Cold season 2, episode 9: High Fidelity – Full episode transcript

Dave Cawley: Quiet pervaded the room. No music, no chatter of voices, just the soft hum of the lights and the breathing of one man.

William Andrews (from July 29, 1992 KSL TV archive): Whatever happens, I’m ready for it. It’s that simple.

Dave Cawley: A pair of needles were inserted into the man’s arms. Tubing snaked away from them, disappearing through a hole in the cinderblock wall. The man, William Andrews, reclined on a padded plank covered with straps. Across the room were a series of windows. On the other side sat a small group of people who were there to witness William’s execution.

William Andrews (from July 29, 1992 KSL TV archive): I feel very comfortably spiritually with the aspect of dying, with the prospect of dying because I am a very spiritual man.

Dave Cawley: William had been scheduled to die at the stroke of midnight on Thursday, July 30, 1992. A last-minute plea for reprieve to the U.S. Supreme Court had delayed the lethal injection for about an hour and a half. The Supreme Court justices had just declined to intervene. So now, at 1:35 a.m., a state official signaled to an unseen executioner in the other room to push the plunger and deliver the fatal drug cocktail into William’s veins.

William Andrews (from July 29, 1992 KSL TV archive): I have come to terms with … the idea of dying. Umm, I don’t want to die but I don’t want to continue to live the way I have been living.

Dave Cawley: The rising and falling of William’s chest slowed. His fists unclenched. This man, barefoot and clad in a white jumpsuit, stopped breathing. Doug Lovell was well aware of William Andrews. And though Doug didn’t see the execution himself, he spent that night wondering if he, too, might soon face the same fate.

This is Cold, season 2, episode 9: High Fidelity. From KSL Podcasts, I’m Dave Cawley. We’ll be right back.

[Ad break]

Dave Cawley: The execution of William Andrews came just weeks after South Ogden police Sergeant Terry Carpenter served Doug Lovell with a capital homicide charge for the murder of Joyce Yost. The charging document made clear the stakes for Doug. If he were convicted, the death penalty was on the table. The execution of William Andrews showed it was not an empty threat. Yet, William’s death had proved anything but expeditious.

Protester (from July 29, 1992 KSL TV archive): The whole world has its eyes on Utah.

Deannie Wimmer (from July 29, 1992 KSL TV archive): Emotion ran high among the few hundred people who attended what they knew might be the last night of this week-long vigil at the governor’s mansion. They prayed and sang that peace would prevail on this night. Speakers at the vigil urged the crowd to keep hope and challenge what divides society.

Protester (from July 29, 1992 KSL TV archive): White people need to come out and speak against racism because it destroys children and life and dignity.

Dave Cawley: William was black. He’d been convicted by an all-white jury of capital homicide for his role in one of Utah’s most notorious crimes: the April, 1974 Ogden Hi-Fi Shop massacre.

William had been just 19 years old when he and a fellow helicopter mechanic stationed at Utah’s Hill Air Force Base — 21-year-old Dale Selby Pierre, who later changed his name to Pierre Dale Selby — hatched a plan to rob the Hi-Fi Shop. They rented a storage unit, in which they planned to stash the stolen speakers, amplifiers and turntables. They used multiple vans to shuttle the stereos to the storage unit. They had another airman act as lookout. They intended to leave no witnesses.

William and Dale were both armed when they entered the Hi-Fi shop on the evening of April 22, 1974. They rounded up the two young clerks who were inside — Michelle Ansley and Stanley Walker — and forced them into the basement. The thieves went about their work but as they did so, a teenage boy named Cortney Naisbitt came through the door. Cortney was cutting through on his way to the rear parking lot after having visited a nearby photo lab. Andrews and Pierre took him hostage as well.

Some time later, Cortney’s mother Carol Naisbitt came looking for him. Orren Walker, the father of clerk Stanley Walker, did the same. And so the number of hostages bound in the Hi-Fi Shop’s basement grew to five.

William and Dale had watched the film “Magnum Force” over and over in the days leading up to the crime. The movie, a sequel to the original Clint Eastwood crime drama “Dirty Harry,” featured a scene in which a pimp killed a prostitute by forcing her to drink drain cleaner. William and Dale had taken note of that scene. They’d purchased a bottle of liquid Drano and brought it with them to the Hi-Fi Shop. Orren Walker would later testify about how his captors sought to deliver the poison.

Orren Walker (from July 29, 1992 KSL TV archive): Pierre had the cup. Andrews poured the Drano into the cup. Pierre handed it to me to give to Michelle, Cortney and Stanley. And I just stood there. When I stood there, then Andrews pointed the gun at my head. He says, and threatened me, he said, ‘man, there’s a gun at your head.’ The thought went through my mind, ‘well, if he shoots me, he shoots me. I’m not about to take it and give it to ‘em.’

Dave Cawley: They gagged Orren and shoved him face-first onto the floor. Then, they propped up the other four hostages and poured the caustic cleaner into their mouths. Hollywood had not reflected the actual horror of what would occur. The Drano caused chemical burns and blisters, not immediate death. The men attempted to place duct tape over their victims’ mouths to quiet their screams, but their skin just sloughed off under the adhesive.

Frustrated by the delay, Dale then shot the hostages one by one. The first round he fired at Orren Walker missed and the second just grazed his head. Dale attempted to garrote Orren and when that failed, had William place a ballpoint pen against Orren’s ear. Dale then kicked the pen.

In the middle of this, Dale told William to leave him alone for a bit. He then raped the female clerk, Michelle, before shooting her in the back of the head. Orren Walker and Cortney Naisbitt survived. Carol Naisbitt, Stanley Walker and Michelle Ansley did not. Orren would go on to testify against William and Dale at their trial.

William Andrews (from July 29, 1992 KSL TV archive): When Mr. Walker testified at trial, at that time I felt he was a very sincere and I felt that he was the only person at the trial that maintained his honor. That did not mix up the facts or try to add, add anything to it. I thought he was very honorable and told the truth the way he saw it as best he could.

Dave Cawley: That is William Andrews’ own voice. It and the clips at the start of this episode come from the archives of KSL TV. William and Dale were tried and convicted together. Both received the death penalty. Dale Selby died first, in 1987, by lethal injection.

Con Psarras (from July 29, 1992 KSL TV archive): But by then, it was probably too late for William Andrews. He was locked on to the same legal track as Selby, the man who actually pulled the trigger in the basement of the Hi-Fi Shop. In the eyes of the law, Selby’s and Andrews’ cases were never separated until Selby was executed five years ago.

William Andrews (from July 29, 1992 KSL TV archive): There was never any distinction made between my participation in that crime and Pierre’s. No one can deny the viciousness of what took place there that night but I did not commit all of those vicious acts.

Dave Cawley: The fact William was going to die in spite of not having directly killed anyone himself prompted public outcry from those who believed the prosecutors and jurors had been motivated by racial bias.

Unidentified woman (from July 29, 1992 KSL TV archive): I’m going to write the story of Utah the murderer of blacks in Utah, a state that had made history for killing, murdering someone who has not killed anybody.

Man-on-the-street (from July 29, 1992 KSL TV archive): How can you kill a man for a crime that he didn’t commit?

Dave Cawley: On the other hand, the prosecutors pointed out William was the one who planned the heist. He was the brains, Dale was the muscle. William had also done nothing to prevent the murders.

Robert Wallace (from July 29, 1992 KSL TV archive): A person can be found guilty and receive capital punishment if they kill someone, if they have other intent to kill, if they attempt to kill, if they contemplate that someone will die, if they use lethal force.

Dave Cawley: The debate raged for weeks ahead of William’s scheduled execution. Protesters held a days-long vigil on the streets of Salt Lake City.

Deannie Wimmer (from July 29, 1992 KSL TV archive): Others told the crowd that no matter what happens to William Andrews, their fight will continue.

Protester (from July 29, 1992 KSL TV archive): Thank you William Andrews for bringing us all together. And we will fight on no matter what.

Rocky Anderson (from July 29, 1992 KSL TV archive): Let’s all of us insist of our political leaders that they hear this community and do away with this death penalty once and for all.

Dave Cawley: This formed the backdrop against which the death penalty prosecution of Doug Lovell was set to play out. And the attorney representing Doug in his capital homicide case was the same man who had nearly 20 years earlier represented William Andrews: John Caine.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: John Caine had lost the William Andrews case, but he’d gone on to represent defendants in other capital homicide cases. None had resulted in a death verdict. But the circumstances of the Joyce Yost murder gave him pause. Years later, Caine would say “this was one where I thought if it ever got imposed, this could be the one.”

Joyce’s disappearance had made the news at various times over the years but it’d never captured the public’s attention the way the Hi-Fi Shop murders had. Still, John recognized what’d happened to Joyce was in some ways on par with that horrific crime.

“I thought this case had things in it that made it as egregious as Hi-Fi in some respects,” John later said, noting it would “be particularly abhorrent to general citizens.”

Caine was a religious man and an outspoken opponent of capital punishment. His hopes of saving Doug from death relied on keeping Rhonda’s story out of the courtroom or, failing that, cutting a plea deal with the prosecution. He’d opened those negotiations with Weber County Attorney Reed Richards at the end of 1992. In early ’93, however, Reed left that job to become Chief Deputy Utah Attorney General.

On March 26, 1993, the Utah Supreme Court formally declined to take up Doug’s interlocutory appeal, the one challenging the admissibility of Rhonda’s testimony and the wire recordings.

Terry Carpenter (from May 1, 1991 police recording): How did he get in?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 1, 1991 police recording): He told me he went through a window.

Dave Cawley: That meant nothing more stood in the way of a trial. Judge Stanton Taylor signed an order, ordering Doug to appear on March 29th. John Caine was already in the courtroom when the bailiffs brought Doug in that afternoon.

“So today’s the day, huh,” Doug asked, apparently believing he was there to enter his guilty plea.

John told Doug he had some bad news. Their appeal had failed. The tentative agreement he’d reached with Reed Richards was now off the table.

“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” Doug said.

Doug had come clean to his family and to the other inmates in his section at the prison, telling them he was going to admit to killing Joyce Yost. Any one of them could now turn against him and testify. He was furious. John did what he could to salvage the situation. He asked for and received a two-week delay, buying time to re-open talks with the prosecutors.

Utah law provided two possible sentences for the crime of capital murder at the time when Doug killed Joyce in August of ’85: death or life in prison. But there was a huge asterisk after that word life. It meant life with the possibility of parole. Which would mean if Doug were convicted and sentenced under that law, he might some day win his freedom. That law had changed though in April of ’92…

Rep. Merrill Nelson (from Utah State Legislature archive recording): This bill creates a new sentencing option of life without parole.

