevin Mann Tutrow, eighteen, had the charges dropped against him when he agreed to testify against Johnson. Michael Mahoney, twenty, who apparently did the actual killing, had been killed when police returned fire.
Mark Chandler Austin, age eighteen, pleaded guilty to second degree murder in the stabbing deaths of his sixteen-year-old wife and newborn son in 1975. He received a sentence of five years to life at the Utah State Prison. His attorney blamed the crimes on “adult magazines and television” (Salt Lake Tribune, 17 May 1975).
Lawrence LeRoy Alexander, a fifteen-year-old from Kingston, New York, was charged in Parowan in 1976 with first degree murder and allowed to plead guilty to manslaughter in the shooting and strangling death of a thirty-seven-year-old hitchhiker. Alexander was certified as an adult and confessed to two other murders, an assault, and several robberies in a cross-country crime spree. These crimes occurred while he was an escapee from the New York Industrial School. His sentence was one to fifteen years in Utah State Prison.
Daryl Austin Babcock, seventeen years old, was certified [p.196]as an adult and tried for murder, attempted murder, and sexual assault involving two teenage Ogden girls in 1977. He pleaded guilty to first degree murder and attempted criminal homicide. Babcock killed eighteen-year-old Vicky Ann Newman by stabbing her forty-three times. The fifteen-year-old survivor of the incident was stabbed twenty times but was able to testify against Babcock. He was sentenced to life plus five years to life at Utah State Prison.
Johnny Perez, fifteen years old, was certified to stand trial as an adult in the stabbing death of Henry Topping, Jr., a sixty-five-year-old night clerk at the Ben Lomond Hotel in Ogden in 1976. Topping had been stabbed forty-four times and $370 was missing from the till. Perez was sentenced to life in prison.
John P. Miller, Jr., a fifteen-year-old Clinton boy, was arrested in 1980 and charged with first degree murder, kidnapping, and forcible sexual abuse. He had participated in the search for two-year-old Ann Hoskins, his neighbor, who had been missing for over twelve hours. When found, she had been strangled and hit over the head. There was also evidence that she had been sexually abused. Miller was certified as an adult and pleaded guilty to first degree murder and forcible sexual abuse. The Davis County attorney’s office in return for the guilty plea agreed not to ask for the death penalty. Miller was sentenced to life in prison and a five-year concurrent sentence for the sexual abuse charge.
Larry Scott Webb, sixteen, and John Michael Calhoun, eighteen, killed two prominent citizens of Salt Lake City. On 27 February 1980, O. Thayne Acord and his wife Lorraine were found dead in their ransacked home. Both had been tied up and shot once in the head. Acord was part owner of the Golden Eagles hockey club, owner of Granger Builders Supply, and chair of the board of directors for Utah Bancorporation. The murders occurred while Calhoun was an eseapee from the Utah State Industrial School. Both Webb and Calhoun were certified as adults to stand trial. As a [p.197] result of Webb’s willingness to testify about the murders, the murder charges were dropped against him and he was prosecuted only for aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery. Calhoun was found guilty of both murders and sentenced to life in prison.
In 1980 in Price, a nine-year-old boy was charged with second degree murder after he shot and killed thirty-four-year-old Cheryl Woodland. The boy went to a Mormon chapel with a neighbor after the shooting. He talked with his bishop and then returned to the scene, where he led police to a .357 magnum revolver. He was eventually committed to Utah State Hospital for treatment.
In addition to these women and juveniles, others have murdered and not been sentenced to death.
