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A history of hate crimes in Utah

Listing every crime committed in hatred for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons in Utah would take volumes. There are too many untold stories out of fear of rejection or that were simply buried. But in honor of Gay History Month, we’ve compiled a list of some that have affected our community.

Murders

Frederick Jones
1864
Status: Unsolved

Originally tried on sodomy charges in 1864 his case was dismissed because no formal laws were on the books. However, the Camp Douglas solider was shot by unknown assailants the same day his case was dismissed.

George Roy Moriarty
1965
Status: Solved
Sentence: 10 years

Moriarty was slain Jan.1, 1965, by Gary Lynn Horning and Leon Dyer. The three were partying and drinking when they went for a drive up Ogden Canyon. Dyer and Horning beat Moriarty and threw him down an embankment. Later, they ran him down in a car. After claiming gay-panic defense, they were convicted of manslaughter and sentenced up to 10 years in prison. Horning died in a car accident in 2007, Dyer is living in Evanston, Wyo.

Spence Mendenhall
1966
Status: Unsolved

The 54-year-old bachelor who lived alone in Salt Lake City was found dead in his apartment on Oct. 23, 1966. He was shot three times in the head. His table was set with two plates, two knives, two forks and three glasses on the day he died.

Tony Adams
1978
Status: Unsolved

Tony Adams, 25, was the campaign manager for the Socialist Party in Utah and a gay-rights activist when he was murdered. His body was discovered three days after the crime, on Nov. 6, 1978, in his apartment with multiple stab wounds and his throat slit. The coroner later determined cause of death was three stab wounds to his chest, his throat was slit postmortem. There was no evidence of a robbery.

Doug Ray Coleman
1978
Status: Unsolved

The artist was an Ogden native who was last seen leaving the Sun Tavern in Salt Lake City and climbing into a box car at the Union Pacific Railroad on Dec. 1, 1978. He was shot in the head and witnesses saw two men fleeing the area. Robbery did not appear to be the motive.

Dennis Piernick
1982
Status: Solved 30 years later
Sentence: None

On May 16, 1982, Dennis Piernick was found dead in his Salt Lake City apartment. He had been stabbed multiple times in the head and neck. Piernick was gay, as were many key witnesses in the case who were afraid to come forward in the investigation. Leads dried up and no arrest was made. When the cold case was reviewed in 2011, a detective learned that Piernick’s former neighbor Rodney VanKomen confessed to a friend in 1983 that he had murdered Piernick. VanKomen died in an automobile accident in 2005.

Marty Shook
1982
Status: Unsolved

On June 12, 1982, Marty James Shook, a 22-year-old hitchhiker from Sparks, Nev., was killed execution-style in a canyon near Price, Utah. Shook was shot in the back of the head and his genitals were removed. His nude body was found by a fisherman. The crime is thought to be linked to a serial killer who was responsible for more than a dozen deaths that often left his victims mutilated and abandoned. The killer was never apprehended.

Douglas Koehler
1982
Status: Solved
Sentence: Five years

After Koehler was gunned down, execution-style, by David Thacker in Park City on Aug.20, 1982, Thacker was sentenced to serve six years under a guilty manslaughter plea. The light sentence by Judge David S. Young, a descendant of Brigham Young, was protested by gay-rights activists and he later lost a reelection bid, the first judge in Utah history to do so.

Thacker now lives on a ranch in a rural community of Utah. He served only five years for shooting Koehler in the face with a rifle.


Gordon Church
1988
Status: Solved
Sentence: Death, life in prison

During the Thanksgiving holiday in 1988, Gordon Church was brutally tortured and slain for being gay. Lance Conway Wood and Michael Archuletta carved an ‘X’ into Church’s neck before raping him.

Then, they attached the car battery to his genitals using jumper cables, and tied him in chains. They stuffed him into the trunk of his own car and drove north on I-15 from Cedar City. After driving up a remote canyon, they removed Church from the trunk and raped him with a tire iron, puncturing his liver. They tried killing him by breaking his neck. When that didn’t work, Archuletta beat him to death with the tire iron and buried him in a shallow grave. Wood eventually told police about the crime hoping for leniency. Wood is serving a life sentence and Archuletta is on death row, awaiting his fifth appeal.

Gordon Lee Winslow
1988
Status: Solved
Sentence: 15 years

The 46-year-old gay man was shot in the chest, July 11, 1988, in Jordan Park, a popular place for men to meet for sex. Mario Linn Fraga and Jacob Timothy Martinez were later arrested. Fraga was sentenced one to 15 years for second degree murder, and Martinez, one to 15 years for involuntary man slaughter. Both were released early and Fraga was arrested again and convicted of child sexual abuse.

Darrell Webber
1989
Status: Solved
Sentence: Acquitted

A 38-year-old gay father of two was stabbed repeatedly and killed, April 6, 1989, by Marty Ray Withers, who claimed Webber was trying to sexually assault him. Withers was acquitted of all charges after an all-male jury agreed he was acting with reasonable force.

Kerry Arbon
1991
Status: Unsolved

The body of the 40-year-old closeted gay man was found by a bicyclist in City Creek Canyon on Sept. 14, 1991. The body was hidden above Memory Grove where men often frequented to find sexual partners.

Jerry Campbell
1990
Status: Unsolved

The 46-year taxi driver was a fixture at the Sun Tavern where he loved to play pool. He was found dead with one bullet hole in his head on Nov. 13, 1990, in his Salt Lake City apartment. No charges were ever filed and no arrests were made.