Dave Cawley: …just weeks before Terry Carpenter served Doug with the charges.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): And I, uh, would have hoped that one of the things that would have saved you the capital aspect of it would have been cooperating with me on that but obviously you refused to do that.

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Well—

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): That may be the thing that costs you your life, Doug.

Dave Cawley: The state lawmakers had talked in their debates about the hesitance jurors in some fringe capital cases might feel, if their only choices were death or life with the possibility of parole.

Rep. Merrill Nelson (from Utah State Legislature archive recording): These dangerous people are subject to parole under current law and, uh, will likely be paroled.

Dave Cawley: The new option of life without the possibility of parole — or LWOP for short — was not without controversy. Some feared it would weaken the death penalty by reassuring reluctant jurors the killers they convicted would not be set free in just five or ten years. Those concerns did not derail the bill. It became law and was in effect at the time of the initial plea negotiations between John Caine and Reed Richards in late ’92 and early ’93. But Reed’s first proposal was for the old standard of life with the possibility of parole.

Kim Salazar: I thought that in the very beginning when we discussing all this … that LWOP wasn’t on the table.

Dave Cawley: The other members of the prosecution team started the negotiations anew after Reed departed the case. And prosecutors Bill Daines and Gary Heward were not as generous. They told John Caine at the March 29th hearing if Doug returned Joyce’s remains, they’d leave it up to the judge to decide between life with or without the possibility of parole.

Doug returned to court two weeks later, on April 12th. The hearing that day ended up being postponed but as bailiffs were taking Doug out of the courthouse, he spotted Terry Carpenter who was there booking someone else on an unrelated drug case.

Doug told Terry he wanted to talk to him.

“You can’t talk to me without your attorney,” Terry said.

Terry Carpenter: And he says ‘no, that’s where you’re wrong. I can talk to you, you just can’t talk to me.’

Dave Cawley: Terry thought it over and decided this was correct, as a matter of law. They stepped aside into a small conference room and sat down.

Terry Carpenter: He says ‘y’know, I’ve wanted for a long time to get Joyce back. I just didn’t know how.’

Dave Cawley: Doug didn’t outright admit to killing Joyce, but said he’d hoped for years to figure out a way to pass the location of her body to Joyce’s family. When Doug had said his piece, Terry said…

Terry Carpenter: ‘You need to sit down with, with your attorney and make sure we do this the right way but that will be up to you completely.’

Dave Cawley: In the meantime, Joyce’s children Kim Salazar and Greg Roberts told the prosecutors they did not support any deal which would leave open the possibility of Doug ever being paroled.

Terry Carpenter: You talk with them and you say ‘okay, now this guy’s at least told us he’s killed her. We have a chance to get the ultimate penalty for him.’

Greg Roberts: I think we wanted the death penalty, death penalty, death penalty.

Dave Cawley: Terry and the prosecutors were confident they could secure that sentence even without Joyce’s body. But their best chance of bringing Joyce home was making a deal with Doug. They played hardball. No more letting the judge decide on the question of parole. Their final offer was Joyce’s body in exchange for life without the possibility of parole.

Doug learned of the new terms at his next court hearing, on April 19th. He was, once again, furious. That same day, Judge Stanton Taylor scheduled the trial to begin on June 28, 1993. It would not be delayed again.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: At the start of May, Doug mailed a pair of letters: one to John Caine and the other to Judge Taylor. In both letters, he expressed frustration over the plea negotiations and said he was firing John and intended to represent himself. Prison staff transported Doug to the Weber County courthouse for a pretrial hearing a month later, on June 1st. He entered the courthouse and found John there waiting for him.

“What are you doing here,” Doug asked. “Didn’t you get my letter?”

John explained the court was not going to allow Doug to fire his attorney in a capital case. The stakes were too high. Like it or not, they were stuck with one another. Doug’s back was to the wall. Ten days later, John told the prosecution his client would accept the offer. He would plead guilty, return Joyce’s body and take life without parole. The prosecution agreed to the terms. All that remained was to put them in writing. Would Doug really follow through? Kim Salazar and Greg Roberts had their doubts.

Greg Roberts: I think that as we were going through that, that Carpenter and even those, the prosecutors and things—

Kim Salazar: Bill Daines.

Greg Roberts: —they were letting us know that they thought that Doug was playing them.

Dave Cawley: Terry Carpenter and U.S. Secret Service Agent Glen Passey, picked Doug up from the prison a few nights later. They were transporting him up to the Weber County Jail ahead of a meeting planned for the morning of June 17th, at which time Doug would sign a formal “memorandum of understanding” outlining the plea deal.

They took a detour before dropping Doug at the jail. Terry picked up a pizza and they went to a park next to South Ogden police headquarters. John Caine showed up there as well with a six-pack of beer. They all got to talking while Doug got to drinking.

Doug said he didn’t want to be there when police recovered the remains. It was too traumatic, too emotional. But he said he could point out the spot on an aerial image. He asked for one showing the terrain below the Snowbasin ski resort on the back side of Mount Ogden.

Terry Carpenter: But he says it’s the only place where there’s a guard rail on the curve.

Dave Cawley: The more Doug drank, the more he seemed to loosen up. Sometime after 10 p.m., as the summer evening took on the veil of darkness, he changed his mind, saying he was willing to go to the spot so long as they went right then, before his courage faltered.

Terry Carpenter: You’ve got somebody who is fighting emotions, you got somebody who is wanting on one side of him to do something and maybe for the first time in his life to do something right.

Dave Cawley: Terry made a series of phone calls to the prosecutors. They told him to wait until the next day, after Doug had signed the agreement. The next morning Doug read through the memorandum of understanding at the jail. It said in order for the agreement to be binding, he had to lead investigators to human remains that could be positively identified as those of Joyce Yost. Finding just her purse, for instance, wouldn’t be enough.

“If the mountainside has moved, if the animals have carried her off,” Doug said, “if for any reason we can’t find her, I’m [expletive]ed.”

He was right. He signed his name anyway.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: A string of cars cruised east on Utah Highway 39. They entered Ogden Canyon, one after another, winding along the narrow two-lane road like a slithering snake. Doug sat in the back of the lead car, next to Terry. John Caine sat in the front passenger seat while Glen Passey, the Secret Service agent, was at the wheel.

Terry Carpenter: So, we’ve pretty well got him covered and he’s shackled and handcuffed of course.

Dave Cawley: Terry observed Doug’s body language. He noted the clenched jaw and heaving sighs. The cars passed by Pineview Dam as they exited the top of the canyon. They began to slow as they approached the right-hand turn for the access road leading to Snowbasin. This was the place Doug said he’d taken Joyce on the night he’d killed her in 1985.

“I don’t want to do this yet,” Doug blurted out. “Keep going.”

And so they continued another mile down the road. There, the cars pulled into the parking lot of a small restaurant and gas station called Chris’. Doug’s nerves were acting up again. He wanted another beer to help calm down.

Terry Carpenter: And a cigarette and a, y’know. I can tell you how many times I’ve bought beer and cigarettes.

Dave Cawley: All for Doug Lovell?

Terry Carpenter: Ah, yeah. (Laughs)

Dave Cawley: Terry doesn’t drink or smoke, on account of his religion. And so, I was a bit perplexed when I first heard this part of the story. I asked Terry why he’d allowed Doug the courtesy of beer and cigarettes. He told me it was a matter of doing everything he could to try and recover Joyce for Kim and Greg.

Terry Carpenter: They would like to be able to bury their mother. So do you, do you not do everything you can to get it out of him? He’s right there. Supposedly just up this road is where he says, or is he telling us the truth or is he lying to us? The guy’s a great liar. I don’t know. So, if him having a beer or a cigarette is going to help him have enough courage to take us up to where: yes or no. Your choice.

Dave Cawley: Doug drank and chatted with Terry and John for the better part of an hour before at last telling them he’d calmed down and was ready to go. The train of cars flipped around and headed back to Snowbasin Road. The first section of that road was steep, climbing two-thousand feet in just two and a half miles. It then crested a ridge and dropped into the small valley of Wheeler Creek. Beyond the valley, the road rose another thousand feet before reaching the parking lot at the foot of the ski resort.

Doug said the spot he remembered was near a downhill grade, at a place where the road curved. There were guard rail posts along the right-hand side of the road and beyond it a field of sagebrush and a line of trees. Joyce was in the trees.

Terry Carpenter: You know, he tells us you’ve got to go over the guard rail and then go up and then I stomp on her throat right here.

Dave Cawley: Doug and Terry walked through the brush to the spot where Doug claimed to have killed Joyce. But the story didn’t add up for Terry.

Terry Carpenter: We know from the bed, there’s no way in hell that he could have walked her over that guardrail. It just couldn’t have happened. She’s lost too much blood on the mattress for him to walk her over that guardrail. So he’s got to be carrying her all this way.

Dave Cawley: Doug described how he’d at first concealed the body with leaves and branches.

Terry Carpenter: But then he tells us, too and I mentioned to you earlier, that he goes back and moves her.

Dave Cawley: As they walked around the site, Doug told his attorney John Caine how he’d scraped out a small depression and placed Joyce’s body into it on the return visit. Calling it a grave was a stretch. John Caine had, up to that point, been under the impression Doug had done a better job of burying Joyce. Remember, Doug had promised his attorney he could find the remains in the dark or in a snowstorm. Now, John worried his client wouldn’t be able to make good. The shoddiness of the burial raised the possibility Joyce’s body might have since been uncovered and scattered.

Terry told the other officers who’d come along this was their search area. Clearfield police detective Bill Holthaus, who’d first arrested Doug for the rape of Joyce Yost in 1985, was among them.

Bill Holthaus: We kinda just followed along behind. It was South Ogden’s case, y’know, and we were just there to help.

Dave Cawley: They returned the next day, without Doug. They brought coroners from the state medical examiner’s office, covering their trucks with a phony “Joe’s Bakery” logo to avoid drawing attention to the search. The detectives worked with picks and shovels, digging a network of trenches between the trees. They brought in cadaver dogs and consulted with a botanist.

Bill Holthaus: The botanist had told us that there would be certain kinds of fresh plant — because you’re unfortunately good fertilizer — that there would be certain kind of plant life you should look for in little groves.

Dave Cawley: Day after day, they returned to the search area and carried their tools into the patch of oak trees.

Bill Holthaus: We never found any evidence of anything growing at the same time in a small group like he told us we might find up there. Everything looked like pretty much old growth. There wasn’t anything fresh.

Dave Cawley: Doug had claimed to have left Joyce’s purse with the body. Could they at least find that?