On a lonely stretch of I-80 between Coalville, Utah, and Evanston, Wyoming, Emery Dean Beck left highway patrolman William Antoniewicz, who was found by a passing motorist lying next to his patrol car, bleeding from gunshot wounds. Antoniewicz died later that night, 8 December 1974. Beck was officially charged 50 June 1976, while serving time in Wyoming State Prison on narcotics offenses. He was apparently transporting drugs at the time Antoniewicz stopped him. Earlier in the day Beck had broken into the Lyman, Wyoming, jail, taking drugs held there in evidence and aiding the escape of Wayne Tague, a friend who was incarcerated. Beck left Tague in Salt Lake City and was returning to Wyoming when he was pulled over. He shot Antoniewicz as he approached Beck’s car. Charged with first degree murder, Beck’s first trial resulted in a hung jury. Prior to his second trial, he pleaded guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to five years to life—this sentence to run concurrent with his sentence in Wyoming. Beck was eventually paroled in 1989.
In April 1978 police were led to a stand of Junipers outside of Kanab, where the bodies of two missing French tourists were discovered tied to the trees. The bodies had [p.198] been in the same location for over a year without being discovered. Wayne Richard Brewer, age twenty-two, and Rodger Kipp Andreason, age nineteen, were both charged with first degree murder. Both men originally pleaded innocent and then later changed their plea to guilty of second degree murder. Both claimed to have been on drugs at the time of the killing and indicated they had been hitchhiking when they were picked up by the two tourists. While sitting in the back seat of the rented car, they conceived the plan to rob and kill the tourists and then steal the car. The car was later driven to Salt Lake City and turned in at the airport. Brewer and Andreason were sentenced to five years to life and given an added six-year term for using a firearm. Brewer was paroled in 1990 and Andreason a few years later.
On 20 August 1980 Joseph Paul Franklin (who legally changed his original name of James Clayton Vaughn, Jr.) shot and killed two young black joggers as they crossed 500 East at 900 South near Liberty Park in Salt Lake City. They were jogging with two white female teenagers, neither of whom was killed although one girl was grazed by a passing bullet. Franklin was arrested in Lakeland, Florida, after escaping from a Kentucky police station where his car had been impounded and he was being questioned about a stolen car. Returned to Utah, he was tried on federal charges of “violating the civil rights of the two black youths.” He was found guilty by a ten-female, two, male jury and sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison. Between the time the verdict was handed down and the sentence imposed, Franklin was suspected of many other killings with racial overtones, including double homicides in Oklahoma, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Franklin was also later tried in the shooting of Vernon Jordan, Urban League director, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and the bombing attack that crippled Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler magazine. He is presently incarcerated at the federal maximum security prison in Marion, Illinois.
[p.199]Michael P. Moore, a twenty-five-year-old University of Utah engineering student, was arrested, charged, and found guilty of the 5 March 1982 double killing of Jordan Rasmussen and Buddy R. Booth. Moore was the manager of Log Haven Restaurant in Mill Creek Canyon near Salt Lake. Fearing that Rasmussen, a restaurant bookkeeper, was part of an organized crime ring attempting to take over the restaurant, Moore shot and killed him. Booth, a laundry truck driver, arrived on the scene shortly after the killing of Rasmussen. Booth was killed to keep him from talking after he discovered Rasmussen’s body. Originally charged with two counts of capital homicide, at his trial Moore admitted the killings but argued he should have been charged with manslaughter not capital homicide. He was found guilty of the two counts of capital homicide, but after deliberating for one hour during the penalty phase, the jury brought back two life sentences to run consecutively. Moore is still at Utah State Prison.
Ervil LeBaron, referred to as a polygamist cult leader, was arrested for the 11 May 1977 murder of Rulon Allred. The actual killing was done by two women, but LeBaron was charged as the mastermind behind the killing. Allred’s death apparently resulted from a power struggle among competing polygamous sects. LeBaron allegedly ordered the killing of Allred so he could take over Allred’s group. A jury of nine men and three women found LeBaron guilty of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. He was sentenced to serve two life sentences but died at Utah State Prison on 16 August 1981—apparently of a heart attack. He was fifty-six years old.
Rena Lei Chynoweth, believed to be one of the women who did the actual killing, was acquitted after her trial on charges similar to those faced by LeBaron. In 1990 she published her own version of the affair and admitted she had in fact killed Allred. Because Chynoweth was acquitted of murder charges, she cannot be recharged with the murder.