Chet O’Neil Harris
1993
Status: Solved, sentenced up to 30 years and acquitted

The Ogden resident was shot and killed in a Salt Lake City alley on Aug. 21, 1993. Two Vietnamese immigrants, Tam Nguyen, 16, and Taun In Ly, 18, admitted to stealing a gun and robbing Harris because he was gay. Nguyen shot him in the neck in a Salt Lake City alley. After stealing his car, the pair returned to find Harris struggling to move. Ly then shot him in the head.  Nguyen was sentenced to two consecutive terms of one to 15 years in prison. Ly was never charged because Nguyen refused to testify against his friend. Later, in 2007, Nguyen escaped from the Garfield County Jail in an empty school bus and was found near Zions National Park after he stole a car.

Charles Baxter
1998
Status: Solved
Sentence: Committed suicide

The 25-year-old man was shot in Salt Lake City on Exchange Place (355 South between State and Main Streets) on Jan. 29, 1998, by Jay Lynn Peterson, 32, after Baxter made derogatory statements and used gay slurs about Peterson’s sexual orientation. The shooter went home and killed himself.

Melissa Koolmo
1998
Status: Solved
Sentence: Life

Melissa Koolmo was shot March 18, 1998, by her husband, Todd Koolmo, after he accused her of having a lesbian love affair. He turned himself in and is still in prison.

Assaults

Harold Dean Hawker
1988
Status: Solved

Two Logan High School football players, Tracy Kendrick, 19, and Shayne Rhodes, 18, were arrested after brutally beating Harold Dean Hawker on a cold night in February 1988.  The pair went to Ladybird Park to play a game they called “queer bashing.” Hawker has permanent brain damage and is disabled as a result of the beating. They each served three years in prison, and Kendrick has been in and out of jail since the early 1990s.

Terry Nelson
1990
Status: Unsolved

The 40-year-old man was attacked by a group of young men on July 26, 1990, as he walked home from the gay bars of West Temple and 200 South. He was beaten in the head with a lead pipe, which caused him to suffer seizures. Three years later he died of a seizure.

Brent Carpenter
1995
Status: Solved, sentenced to community service

Brent Carpenter was 46 years old when he was beaten in a Logan, Utah, parking lot on April 13, 1995, because a man thought Carpenter had made a homosexual advance toward him. Carpenter is severely mentally handicapped and is a familiar sight in the city and at Utah State University where he rides his bike, waving and honking at passersby.

Josh Shuck
2006
Status: Solved, sentenced to 15 months

Josh Shuck was tackled and his head was slammed against the ground at an October 2006 Salt Lake City Jazz Festival while his attacker shouted gay slurs. The attack resulted in two crushed vertebrae. Mark Handley pleaded guilty to public intoxication and was faced with a fine and up to 15 months in jail.

DJ Bell, Dan Fair
2008
Status: Solved, sentenced to five years

Attacked, beaten and falsely accused of child kidnapping. It took years after the July 4, 2008, attack for the assailants to be brought to justice. Ricky Ian Peace, 34; Leti David Mageo, 33; and Letitaia Tavita Nuusila, 27, were sentenced zero to five years in prison for all three charges of assault; however, they are allowed to serve all three sentences concurrently. The fourth person, Lulu Latu, was sentenced to serve 365 days in jail, but 180 days of the sentence was waived.

Carlos Lopez
2008
Status: Solved, sentenced to one year

On Aug. 9, 2008, Fa Junior MoiMoi was one of several suspects who attacked at least three people at an evening gathering in the Ensign Peak area, a popular hangout spot for young adults. One of the victims, Carlos Lopez, said that MoiMoi and at least five other men attacked him, his sister and his aunt when MoiMoi asked if Lopez was gay and Lopez did not respond. Moi Moi was sentenced to serve one year in prison.

Ryan Gray, Kevin Burns
2007
Status: Unsolved

An assault on a gay couple left Gray and Burns with black eyes, stitches and potential surgeries. On Wednesday, April 7, 2010, Gray and his partner, Burns, went to Piper Down, a popular Salt Lake City bar, for karaoke. They were attacked as they left the bar. Despite credit card receipts, a detailed description and surveillance video footage, the attackers were never apprehended.

Dane Hall
2011
Status: Unsolved

After he was attacked outside Club Sound in Salt Lake City on Aug. 27, 2011, and called gay slurs, Utah’s queer community rallied in support of the 20-year-old.  However, no arrests were made and no suspects were named.

Cameron Nelson
2011
Status: Unsolved

The 32-year-old man was attacked in American Fork, Utah, on Sept. 8, by three assailants who shouted gay slurs and the case was investigated as a possible hate-motivated crime. No arrests were made.

Jake Allred
2012
Status: Unsolved

Jake Allred was outside Maxwell’s in Salt Lake City on July 7, 2012, when a man approached him and asked him if he found some women in the bar attractive. After Allred ignored him, the assailant said, “you kind of sound like a faggot.” The attacker then slammed a glass into the side of Allred’s head. He had more than 20 internal stitches to close ruptured arteries and 26 external stitches. His attacker was never found.

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5 Comments

  1. I don't think it's because of police indifference, at least not for that last few years. I think so many go unsolved is because they are just random hate crimes. Most assults have a motive that links the criminal to the victim, but in the case of hate crimes they are just often spur of the moment random attacks with no particular connection between the two. Hope that makes sense.

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