Bill Holthaus: No, we didn’t find anything like that. We had metal detectors. Supposedly she had a necklace which wasn’t found at the house.

Dave Cawley: Not a trace.

Kim Salazar: I think that was just a bunch of [expletive]. There was never, he was trying to create mitigation. She’d never been there. He’d never been there. They overturned that hillside and there wasn’t so much as a fingernail.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: The date scheduled for the trial — June 28, 1993 — arrived with no recovery of Joyce’s remains. Doug pleaded guilty to the charge of capital homicide. Judge Stanton Taylor dismissed the kidnapping and burglary counts. Another significant question faced Doug at that point. Under Utah law, he had the right to choose whether a jury or judge would decide his sentence. The jury would have to be unanimous in a finding of death. Otherwise, the sentence would revert to life without parole.

Defense attorney John Caine told Doug, Russ and Monan Lovell privately he believed winning over even one juror was unlikely. He said the smarter play was having the judge choose the sentence.

“In my professional opinion and in my experience with Judge Taylor,” Caine said later, “I don’t think he would impose the death penalty.”

Kim Salazar: He coulda had a jury or he could’ve had the judge. But he knew that that judge had never handed down a death sentence in all his years on the bench. And so he banked on that. He didn’t think Judge Taylor could do it.

Dave Cawley: John wasn’t the only one who believed Judge Taylor might show mercy. So did Kim Salazar and Greg Roberts.

Greg Roberts: I think Bill Daines kind of warned us of that. He said ‘He’s a devoutly religious person.’ Y’know, will he follow the law? Will Stanton Taylor follow the law? Will he uh, just maybe follow his religious beliefs.

Dave Cawley: Terry Carpenter brought Doug back up the mountain after the plea hearing. They watched as a team of cadaver dogs scoured area, again. Terry and Doug went up again later that night, after sundown.

Terry Carpenter: And we drive up the van and he insists on going in the dark, ‘cause that’s when he goes. And we, we do this, or we pick to do this on a night that’s a full moon so we can see well.

Dave Cawley: They parked and stood at the roadside, the sound of crickets in their ears. Doug became emotional. He fell to the ground, rolling onto his side in the gravel, and began to weep. Slobber fell from his mouth, so much so that Terry had to retrieve a towel from the car. Terry noticed something else. There were no tears falling from Doug’s eyes.

Terry Carpenter: Doug was able to, to put up a great front and able to do a lot of things that would show you he was emotional and he was sincere but just that fast it was gone.

Dave Cawley: The Deseret News published a story on July 14, 1993, detailing the search effort. Terry Carpenter told reporters he had one goal.

Terry Carpenter (from July 21, 1993 KSL TV archive): Ideally we would like to locate Joyce, be able to have her be given a decent burial and bring this thing to a close.

Dave Cawley: The search was now public knowledge.

Larry Lewis (from July 21, 1993 KSL TV archive): Investigators have spent hours using shovels and hand tools digging dozens of trenches but so far they’ve found no sign of Joyce Yost. And now they’re bringing in heavy equipment.

Terry Carpenter (from May 1, 1991 police recording):  At one point, I got a permit from the Forest Service and took a backhoe up there and we destroyed that hillside trying to find her.

Dave Cawley: Kim and her husband Randy drove up Ogden Canyon to watch it work.

Randy Salazar: And after you seen somebody coming out from the shrub and everything, you’re hoping they’re, they got some news. But it was always no.

Dave Cawley: Doug kept making suggestions.

Terry Carpenter: She’s not within an acre of where he says ‘this is, or maybe this is, oh maybe this.’

Dave Cawley: Maybe, he said, he could pinpoint the spot if hypnotized. That didn’t work. Terry even brought Doug up the mountain with a self-described psychic.

Randy Salazar: And Doug cries and says ‘I know she’s here’ and ‘I can feel her here, this is the place.’ But again, he’s full of crap.

Dave Cawley: Terry, who was already skeptical of Doug’s story, wondered if there might be another explanation.

Terry Carpenter: She’s not there. She was never there. … She’s not even at Snowbasin. She is someplace else and honestly to this day, I believe Sheree Warren’s with her. Otherwise, if we go up and dig and find Joyce and find Sheree, that negates all the agreements that we’ve had with him and not executing him. And he knows that. So he’s not going to take us to Joyce.

Dave Cawley: Still, the work continued.

Greg Roberts: The show of like manpower when they were looking for her up near that Old Snowbasin Road with dogs and horses and men and bulldozers and backhoes and everything, it was, you’d think if there was something there that, y’know, maybe they will find her but yeah I do think he was just fully leading them on a wild goose chase to, to act like he’d tried.

Dave Cawley: Someone even suggested they try truffle-sniffing pigs, which were said to have noses more sensitive than even cadaver dogs. The searchers procured pigs from Colorado but they didn’t find anything, either.

Larry Lewis (from July 21, 1993 KSL TV archive): Meantime they say, they’re running out of patience and they’ll seek the death penalty for Lovell if they don’t find Yost by the end of the month. Larry Lewis, KSL News, Weber County.

[Ad break]

Dave Cawley: I opened this episode talking about the 1974 Ogden Hi-Fi Shop murders. That case made news in its day not only because of the brutality, but because it was one of the first death penalty prosecutions in the United States following a federal moratorium on executions.

Con Psarras (from July 29, 1992 KSL TV archive): It was a time of high emotion and legal turmoil. The justice system was grappling for another approach to capital punishment that the courts and the public would accept.

Dave Cawley: The full story of capital punishment in the United States extends well beyond the scope of this podcast, but Utah has played a key role in that story, dating back to before it even became a state.

In 1877, a man named Wallace Wilkerson shot and killed another man at a saloon in the Utah Territory during a dispute over a game of cribbage. Territorial law mandated the punishment for the crime of murder was death. Prior to 1876, the law had provided for three possible methods: hanging, decapitation or firing squad. At his sentencing, the judge ordered Wallace to die by firing squad.

Wallace then appealed his sentence, arguing it amounted to cruel and unusual punishment, which is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The appeal made its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court which for the first time in its history weighed the constitutionality of a specific manner of capital punishment. The decision came in March of 1879 and it was unanimous. The high court upheld the sentence. Death by firing squad, it said, was neither cruel nor unusual punishment.

Wallace’s actual execution tested that conclusion. The archives of the Deseret News indicate the firing squad missed the mark. Instead of shooting Wallace through the heart, the rounds went high through his chest. Wallace shouted “Oh God” and fell forward were he remained writhing in agony for another 27 minutes before dying.

In an editorial days later, the newspaper defended capital punishment by citing biblical precedent. “The dread of a violent death is greater than any terrors of imprisonment,” the paper read. It went on to argue against life imprisonment as an alternative to death, saying, “a tender hearted Executive may at some time grant a pardon, and a bare probability at least exists for escape in some way. But the sentence of death rigidly enforced carries with it a strong deterrent.” Whether capital punishment in fact has such a deterrent effect remains a matter of debate today.

Nearly a century passed before, in 1972 the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a decision in a case called Furman v. Georgia.

Warren Burger (from U.S. Supreme Court recording): Arguments next in 69-5003, Furman against Georgia.

Dave Cawley: The decision actually covered three separate cases, all involving men sentenced to die: two for rape, one for murder. Each argued on appeal that their sentences amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

Anthony Amsterdam (from U.S. Supreme Court recording): Capital punishment is regarded as indecent. As inconsistent with civilized standards today.

Dave Cawley: Every single justice on the high court bench wrote a separate opinion, with five of them agreeing the death penalty as imposed in the Furman cases was unconstitutional. The gist of the majority position revolved around the idea that the death penalty was too often applied arbitrarily. This meant people who were sentenced to die were more likely to be young, uneducated or a member of a minority group. All three of the defendants in the Furman cases were Black.

Anthony Amsterdam (from U.S. Supreme Court recording): The jury comes back with death. The defendant is black, the victim is white. That’s all the aggravation in the case.

Dave Cawley: Several of the justices noted judges and juries rarely applied capital punishment to rapists when they were not Black. The Furman decision had an immediate impact.

Con Psarras (from July 29, 1992 KSL TV archive): Death rows emptied all over America. In Utah, killers Myron Lance and Walter Kellback, who brutally murdered and then bragged about it, were re-sentenced to life in prison. The public wasn’t happy.

Dave Cawley: States scrambled to rewrite their death penalty laws, looking for a way to re-establish capital punishment without running afoul of the Supreme Court. Many, including Utah, coalesced around a system by which judges or juries would have to balance specific aggravating and mitigating circumstances before deciding if death was warranted. The Utah Legislature passed its revised law in 1973.

Con Psarras (from July 29, 1992 KSL TV archive): A new law was designed. A test case was necessary. And then came the murders in Ogden.

Dave Cawley: The 1974 Ogden Hi-Fi Shop killings. William Andrews and Dale Selby Pierre were tried, convicted and sentenced under Utah’s new death penalty framework. Two years later, the U.S. Supreme Court said these rewritten capital punishment laws resolved the inadequacies identified in the Furman decision. The nation’s moratorium on executions came to an end. Here again, Utah found itself in the crosshairs of history.

John Hollenhorst (from January 17, 1977 KSL TV archive): A lot of attention will be focused on Utah today. Some people will say Utah is backward, barbaric place because it put a man to death for the first time in years.

Dave Cawley: In January of 1977, Utah executed convicted killer Gary Gilmore by firing squad. Gilmore had killed two men on back-to-back nights in 1976: a gas station attendant named Max Jensen and a motel manager named Bennie Bushnell. He faced trial for only one murder — Bushnell’s — and was convicted. At his sentencing, Gilmore told the judge “you sentenced me to die. Unless it’s a joke or something, I want to go ahead and do it.”

He refused to appeal his sentence, fast-tracking his own execution. Religious groups and the ACLU attempted to intervene, against Gilmore’s wishes. The execution was twice delayed, including one time when Utah’s governor issued a last-minute stay. Gary told the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole he was not happy.

Gary Gilmore (from KSL TV archive): I’d personally decided he was a moral coward for doing that. I simply accepted a sentence that was given to me. I’ve accepted sentences all my life. I didn’t know I had a choice in the matter. When I did accept it, everybody jumped up and wanted to start to argue with me. It seems that the people, especially the people of Utah, they want the death penalty but they don’t want executions.

Dave Cawley: The actual day of Gilmore’s execution came a little over three months from the date of his sentencing. Prison staff escorted him from his maximum security cell, walking him past the neighboring cells housing the HiFi Shop killers.

John Hollenhorst (from January 17, 1977 KSL TV archive): I’m told that in maximum security, the mood there is somewhat restless. The other inmates apparently are kind of keyed up about this thing.