[p.200]On 24 July 1984 Ron and Dan Lafferty drove to the home of their youngest brother Allen, where they killed his wife Brenda and baby daughter Erica by cutting their throats. The two Lafferty brothers claimed to have followed a revelation from God: “Thus saith the Lord unto my servents [sic] the prophets. It is my will and commandment that ye remove the following individuals in order that my work might go forward. For they have truly become obstacles in my path and I will not allow my work to be stopped. First thy brother’s wife Brenda and her baby, then Chloe Low, and then Richard Stowe.” Both Laffertys were arrested 7 August 1984 at Circus Circus in Las Vegas, Nevada. In a separate trial, Dan Lafferty was convicted of the two murders, but because the jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision for the death penalty, he was given two life sentences. Two members of the jury claimed Dan Lafferty had manipulated them by “psycho-sexual seduction.”
Ron Lafferty was not as fortunate. His trial was postponed after an unsuccessful attempt to hang himself, and on 7 May he was found guilty and sentenced to die. He awaits execution for the two murders, while Dan serves his time with the main population at Utah State Prison.
On 15 October 1985 Steven Christensen was killed in his office by a home-made bomb. A few miles away Kathleen Sheets picked up a small package in the walkway of her home and was killed by a bomb blast. On 16 October 1985 Mark Hofmann was injured by a bomb blast shortly after getting into his car at 200 North on Main Street. Evidence at the scene of this last blast tied Hofmann to the other two deaths as well as to an intrigue that involved document forgeries. In a plea bargain prior to trial, Hofmann pleaded guilty to two counts of second degree murder and two counts of communication fraud. In exchange twenty-six felony counts were dismissed, and Hofmann was sentenced to five years to life for killing [p.202]Christensen and also given three separate prison terms of one to fifteen years for the murder of Sheets and for theft convictions. The board of pardons gave Hofmann a sentence of “natural life,” implying they intend no parole for him.
On 18 January 1979 John Singer was surrounded by law enforcement officers as he picked up his mail. A few minutes later he lay dead on the snow, ending a two-year conflict that began with Singer’s decision to keep his children out of public schools. His wife Vickie and their six children were left alone. On 16 January 1988 a Mormon stake center in Marion, Utah, was bombed, and police followed three sets of footprints crossing a snow-covered field to the home of Vickie Singer, where she and fourteen other people had barricaded themselves. This standoff eventually involved more than one hundred fifty law enforcement officials and ended with the death of one of them, corrections officer Fred House.
John Timothy Singer, who it was believed fired the fatal shot, was charged with murder. Addam Swapp, who had married two of John Singer’s daughters, and Vickie Singer were charged with assault and explosives violations. The motive for the bombing was apparently related to the expectation that John Singer would be resurrected and return to his family near the anniversary of his death. After a trial on federal charges, Addam Swapp was found guilty and sentenced to fifteen years in prison for the bombing and for exchanging shots with federal agents. Vickie Singer was given a five-year sentence for her role in the shootout, and Timothy Singer, her son, and Jonathan Swapp, her son-in-law’s brother, each received ten-year sentences for firearm charges along with five years probation on other charges. Addam Swapp and John Timothy Singer were later convicted of reduced homicide charges in state courts, and Jonathan Swapp was convicted of negligent homicide. Vickie Singer was released from prison in June 1991. The others are still serving their sentences.
Many of Utah’s famous criminals have committed [p.203] crimes in other states. Alfred Packer was one of twenty men who left Salt Lake City in 1873 for the gold fields of Colorado and became snowbound in the Colorado Rockies. It is believed that Packer killed five companions and lived by eating their flesh until he wandered into the Indian Agency in February 1874. He claimed the group, because of hunger, began attacking each other and eating the loser. Packer evaded arrest and was not seen again until 1883 when a member of the original group of twenty recognized him in Salt Lake City. He was arrested and returned to Lake City, Colorado, where he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to die. Later on appeal he was granted a new trial, charged with manslaughter, and sentenced to forty years in prison. He served sixteen of these, was released in 1901, and died in 1907.