Dave Cawley: “Adios, Pierre and Andrews,” the Deseret News quoted Gilmore as saying on his walk out of maximum security. “I’ll be seeing you directly.”

(Sound of phone ringing)

Kenneth Shulson (from January 17, 1977 KSL TV archive): Shulson. Thank you. The order of the 4th Judicial District Court of the State of Utah has been carried out. Gary Mark Gilmore is dead.

Dave Cawley: Gilmore made history as the first person executed in the United States following the Supreme Court’s 1972 moratorium. His death was the first execution in the country in nearly 10 years. Dale Pierre’s execution wouldn’t come for another 10 years.

John Hollenhorst (from August 28, 1987 KSL TV archive): The prison warden asked for Selby’s last words. The warden wrote them down and later read them to reporters.

Gerald Cook (from August 28, 1987 KSL TV archive): ‘Ask the pastor to send any money left to William Andrews.’ I asked him if he had anything else to say, he says ‘I’m just going to say my prayers. Thank you.’

Dave Cawley: He died by lethal injection in August of ’87.

John Hollenhorst (from August 28, 1987 KSL TV archive): Less than five minutes after Selby’s last words, the beating of his heart faded away. The soles of his feet changed from healthy pink to lifeless white. A doctor quietly entered the room, checked for a sign of life. There was none and by 12 minutes after 1, the murderer was dead. A human life had been taken away as quietly as a child drifts off to sleep.

Dave Cawley: William Andrews, as you’ve already heard, followed suit in ’92. He’d been on death row for nearly 18 years by that point. News reports at the time said his was the longest active wait for any death row inmate in the country. This delay could largely be attributed to the flurry of appeals that are typical in death penalty cases. Very few condemned individuals follow the path of Gary Gilmore and spur on their own executions.

Which brings us to July of ’93 and the impending sentencing of Doug Lovell for the murder of Joyce Yost.

[Scene transition]

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): No matter what words are wrote, or decision made, no one has had it harder than Joyce’s family. Her family and loved ones lives have been changed and altered forever and more than likely will never totally heal and I’m to blame for that.

Dave Cawley: Doug wrote this letter to Judge Stanton Taylor…

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): Eight long years for them of not knowing is a hell that no one should have to go through, and I am truly sorry.

Dave Cawley: …in hopes of swaying the decision on his impending sentence.

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): Sir, I tried to turn over Joyce’s body to her loved ones even before I was charged with her murder. I just didn’t know how to do it.

Dave Cawley: Fear, he said, was what had kept him from coming clean years earlier. He’d only lied to protect to Rhonda, the mother of his child. In the time since, Joyce’s body had vanished.

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): The place that I have taken the police time and time again is the place where I took this young lady’s life and left her there. I can’t explain why she’s not there.

Dave Cawley: He didn’t even hazard a guess. Doug went on to talk about the painful experiences of his childhood. The source of his problems, Doug wrote, was his refusal to ever discuss his feelings.

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): On the outside I may have looked OK but on the inside I was going through a haunting hell. I was so unhappy and hateful of myself.

Dave Cawley: Doug said that had changed. The therapy he’d received since entering prison had made all the difference.

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): Change for me was very hard and painful. I had to work at it every minute of every day. It didn’t happen over night, it took several years.

Dave Cawley: Going forward, he said he hoped to use his experience to help troubled kids avoid falling into the same trap.

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): I know that if I was able to talk openly and honestly with young people I could make a difference. I want them to know and understand that talking is the key to helping yourself, that it’s not a bad thing to admit that you’re having problems.

Dave Cawley: Nowhere in this letter did Doug make an explicit plea for Judge Taylor to spare his life. He did though, in a roundabout way, acknowledge what might await him on death row by referencing the Hi-Fi Shop murders.

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): Where I am housed right now is 30 to 40 feet away from where William Andrews was executed. The night his life was taken was a night that I will never forget. I didn’t sleep all night and wasn’t able to eat for days. … I remember thinking of my children, my family and my victims family.

Dave Cawley: Who were Joyce’s loved ones? Doug either couldn’t or wouldn’t mention Kim and Greg by name.

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): I asked Terry Carpenter if I could speak to Joyce’s family to allow them to vent their anger to me. I feel they have the right to do so and ask me any questions they want.

Dave Cawley: He wrapped up the letter by saying if he could, he would ask God to bring Joyce back. He called her a “young woman,” ignoring the fact she’d been more than 10 years his senior when he’d murdered her.

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): I see visions of Joyce Yost each and every day and it is very painful to me to see what I have done.

Dave Cawley: He did not explain why he’d killed her. Instead, he used his final paragraph to note all of the great achievements of his own childhood: championships in wrestling, tennis and motocross.

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): One of the many messages I want to get across to young people is that we are all capable of being many good things in life. I want to tell them to stay close to sports, religion, school and family.

Dave Cawley: He’d written more than 2,600 words to say, frankly, very little.

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): Sir, the man you sentence today is not the same man that took this young woman life 8 years ago. I am truly sorry for what I did. Thank you, Doug Lovell.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: The date of Doug’s sentencing arrived. The three-day hearing began on July 29, 1993. The prosecutors, Bill Daines and Gary Heward, argued for a sentence of death. They began making that case by spelling out Doug’s criminal history. They put Bill Holthaus on the stand to explain the details of the rape case. They called Cody Montgomery to testify about the guns stolen from his home. They called Rhonda, who told the story of Doug’s attempts to hire hitmen before carrying out the murder himself.

Doug passed a note to his attorney as Rhonda spoke. On it were a list of questions he wanted John to ask her. John looked them over and decided they would do more harm than good. He did not ask Rhonda the questions. Joyce’s daughter Kim Salazar had a tough time with Rhonda’s testimony.

Kim Salazar: There was a recess in the court and I went outside and she was outside, she came outside to smoke and she came right over to me and, y’know, tried to talk to me and I don’t have anything to say to her.

Dave Cawley: Kim’s husband Randy likewise had strong feelings.

Randy Salazar: Back then, I thought to myself ‘Rhonda deserves more than what Rhonda ever got.’ Rhonda got off pretty darn easy.

Dave Cawley: And yet, if hadn’t been for Rhonda, Terry Carpenter would likely never have broken the case. He would’ve never learned of Billy Jack or Tom Peters.

Terry Carpenter: Tom was a pretty good dude. I ended up spending quite a bit of time with Tom Peters.

Dave Cawley: Tom testified against Doug, saying when they’d first met while Doug was in prison for robbery, he thought Doug was “just a young kid that was going down the wrong street.” That had changed. Tom said Doug scared him now.

Terry also took the stand. He went through the whole history of his investigation, culminating with the fruitless search below Snowbasin. He still gets emotional recalling it now, all these decades later.

Terry Carpenter: The times that I spent with our team, pretty frustrating.

Dave Cawley: On cross examination, John suggested the five trips Doug had taken to the mountain search area showed his willingness to help. Terry agreed.

“Doug enjoys getting out of prison to come and do about anything,” Terry said.

The defense began presenting its case on day two. John called a pair of prison guards, who talked about how easy to manage Doug had always been. He called Colleen Bartell, the social worker who’d provided group and individual substance abuse therapy to Doug. She said she’d seen great improvement in Doug’s behaviors of denial and minimization. He’d confessed the murder to her in April of ’92, she said.

Randy Salazar: I think somebody got up and testified that he was a, uh, he was an inmate that was always trying stop conflict inside the prison. Give me a break. Quit giving him credit.

Dave Cawley: Doug’s dad, Monan, took the stand and described how the overdose death of his middle son Royce had affected Doug. Monan said he believed — but couldn’t prove — Royce had been murdered, though he didn’t say by whom. He did mention though how Royce and Doug had been involved in a “brotherly fight” the day before Royce died.

“To this day I don’t know if he’s ever acknowledged that to anybody, what they fought about,” Monan said.

I described Royce’s death and this argument between Royce and Doug way back in episode 1. Remember, Royce died just six days before he was due to testify as a state’s witness in a robbery case. I’ve recently obtained old court records from that case. They show Royce received a subpoena the day before he died — the same day as this mysterious fight with Doug.

And the man who was charged in that case was not convicted. The judge dismissed the charges because the victim and primary witness — Royce Lovell — wasn’t available to testify at trial. An interesting precedent for Doug to have observed, considering what we know he later did to Joyce Yost.

Joyce’s family listened as one of Doug’s aunts and step-sisters testified. They told of how he’d tried to return Joyce’s body, how he’d written them letters expressing grief, how he’d tried to set one of his teenage step-nephews straight when the boy had developed a drug habit.

Then, Doug took to the witness stand himself.

John Caine talked Doug through his prison disciplinary record. They talked about his job at the prison sign shop, which he’d lost after Terry served him with the murder charge. Doug said he’d since accepted a new job tutoring illiterate inmates.

Under cross-examination, he at last admitted on the record to having raped Joyce. He even confessed having forced her to perform oral sex, a fact Joyce herself had not had the heart to share with her own son Greg.

Greg Roberts: It was the first that I was hearing all that and it was really something to, to go through just to listen to the person that did it and the reality of it all. Extremely painful.

Dave Cawley: Doug said he’d startled Joyce awake after sneaking into her apartment through the window on the night of the murder. They’d struggled and he’d and slashed her hand with his hunting knife.

Randy Salazar: And that’s when he’s telling her, he’s not gonna kill you. I’m, I’m just gonna take you away until the trial’s over.

Dave Cawley: Doug said he gave Joyce a handful of Valium to calm her down and keep her from crying out for help.

Greg Roberts: I remember just being blown away by him. You could tell he was trying to minimize maybe how, maybe the cruelty of the act by saying he gave her drugs and put his hand over her mouth and things over that when…

Dave Cawley: Doug said he’d taken Joyce out to her car and ordered her to get into the trunk.

“Please don’t put me in the trunk,” Joyce had begged, according to Doug’s story.

Just how honest was Doug in this testimony? Joyce’s children couldn’t be sure.

Greg Roberts: At that point in time, he felt like he had something to gain by being honest and just telling what happened.

Dave Cawley: His account was very similar to the one Rhonda had given, with a few notable exceptions. He denied having told Rhonda he killed Joyce up by Causey Reservoir, saying he’d never even been to Causey except once as a young Boy Scout. Doug said he hadn’t previously been to the place on Snowbasin Road where he’d killed Joyce, either. But he contradicted himself here, having earlier confirmed he and Rhonda had picnicked near Snowbasin a couple of times.

Greg Roberts: I mean, I don’t think he was trying to inflict more pain on us at that point, it was just painful to hear.

Dave Cawley: Prosecutor Bill Daines made his closing argument, pointing out Joyce’s children in the courtroom and noting how Doug’s actions had deprived them of their mother. But they weren’t the only victims.

“The system itself was struck in the heart with this case,” Bill said. “We cannot maintain a criminal justice system in this country if people are allowed to kill the witnesses who come before our courts.”

Defense attorney John Caine made no attempt to dismiss Doug’s actions. But he said death was not warranted for the three reasons: Doug’s efforts to return Joyce’s remains, all of the progress he’d made during his years of incarceration and what he called the “proportionality of conduct” between Doug and Rhonda. That’s a fancy way of saying it wouldn’t be right to execute Doug for a murder while Rhonda, an accessory to that same crime, escaped with no punishment whatsoever.

Here, John called back to the Hi-Fi Shop murders and to his work defending William Andrews. The evidence in that case had not shown William did the actual killing, John said, yet he’d been executed for his part in the crimes. How would it be fair to execute Doug and allow Rhonda to go free?

John said Doug Lovell was not the same man he’d been in 1985. He still had a long way to go in the journey of self-improvement, but his life had value and should be spared.

Judge Taylor did not render a decision on the spot. He wanted to think it over, so he instead told everyone to return on August 5th, at which time he would announce the sentence. He did not waste time when that day came, telling Doug to stand before him.

Randy Salazar: He says, ‘In all my years on this bench, I’ve never given out the death sentence.’ … And I remember his voice cracking. And, and I remember him telling him … ‘I sentence you to death.’

Dave Cawley: The defense’s strategy, choosing judge over jury for sentencing, had backfired.

Kim Salazar: He banked on the fact that that judge had never had a capital case in front of him before.

Dave Cawley: Relief washed over Kim and Greg.

Greg Roberts: We felt great that he followed the law.

Dave Cawley: One final question faced Doug: what manner of death would he prefer?

Randy Salazar: And he asked Doug, back at the thing, I think back then they had lethal injection and the firing squad.

Dave Cawley: John Caine said Doug would remain silent on that question, leaving the decision to Judge Taylor.

Randy Salazar: ‘Gee, this guy just don’t get it. He don’t care.’

Dave Cawley: Judge Taylor selected lethal injection. He scheduled a date, but in the next breath postponed it indefinitely, due to the automatic appeal of the sentence required by state law. Joyce’s family, including her aging sister Dorothy, were met by TV cameras as they exited the courtroom.

Larry Lewis (from August 5, 1993 KSL TV archive): Yost’s family expressed relief over the death sentence.

Dorothy Dial (from August 5, 1993 KSL TV archive): You take a life, uh, y’know, this is fair. This is fair. He planned this a long time, so it’s fair.

Larry Lewis (from August 5, 1993 KSL TV archive): Yost’s daughter thinks Lovell still knows where the body is, but isn’t telling.

Kim Salazar (from August 5, 1993 KSL TV archive): He’s gotta second judgement day still ahead. Y’know, maybe before he’s executed he’ll tell us what we need to know.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: Kim wasn’t the only person hoping for answers now that Doug Lovell sat on death row. Police in the city Roy were interested in questioning him about the disappearance of Sheree Warren. So was Terry Carpenter.

Terry Carpenter: In my mind, that’s why he didn’t ever take us to where Joyce was. ‘Cause I believe they’re together.

Dave Cawley: A detective from the Salt Lake City suburb of Woods Cross also wanted to know if he’d had a hand in the unsolved disappearance of another woman named Theresa Greaves, who’d vanished in 1983.

“I don’t know either of these women,” Doug told an Associated Press reporter a couple of weeks after his sentencing.

The AP article noted some of the investigators who’d taken part in the search for Joyce’s body believed Doug might have intentionally led them away, to keep them from finding other bodies he might also have disposed of in the mountains.

Greg Roberts: Bill Daines, that Weber County attorney had expressed that theory to me a long time ago and it just seemed to make a lot of sense. I mean, he’s a smart guy.

Kim Salazar: It’s my belief that the reason that he won’t tell us where my mom is is because there’s not just one body.

Dave Cawley: “They’re making me out to be a serial killer,” Doug said, “and that’s not the case.”

Ep 9: High Fidelity

South Ogden police Sgt. Terry Carpenter sat and watched as Doug Lovell placed a cold can of beer to his mustachioed lip, tilted it back and took a swig.

Doug, dressed in his orange prison jumpsuit and shackled at the wrists, had not been able to enjoy a frosty beverage like this in the nearly seven years since he’d gone to prison for kidnapping and sexually assaulting Joyce Yost. He’d not sat out in the sun on a warm June day and enjoyed the scent of mountain air, or heard the sound of ski boats buzzing around on nearby Pineview Reservoir.

But here Doug and Terry were, parked outside of Chris’, on June 17, 1993. The gas station and restaurant sat at the side of Utah State Highway 39 in the Ogden Valley. About a mile to the west was the old road to the Snowbasin ski resort and the site where Doug claimed to have taken the life of Joyce Yost.


Cigarettes and beer for Doug Lovell

Doug had signed a memorandum of understanding earlier that morning. It’d outlined the plea agreement he’d reached with the Weber County Attorney’s Office. Doug would admit to murdering Joyce Yost in August of 1985 to prevent her from testifying against him.

He would also lead investigators to Joyce’s remains, a spot he’d told his defense attorney he could find in a blinding snowstorm. In exchange, the prosecutors would not seek the death penalty.

Doug had already pointed out the location where he’d claimed to have killed Joyce on an aerial photograph, saying it was right off the side of the Old Snowbasin Road.

“He says it’s the only place where there’s a guard rail on the curve,” Terry Carpenter said during an April, 2021 interview for Cold.

This cropped portion of the 1986 revision of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Snow Basin 7.5 minute quadrangle topographic map shows a segment of the Old Snowbasin Road and the Wheeler Creek drainage. The general area where Doug Lovell told police in 1993 that he’d left the body of Joyce Yost is circled. Highlight added by the Cold team.

While driving up Ogden Canyon on their way to the site, Doug had become emotional and told Terry he was too agitated to go directly to the site. He’d asked to make the detour to Chris’, so he could have a beer to calm his nerves.

Terry, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and does not drink alcohol or smoke, obliged.

“I can tell you how many times I’ve bought beer and cigarettes,” Terry said with a laugh, adding he’s only ever purchased beer for Doug Lovell.


Why buy beer for Doug Lovell?

I asked Terry to explain the reasoning behind this indulgence of Doug’s desire for a drink, at a time when it seemed Doug’s back was to a proverbial wall.

Failure to return Joyce’s remains would nullify the plea agreement and likely result in Doug receiving a sentence of death. Terry at the time believed that might not prove incentive enough for Doug to be honest.

“You’ve got somebody who is fighting emotions, you got somebody who is wanting on one side of him to do something right and maybe for the first time in his life,” Terry said.

Providing Doug a drink and a brief taste of freedom seemed a small trade-off for Terry to make in that moment, if it resulted in the long-awaited recovery of Joyce Yost’s remains.

Doug Lovell and Terry Carpenter stopped at Chris’, a restaurant and gas station along Utah State Highway 39, before driving to the site where Doug claimed to have killed Joyce Yost. Photo: Dave Cawley, KSL Podcasts

Terry had spent years developing the evidence needed to prove Doug’s guilt. He’d pieced together a strong case for prosecutors, even in the absence of Joyce’s body. But he also knew the relief recovering Joyce’s remains would provide for her children.

“They would like to be able to bury their mother. So do you not do everything you can to get it out of [Doug]? He’s right there. Supposedly just up this road is where he says, or is he telling us the truth or is he lying to us? The guy’s a great liar,” Terry said. “If him having a beer or a cigarette is going to help him have enough courage to take us up to where … to give them their mom to bury her, I would do that.”


Terry and Doug’s drive up Old Snowbasin

Doug spent the better part of an hour drinking and chatting outside of Chris’ before at last telling Terry he’d calmed down sufficient to finish their drive. They backtracked to the turnoff for the Old Snowbasin Road, then drove to where the road crested a ridge and began to descend toward the Wheeler Creek drainage.

After some initial confusion, Doug pointed Terry to a place where the road made a tight curve on the downhill grade. The guardrail Doug had remembered was gone, but the posts that’d once held it were still in place.

“It’s been a long time since he’s been there, but then when we get up there, he says it’s right here,” Terry said.

Doug Lovell told Terry Carpenter he’d walked Joyce Yost over a guardrail that was once fixed to these posts at the side of the Old Snowbasin Road. Mount Ogden and the Snowbasin Resort are visible in the far distance. Photo: Dave Cawley, KSL Podcasts

Terry said Doug told him he’d walked Joyce over the guardrail and away from the road a short distance. There, he’d claimed to have strangled her to death.

“But then he tells us too that he goes back and moves her,” Terry said.

Doug told the officers he’d become concerned in the days and weeks following the murder. He’d worried a hunter would stumble across Joyce’s body, so he’d returned to the site to bury her and cover the spot with leaves and branches.

The location where Doug Lovell told Terry Carpenter he’d buried Joyce Yost’s body is surrounded by patches of Gambel oak. Doug had also told his ex-wife Rhonda Buttars he’d concealed Joyce’s body under leaves and branches. Photo: Dave Cawley, KSL Podcasts

The location Doug indicated sat within the boundaries of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. Terry and a team of detectives spent weeks scouring the surrounding terrain, searching for any sign of Joyce Yost. They came up empty.

Former South Ogden police Sgt. Terry Carpenter visits the site where Douglas Lovell told him in June of 1993 that he’d killed and buried Joyce Yost. An intensive search of the area along the Old Snowbasin Road failed to uncover any evidence. Joyce Yost’s remains have never been located.

I revisited the location with Terry nearly 28 years later.

“She is not here,” Terry told me while standing at the site. “He didn’t bring us to where Joyce is, or we would have found her.”

Locations of interest related to Cold season 2, episode 9.

Hear what happened when Doug Lovell returned to court after failing to return Joyce Yost’s remains in episode 9 of Cold: High Fidelity.

Episode credits
Research, writing and hosting: Dave Cawley
Audio production: Nina Earnest
Audio mixing: Trent Sell
Additional voices: Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell)
Cold main score composition: Michael Bahnmiller
Cold main score mixing: Dan Blanck
KSL executive producers: Sheryl Worsley, Keira Farrimond
Workhouse Media executive producers: Paul Anderson, Nick Panella, Andrew Greenwood
Amazon Music team: Morgan Jones, Eliza Mills, Vanessa Rebbert, Shea Simpson
Episode transcript: https://thecoldpodcast.com/season-2-transcript/high-fidelity-full-transcript/
KSL companion story: https://ksltv.com/462957/she-was-never-there-detective-reflects-on-search-for-joyce-yost-28-years-later/
Talking Cold companion episode: https://thecoldpodcast.com/talking-cold#tc-episode-9

Ep 8: Help Me, Rhonda

South Ogden police Sgt. Terry Carpenter’s April, 1991 breakthrough with Rhonda Buttars had re-ignited the investigation into the disappearance of Joyce Yost. It had also allowed him to piece together the path of Doug Lovell’s stolen guns.