Butch Cassidy and his “hole-in-the-wall” gang also had Utah connections. Many of them came from Utah, and their escapades brought them into the state frequently—sometimes for extended periods of time.
On 5 June 1981 Jack Abbot was released from Utah State Prison. His book, In the Belly of the Beast, which he wrote in prison, had just been published with the encouragement and assistance of Norman Mailer. After his release, he obtained an out-of-state parole to a federal half-way house in New York. While basking in the popularity of his book, he went to a bar and, after an argument, he and Richard Adan, a twenty-two-year-old waiter, stepped outside. A short while later Adan was found dead on the sidewalk. Abbot was arrested in the Louisiana oil fields two months later. He was charged with murder and at his trial found guilty of first degree manslaughter. Abbot was sentenced to fifteen years to life and will begin serving the sentence after he finishes the remaining eight years of the original sentence for which he was on parole from Utah.
One of the most widely publicized “Utahns” executed in another state was Ted Bundy, a University of Utah law [p.204]student from Washington. Originally Bundy was arrested in Salt Lake City for possession of burglary tools. He had been stopped for speeding, but in the car officers found among other things: “an ice pick, a pair of handcuffs, silk stockings with holes cut in for eyes and nose, and other items a burglar might carry” (Stephen G. Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth, The Only Living Witness [New York: Signet Books, 1983], 87).
On 2 October 1975 after being identified in a lineup, Bundy was charged with kidnapping and attempted murder. He went to trial on 25 February 1976 for an attempt to kidnap and assault Carol DeRonch at Fashion Place Mall in Murray. He waived a jury trial, was found guilty, and sentenced to a term of one to fifteen years in Utah State Prison. A few months later on 27 January 1977, Bundy was extradited to Colorado to stand trial for the murder of Caryn Campbell. During his first appearance in court in Colorado, he jumped out of a courthouse window during a recess and escaped. Recaptured the following 13 June, he escaped again on 30 December and was not captured again until Florida police found him on 14 February 1978—after the Chi Omega sorority murders and the sexual assault and murder of twelve-year-old Kimberly Diane Leach. Bundy was found guilty and sentenced to death for these murders. He was executed in Florida’s electric chair in January 1989. Prior to his execution he met with law enforcement officials to clear up other unsolved killings. He granted a filmed interview in which he blamed pornography for his problem. Anywhere from thirty to fifty killings of young girls across the United States have been attributed to Bundy. In one of his last telephone conversations with his mother in Tacoma, he said, “I’m sorry I’ve given you such grief…but a part of me was hidden, all the time” (Ogden Standard Examiner, 24 Jan. 1989). He has been the subject of five books and a television miniseries entitled The Deliberate Stranger.
Presently one young Utahn is awaiting execution in Nevada. Edward Bennett and Joseph Beeson, both from [p.205] central Utah, were arrested, tried, and found guilty of the “thrill kill” of Michelle Moore, who was shot to death during the robbery of a convenience store near the Las Vegas Strip. Beeson avoided the death penalty by agreeing to testify against Bennett. Bennett was sentenced to be executed. Beeson was given two life terms without possibility of parole. On 20 August 1990 Beeson was found dead in his cell, strangled and stabbed to death with a home-made weapon resembling an ice pick.
It is difficult to predict the future direction of executions in Utah. Other Utahns will undoubtedly be involved in capital crimes in Utah and in other states, and their executions will, of course, depend on a variety of factors. It is doubtful that Utah will begin executing convicts under the age of 18. Nor is it likely that the state will begin executing women or even sentencing them to death for capital offenses.
There seems to be little question that Utah will continue to impose the death sentence. Public opinion polls have consistently shown high levels of support among the populace. Despite this, there have only been thirty-six executions since statehood in 1896 and only eleven during the forty years previous to that.