Rhonda’s ex-husband, Doug, attempted to have two separate hitmen kill Joyce on his behalf during the summer of 1985. A major part of that plot involved a May 5, 1985 theft of multiple guns from a home in the rural town of Liberty, Utah.

Doug and one of his would-be hitmen, a man he’d met while incarcerated at the Utah State Prison named William “Billy Jack” Wiswell, had swiped several rifles and shotguns from a home there. Weber County Sheriff’s Office detectives were made aware of the theft at the time, but had not been able to link the theft to Doug or even identify him as a suspect prior to Rhonda’s confession.


Mother’s Day outing to Callao

Rhonda told Terry that she, Doug and Billy Jack had taken a trip over Mother’s Day weekend in 1985 out to a cabin near Callao, a small farming community in the desolate expanse of Utah’s West Desert. There, Doug and Billy Jack had buried all but one of the stolen guns.

Beretta shotgun
One of several guns stolen by Doug Lovell and William “Billy Jack” Wiswell in May of 1985 is pictured here. Doug and Billy Jack concealed this Beretta shotgun by burying it for a time near a cabin in the Deep Creek Mountains. It was later recovered. Photo: Dave Cawley, KSL Podcasts

Rhonda had later observed Billy Jack sawing the barrel off of that one remaining gun. Doug had wanted Billy Jack to use the sawed-off shotgun to kill Joyce, in order to prevent her from testifying in court about how Doug had repeatedly raped her on the night of April 3, 1985.

Billy Jack had instead disposed of the stolen and illegally modified shotgun by burying it a short distance west of Joyce’s apartment. He’d then skipped town without having carried out the killing.

Rhonda also informed Terry that her ex-husband had later returned to the cabin to exhume the remaining guns.


Tracing Doug Lovell’s stolen guns

Terry went to work tracking down as many of Doug Lovell’s stolen guns as he could. He soon learned from reading Weber County Sheriff’s Office reports that two of the stolen guns had briefly surfaced in October of 1985, after Joyce Yost had disappeared in August but before Doug was convicted of sexually assaulting her and detained in December.

A man identified in police records as “Scott” had called dispatch from a pawn shop called The Gift House on Ogden’s 25th Street on October 24, 1985 and asked to have serial numbers from a couple of guns checked.

The Gift House Doug Lovell's stolen guns
The Gift House pawn shop on Ogden, Utah’s 25th Street came up multiple times as police investigated the case of several guns stolen from a home in the town of Liberty, Utah in May of 1985. The stolen guns were later linked to Doug Lovell. Photo: Dave Cawley, KSL Podcasts

The dispatcher ran the serial numbers against NCIC, the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database. The serial number check revealed the guns in question, a Browning 22-caliber rifle and a Beretta 12-gauge shotgun, were both listed on NCIC as having been stolen from a home in the town of Liberty, Utah the prior May.


25th Street Pawn

Another of Doug Lovell’s stolen guns surfaced five years later, in June of 1990 at a different pawn shop. Police records obtained by Cold show an officer with the Ogden police department was conducting a check of pawn shop records when he discovered a business called 25th Street Pawn had purchased a Browning 12-gauge shotgun. The serial number on that shotgun also revealed it was among those stolen from the home in Liberty in May of 1985.

Stolen guns 25th Street Pawn
Weber County Sheriff’s detective Jeff Malan wrote this report detailing the recovery of one of Doug Lovell’s stolen guns from 25th Street Pawn in June of 1990. Investigators at the time had not yet connected Doug to the theft of the firearm.

A Weber County Sheriff’s Office detective made contact with the man who had pawned the Browning shotgun. The detective’s notes, also obtained by Cold, show the man who’d pawned the shotgun had obtained it from a woman with whom he was living. She’d received the gun from her teenage son, who had in turn received the gun from his his father prior to his parents’ divorce. The boy’s father had purportedly purchased the stolen shotgun from The Gift House in 1986.

The discovery linked at least three of Doug Lovell’s stolen guns to The Gift House. But the first two — the Browning rifle and Beretta shotgun — had still not been recovered.


Ron Barney

South Ogden police Sgt. Terry Carpenter had learned from Rhonda Buttars the two guns which had first surfaced in the October, 1985 call from The Gift House had subsequently ended up in the hands of one of Doug Lovell’s old hunting buddies, a man named Ron Barney.

Doug Lovell friends hunting
This photo, provided to South Ogden police by Rhonda Buttars, was marked on the reverse side “Ron, Rick, Pat, Bill at Callao first day of bow hunting Aug. 84.” The men pictured were friends of Doug Lovell. Photo: Weber County Attorney’s Office

Terry had visited Ron at his home in Logandale, Nevada on May 23, 1991.

“I asked Mr. Barney if he had any knowledge about Doug burying some guns and Ron paused for probably 10 seconds and stared at the table, then says, ‘well yeah, he did tell me about some stolen guns. He buried then someplace but I’m not sure where he buried them,’” Terry’s official report on his interview of Ron Barney said.

Ron did not volunteer at that time that he was in possession of two of Doug Lovell’s stolen guns.

“We finally says, ‘well, we’ll give you so long and then if we have to charge you, we’ll charge you with possession,’” Terry said in an April, 2021 interview for Cold.

A year later, in May of 1992, Terry served Doug with a capital murder charge at the Utah State Prison. The Weber County Attorney’s Office had by that point gathered sufficient evidence to tie Doug to Joyce Yost’s presumed death, even in the absence of her body.

Las Vegas Metro Police stolen guns
Archived records obtained from Las Vegas Metro Police in Nevada by way of a public records request confirm Ron Barney possessed two of the guns stolen by Doug Lovell in May of 1985. Highlights added by the Cold team.

A week and a half later, Ron Barney surrendered a Browning 22-caliber rifle and a Beretta 12-gauge shotgun — his friend Doug Lovell’s stolen guns — to Las Vegas Metro Police.

“No charges were ever filed against him and the guns surfaced,” Terry said.


Finding Billy Jack

Terry had by that point in the summer of 1992 located three of the stolen guns. But he had not been able to find or interview Billy Jack. He at last made that connection in July of 1992, just days before Doug was scheduled for a preliminary hearing on the capital murder charge in Utah’s 2nd District Court.

“There was a ton of time and effort and energy and a lot went into that,” Terry said.

Billy Jack was at that time residing in Grand Junction, Colorado. Terry traveled to Grand Junction to confront and interview him. In a written report, Terry noted Billy Jack was “apprehensive” about talking and “is very fearful of Lovell getting out of prison and coming after him or sending someone to kill him.”

It appears you don’t have a PDF plugin for this browser. No biggie… you can click here to download the PDF file.

South Ogden police Sgt. Terry Carpenter’s report of his interview with William “Billy Jack” Wiswell in July of 1992 indicates Billy Jack was reluctant to talk about his role in Doug Lovell’s plot to kill Joyce Yost.

Billy Jack also expressed concern that he might face criminal charges for his role in the plot. Terry had assured Billy Jack that was not his intent.

“I had no intention of charging him with anything,” Terry said. “He didn’t do anything, other than assist with the burglary.”

Billy Jack told Terry how he’d buried the sawed-off Winchester shotgun in a cardboard box beneath a pine tree to the west of Joyce Yost’s apartment after refusing to follow through on the murder-for-hire plot. Terry asked if he’d shown Doug the spot.

“I pointed it out one day when we was driving by it,” Billy Jack said, according to a transcript of the interview obtained by Cold. “If Doug never got it, it’s still in that cardboard box, I believe.”


Hear what Ron Barney had to say about the stolen guns in Cold episode 8: Help me, Rhonda

Episode credits
Research, writing and hosting: Dave Cawley
Audio production: Nina Earnest
Audio mixing: Trent Sell
Additional voices: Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell)
Cold main score composition: Michael Bahnmiller
Cold main score mixing: Dan Blanck
KSL executive producers: Sheryl Worsley, Keira Farrimond
Workhouse Media executive producers: Paul Anderson, Nick Panella, Andrew Greenwood
Amazon Music team: Morgan Jones, Eliza Mills, Vanessa Rebbert, Shea Simpson
Episode transcript: https://thecoldpodcast.com/season-2-transcript/help-me-rhonda-full-transcript/
KSL companion story: https://ksltv.com/462464/recording-between-investigator-douglas-lovell-surfaces-in-yost-case/
Talking Cold companion episode: https://thecoldpodcast.com/talking-cold#tc-episode-8

Cold season 2, episode 8: Help Me, Rhonda – Full episode transcript

Dave Cawley: Doug Lovell’s relationship with his ex-wife Rhonda Buttars had soured, so much so that on Sunday, May 10, 1992 he’d told her off in an angry letter.

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): I have done everything I can to be a friend to you Rhonda. I have never bad-mouthed you behind your back & I have treated you as kind as possible on the phone.

Dave Cawley: You’ve heard most of his this already, at the end of the last episode.

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): As I said earlier Rhonda, you win! You don’t need to hide behind the answering machine, or ask the kids to lie, or even make up lies yourself, I won’t call, write or send anything anymore.

Dave Cawley: What you didn’t hear was the aftermath. Days later, on Wednesday of that same week, Weber County Attorney Reed Richards signed a formal immunity agreement for Rhonda. This was something South Ogden police sergeant Terry Carpenter had promised Rhonda more than a year earlier.

Terry Carpenter (from May 1, 1991 police recording): There was an agreement made between you and I that immunity would be sought for you, and that there would be no charges filed against your, per se your involvement with Joyce Yost. Is that correct?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 1, 1991 police recording): Yes.

Terry Carpenter (from May 1, 1991 police recording): Okay. And there was a condition I put on that. Do you remember what it was? That provided you didn’t pull the trigger, we wouldn’t have any problem with that.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 1, 1991 police recording): Right.

Terry Carpenter (from May 1, 1991 police recording): And the reaction was, to that, was that she hadn’t been shot. Is that right?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 1, 1991 police recording): Right.

Terry Carpenter (from May 1, 1991 police recording): Ok.

Dave Cawley: But that original verbal agreement had not carried the force of law. Rhonda had incriminated herself without a signed and sealed immunity agreement.

Terry Carpenter: That’s really the first solid lead that we had, that she knew and that Doug had done it. We knew he’d done it, but we could never prove it.

Dave Cawley: Terry’s entire case depended on Rhonda. She’d spent months assisting his investigation with no lawyer, no safety net.

Terry Carpenter: We got so much information from her that we would never have gotten without her.

Dave Cawley: She had twice worn a wire into the Utah State Prison, placing immense trust in Terry.

Rhonda Buttars (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): I don’t do court. You’re not listening.

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): You do well in court.

Rhonda Buttars (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): No I don’t.

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): Yes you do. If you look at your track record, they’ve never been able to keep you.

Dave Cawley: The time had come for Terry to reward that trust. The formal agreement signed on that day in May of ’92 promised Rhonda would receive “transactional immunity” from charges, like the capital murder case prosecutors were about to at long last file against her ex-husband.

This is Cold. Season 2, episode 8: Help Me, Rhonda. From KSL Podcasts, I’m Dave Cawley. We’ll be right back.

[Ad break]

Dave Cawley: The ink had barely dried on Rhonda Buttars’ formal immunity agreement when, on Thursday…

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): The date today is the 14th of May, 1992. It’s approximately 1602 hours.

Dave Cawley: …Doug Lovell received word he had a visitor.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): This is Terry Carpenter. I’m currently at the Utah State Prison awaiting Doug Lovell to come and talk with me.

Dave Cawley: Terry had brought a summons, ordering Doug to appear in court to answer for charges related to the disappearance of Joyce Yost. The counts included capital murder, aggravated kidnapping and aggravated burglary.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): I want to give him a chance to talk to me. I hope he will talk to me.

Corrections officer (from May 14, 1992 police recording): I hope so, too.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): I’ll be surprised, but I, I want to at least give him the opportunity to.

Dave Cawley: It’d been more than seven years since Doug had first followed Joyce home and raped her, a crime that had landed him in prison. Doug was living in SSD, the prison’s special services dormitory. Colleen Bartell, a social worker at the prison, had made space for him in a group substance abuse therapy program there earlier that year. Doug was in the middle of one of those group sessions when a corrections officer came to get him. Doug headed over to the prison offices where Terry was waiting.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): How you doing?

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): How you doing?

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): I’m doing good. Good to see you.

Dave Cawley: It was almost a year to the day since Terry had last visited Doug at the prison and told him he intended to charge him for Joyce’s murder.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Doug, I’m keeping promises today.

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Alright.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): ‘Kay. Uh, come down to talk to you. If you want to talk about it. I’m here to serve you with a summons on a capital murder.

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): I don’t know what to say.

Dave Cawley: Doug eyed Terry’s micro cassette recorder. Terry reassured Doug he could speak freely.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): It’s not on. Haven’t even put a tape in it. There’s the tape. 

(Tape clatters on table)

Dave Cawley: Of course, he neglected to mention his second — hidden — recording device. The one capturing this copy of their conversation.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): If you want to talk about it, I’d, I’ll be glad to work what I can with it. Umm, I made you a promise before if I could get the body back, I would drop the capital aspect of it. Or we would submit it that way. But those were the only terms that I would work with.

Dave Cawley: Doug had refused that earlier offer.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): I’m gonna read it to you so you understand it, Doug. It says, the undersigned complaint upon the oath states that the complainant has reason to believe that the above named defendant on or about the 11th day of August, 1985 in Weber County, state of Utah committed—

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Have they they proven she’s even dead?

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): —committed a capital felony. To whit, aggravated murder, which is murder in the first degree, and then it gives the codes for it, as amended as follows, said defendant intentionally or knowingly caused the death of Joyce Yost under any of the following circumstances…

Dave Cawley: The circumstances included preventing Joyce from testifying, retaliating against her for testifying and hindering the government’s investigation into her rape.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): This information is based on the information from both myself, Gordon Kaufman and Brad Birch, who are the people that gave me the information.

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Who’s Gordon Kaufman?

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Gordon Kaufman is the person who she was with on Saturday night. He was one of the last people that saw Joyce alive, ok? That’s why we used his information.

Dave Cawley: And that was just count one. Terry read the other counts: kidnapping for taking Joyce with the intent of terrorizing her and preventing her testimony and burglary for breaking into her apartment with the intent of causing her bodily harm.

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): So you’re saying they’ve found Joyce Yost?

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): I’m not saying that. What I asked was for your cooperation and you refused to give that to me, regardless.

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Well I, I don’t know anything about Joyce’s disappearance.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Ok.

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): I didn’t then and I don’t now.

Dave Cawley: Terry whipped out his pen, signed his name on the summons and provided Doug a carbon copy.

(Sound of pen scratches)

Dave Cawley: The cogs must’ve been turning in Doug’s mind. If police didn’t possess Joyce’s body, what evidence could they have? The only person — other than himself — who knew what’d happened to Joyce was…

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): My concern is, uh, for Rhonda. Can you tell me anything that’s happened to her?

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Yep. I’m going after Rhonda right now, Doug. And I can prove her involvement, too.

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Involvement in what?

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): In the murder and death of Joyce Yost.

Dave Cawley: The two men stared at one another.

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Are you saying that I or Rhonda, I or Rhonda, or I took the life of Joyce Yost?

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): I’m saying you and that Rhonda assisted. That’s what I’m saying.

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): That Rhonda insisted in a m—, assisted in a murder?

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Assisted you in that.

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): You’re saying I killed her.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): I am, yes. I sure am, Doug.

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): You’re wrong, Carpenter. You’re, you’re dead wrong.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Well, I think things will prove to show otherwise, Doug.

Dave Cawley: Terry said he wished Doug had cooperated when they’d met a year earlier. His refusal would likely cost him his life. Doug seemed unfazed.

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): I’m telling you I didn’t kill Joyce Yost and Rhonda certainly wasn’t.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): And I’m telling you I don’t believe you and I know that that is not true.

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): If you think Rhonda was involved in something, I guess you’re crazy.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): I could tell you a whole bunch about it. It’s not gonna do me any good to tell you what I know. I wouldn’t have a warrant for you and I wouldn’t be going to pick up Rhonda if that was not the case.

Dave Cawley: This was, of course, deception on Terry’s part, but it had the intended effect. It watered the seed of Doug’s paranoia, his fear Rhonda might crack.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): I know what I know, Doug and, uh—

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Do you, do you got a warrant for Rhonda?

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): The time for, the time for blowing smoke is all done. ‘Kay?

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Yeah, it is.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): And I’m not gonna play anymore. Uh, I gave you a long time to do it, so I’m—

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): And to be honest with you, I’m glad it’s here. I’m glad it’s here so we can finally get it out because I’m tired of it being held over me. I honestly I am.

Dave Cawley: The cards were on the table and Doug believed he held a hand that could beat the house.

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): If you think I killed Joyce and you think Rhonda was even so much involved in a, a criminal homicide case, you’re umm, you’re wrong.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Well, I don’t think so. And I think without any question I can prove it. So, we’ll be glad to submit it and work with it from there.

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Fine. Is that it?

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): That’s all have. Yep.

Dave Cawley: They stood…

(Sound of them standing)

Dave Cawley: …and walked out into the hallway. Terry expected to find prison staff there, waiting to take Doug over to Uinta, the prison’s maximum security building. But they weren’t there. Doug took off down the hallway, as if headed back to SSD.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Doug, come back to me here. I don’t think they want you to go anywhere.

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Huh?

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): I don’t think they want you to go anywhere.

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Where am I gonna go?

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): I think they want you to wait right here.

Dave Cawley: Doug did as ordered and, while they stood and waited, lit a cigarette and wished Terry good luck. Terry replied this was a good chance for Doug to consider what he’d done.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): The last time I faced you, I stood eyeball-to-eyeball with you and told you that I’d made arrangements to get you out of jail to take you to your mom’s funeral. Do you remember that?

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Yeah.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): That was true, Doug. That was—

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): And if we would have been on the streets, you would have approached me with that, I would have took your [expletive] head right off.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Well—

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Using my mother like that.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): I didn’t use your mother for anything.

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Oh, the hell you didn’t.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): That was an opportunity for you, Doug, to be able to get out of here and do something on your own. Otherwise you’d have never got it. And obviously you didn’t get it. Right?

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): If you’d have brought it to me that, that way on the streets—

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Well, if you was on the street, you wouldn’t have had to have any help to get there.

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): The way you used my mother like that, that was bull[expletive].

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Well, I didn’t use your mother. You knew about it, you was the one who commented on it.

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): You used the death of another person, my mom had just barely died you son of a bitch. We was on the streets Carpenter, I would have took your [expletive] head right off.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Well, that would be welcome, y’know?

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): And I, and I’m not no basket mental case like I was in Joyce’s trial. You guys got a hell of a fight on your hand and I’m glad this is here.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): That’s good. I’m glad it’s here too, Doug. And obviously nothing’s got to you, there’s no conscience involved and that probably tells me basically what I needed to know.

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): I did not take the life of Joyce Yost. If she is in fact dead, I did not take the life of Joyce Yost. Nor was I there.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Okay.

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): And Rhonda was no way, no way involved.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): I uh, think that will prove otherwise, Doug.

Dave Cawley: Doug doubled down.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Well, I, y’know, it would have been nice to have gotten to the point where you’d even talk about it or give us what information you did have about it and uh, you obviously didn’t want to do that.

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): What information do you want? I don’t have none.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): That will change.

Dave Cawley: Doug turned and walked away from Terry again. He found a prison guard and asked to go back to SSD.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Okay, whatever. I don’t—

Doug Lovell (from May 14, 1992 police recording): I’ll see you.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Alright, I’ll be there.

Dave Cawley: Terry was not finished, though. He went to find the duty officer as Doug headed across the yard.

Corrections officer (from May 14, 1992 police recording): How’s you doing?

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): I’m doing good. I’m doing good. Your inmate’s not doing so good though. I just served capital homicide warrants on him.

Corrections officer (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Oh, I bet he’s not a happy camper.

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): He is pissed.

Corrections officer (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Where’d you put him at?

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): He went back. I stood out here in the hall for 15 minutes with him and he walked right back and says, ‘I’m going back to SSD.’

Corrections officer (from May 14, 1992 police recording): (On radio) SSD duty officer. (To Terry) What was his last name again?

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Lovell.

Corrections officer (from May 14, 1992 police recording): (On radio) Hey Langley, send uh, Lovell back over here to the building. Yeah. He should be on his way back. Don’t even let him come in the building. Just send him right back over here.

Dave Cawley: Terry had taken the advice of a prison informant named William Babbel, whom you heard in the last episode. William had told Terry the prison would be able to place Doug in maximum security once the murder charge was filed. Terry had arranged to make that happen. Doug was losing his place in SSD, with all its privileges.

The officer-in-charge of the prison that evening was Carl Jacobson, the guard with whom Doug had for so many years watched the 6 o’clock news. Carl had by this point in ’92 promoted to the rank of lieutenant. Carl took the call from the duty officer and headed over to SSD to intercept Doug. Terry Carpenter, meantime, warned prison staff to be cautious.

Corrections officer (from May 14, 1992 police recording): He’s uh, not hostile, is he?

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Oh, he’s pretty upset, yeah.

Corrections officer (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Oh, he is?

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): He’s pissed.

Corrections officer (from May 14, 1992 police recording): He doesn’t know he’s going to three?

Terry Carpenter (from May 14, 1992 police recording): Nope. Not yet.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: Doug’s brother Russ received a collect call from the prison on the evening of Friday, May 15, about 24 hours after Doug’s move out of SSD.

Operator (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): This is US West communications. You have a collect call from ‘Doug.’ Please answer the following question yes or no. Will you pay for the call?

Russ Lovell (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Yes.

Dave Cawley: But it wasn’t actually Doug on the line.

‘Partner’ (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Hello. Uh, hey uh, I’m a partner of Doug’s, man. They got him in a lockdown situation right now. And uh, he’s over here in Uinta 2. It’s maximum security. Before he was in Uinta 3. And uh, he asked me to call you. … Uh, I don’t know if you’ve heard the news or not.

Russ Lovell (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Yeah, it’s in the paper. It’s supposed to be on the news in a few minutes.

‘Partner’ (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Yeah, it’s already been on at 5:30 on 4. It should come on 5 at 6 o’clock.

Russ Lovell (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Uh huh.

Dave Cawley: The man told Russ Doug had an urgent request. He needed his brother to call Rhonda.

‘Partner’ (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Rhonda, yeah. He wants to know how her and the kids are doing. And he says if she isn’t home, please call the Weber County Jail and see if she’s been booked yet or not. They told him they was gonna charge her.

Russ Lovell (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Oh really?

‘Partner’ (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Yeah. They told him that yesterday. He says, ‘Well I’m—‘ the detective told him, ‘I’m going up there to arrest your wife now, your ex-wife now.’

Dave Cawley: The man asked Russ if he knew whether or not Rhonda had been arrested.

Russ Lovell (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Oh, I have no idea.

‘Partner’ (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Uh, could you call and then, if she is—

Russ Lovell (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Sure.

‘Partner’ (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): And I’ll call back in 30 minutes and you can—

Russ Lovell (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Okay.

‘Partner’ (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Okay.

Russ Lovell (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Alright.

‘Partner’ (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Alright then.  Thank you for accepting the call.

Dave Cawley: Doug’s friend called Russ again a short time later.

Russ Lovell (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Hello there.

‘Partner’ (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): How you doing?

Russ Lovell (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): (Laughs) I talked to Rhonda. She’s, they haven’t, they didn’t pick her up or anything. She has to be to court the same time Doug does I guess Wednesday morning.

‘Partner’ (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Did they go talk to her?

Russ Lovell (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Yeah.

‘Partner’ (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): And uh, they’re charging her too?

Russ Lovell (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Well, they haven’t yet.

‘Partner’ (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Mmmhmm. But they’re gonna charge her Wednesday?

Russ Lovell (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Probably.

‘Partner’ (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Uh huh.

Russ Lovell (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Well, all she said is she had to be to court Wednesday.

‘Partner’ (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Okay, well he just wanted me to find that out, and—

Russ Lovell (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Yeah so, she’ll be there, probably when, I guess probably the same time he will.

‘Partner’ (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Okay.

Dave Cawley: The man told Russ his brother wasn’t in a great state of mind.

Russ Lovell (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Well, that’s the way Rhonda is. Tell him Rhonda’s not very good, either.

‘Partner’ (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Uh huh. Yeah, it’s sort of a complete shock to him, y’know, but, uh, there isn’t too much I can say over the phone so—

Russ Lovell (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Yeah, okay.

‘Partner’ (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Okay, I better let you go.

Russ Lovell (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Alright

‘Partner’ (from May 15, 1992 prison phone recording): Alright. Thanks you for accepting the call.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: Doug’s move to the prison’s Uinta facility had triggered TRO, or temporary restrictive order. Solitary, in other words. He’d spent hours stewing alone in a cell, wondering what pressure police were then applying to Rhonda. The very first call Doug made when he came out of TRO on Saturday morning was to Rhonda’s phone. She didn’t answer. So, he called his brother Russ.

Doug Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): Hey, have you heard anything?

Russ Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): About?

Doug Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): Huh?

Russ Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): About what?

Doug Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): With Rhonda? How’s she doing?

Russ Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): Oh, she’s okay. Well, I mean, she’s not good but, she’s got to be there, oh, to that court thing on Wednesday, too.

Dave Cawley: Doug told Russ he didn’t understand what the police were doing, since neither he nor Rhonda had had anything to do with Joyce Yost’s disappearance.

Doug Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): Uh, they, they still don’t, to my knowledge, have any proof that this woman’s even deceased. Y’know, everybody down here is telling me that they’re bluffing, that there probably ain’t even gonna be any charges. Yet, Doug seemed most concerned about how his ex-wife was responding.

Doug Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): Was Rhonda ever charged?

Russ Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): No, I guess she will be Wednesday.

Doug Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): See, that’s kind of weird too, don’t you think?

Russ Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): Yeah.

Doug Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): I mean, usually when they have a warrant for someone, especially, what are they going to charge her with?

Russ Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): I don’t know.

Doug Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): Conspiracy to commit?

Russ Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): Probably.

Doug Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): That’s a serious charge. That’s a five-to-life. Y’know, they would have arrested her and took her right downtown. Booked her, questioned her, interrogated her, the whole bit. Doesn’t that seem odd?

Russ Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): Yeah.

Dave Cawley: Doug begged Russ to call Rhonda and give her one simple direction.

Doug Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): Y’know, Rhonda’s got nothing to hide and I got nothing to hide but, y’know, you need to get ahold of her, Russ, if you can and tell her not to say anything to anybody at any time.

Dave Cawley: Russ told his baby brother not to worry so much. There was nothing Doug could do about any of it until his arraignment hearing the following Wednesday. Still, Doug couldn’t help but bemoan his situation.

Doug Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): [Expletive], I’ve lost my job. Y’know? Now, if I win this, they’ve got to reinstate my job and everything but in the meantime they’ve took me from my job, they’ve took me from my facility. I’ve lost everything. I’m sitting here in a [expletive] orange jumpsuit. Looks like I want to go deer hunting. Bright orange jump suit with, with blue floppers. I’ve got nothing over here. They don’t let you smoke over here. God, it’s crazy.

Dave Cawley: Russ suggested maybe Doug should sue the police for harassing him. This made Doug hesitate and he again brought up Rhonda.

Doug Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): Well, listen. I can’t leave a message on Rhonda’s telephone machine. Would you please call, leave a message on her telephone machine and have her call you immediately? When she does call, tell her that everyone down here is telling me that this is bull[expletive]. They probably ain’t even gonna charge us. And, y’know, it, it’s a big bluff thing to see if anybody does know anything to see if they’ll crack or not. Tell her not to say nothing to the police, to nobody.

Russ Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): ‘Kay.

Dave Cawley: Doug had to get in touch with his ex-wife. In the back of his mind was the angry letter he’d sent her at the start of that week. How would she respond to it now? When Rhonda at last answered one of Doug’s calls, the letter was the first thing he wanted to discuss.

Doug Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): Did, did you get my last letter?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): Yeah I did.

Doug Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): Well, dis, disregard it for now. I had it coming at a bad timing. I mean uh, I was going through a lot of changes over the kids, Rhonda, but I think right now we need each other. Can we at least have that?

Dave Cawley: Rhonda told Doug she might soon be joining him at the prison.

Doug Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): Rhonda, you didn’t do anything. You didn’t do anything and I didn’t do anything. We got nothing to worry about. Anything they got, some reliable people have told me down here they’re shooting for the stars. They didn’t even arrest you, did they?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): No, but I’m supposed to be in court Wednesday.

Doug Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): Right, doesn’t that seem a little odd that they didn’t arrest you?

Dave Cawley: Rhonda knew full well why she hadn’t been arrested, but she conjured a different story for Doug. She said maybe detectives hadn’t wanted to haul her away in front of her two kids. Doug reminded Rhonda this was an eventuality they’d always known might come.

Doug Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): I mean, as soon as we first seen it on the TV, I says, ‘Oh my God, they’re gonna believe that I did it from, from day one. They’re gonna believe that I had something to do with her disappearance.’ So we always kind of knew that there might some [expletive] over it, right?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): I don’t know what we thought, Lovell. I’m sick of this [expletive], okay? I’m sick of it. You’d better do something about it. ‘Cause I’m out here living with the kids and what the [expletive] am I supposed to say?

Doug Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): That you didn’t do anything, Rhonda. You didn’t.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): I know I didn’t but I still got to go to court, Doug.

Doug Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): I know it. But Rhonda, if they don’t have anything—

Rhonda Buttars (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): They got to have something, Doug.

Doug Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): Really?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): They won’t just take us to court because they have nothing better to do.

Dave Cawley: Doug rattled off a list of past news stories about Joyce’s disappearance, noting how none of the supposed breaks in the case had ever amounted to anything. He said he intended to go to arraignment and have his court-appointed lawyer file a discovery motion. That way, he could learn exactly what evidence the police had. Doug told Rhonda he had it under control.

Doug Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): Remember like I did on that poaching thing, Rhonda? I knew what the hell I was doing. I knew exactly what I was doing and I should have done that with John but, y’know, because of my injury to my back, y’know, I was on all those Percodan and Valium and, and stuff. Y’know, I just, I laid down, Rhonda. That’s exactly what I did is I laid down.

Dave Cawley: Doug said even if police arrested Rhonda, they’d have to give her bail. If needed, his dad or brother could arrange a property bond for her, just as they’d done for him after his arrest for rape in April of ’85.

Doug Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): If in fact Joyce is dead, they’re gonna have a hard time proving that she’s dead. First off, they have to prove that there’s, that there’s a death before they can say that there’s a murder. Don’t you understand that?

Dave Cawley: Doug, it seemed, understood well the concept of corpus delicti. He begged her to trust in him and to trust in the system. Underlying this though was Doug’s actual fear. He toed up to the brink of it, like a person easing over ever-thinning ice on a frozen lake.

Doug Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): Y’know, this has all kind of come about since you and I split up. And, y’know, it kind of makes me wonder.Not, y’know, not about you but umm, it just, I don’t know. It makes me wonder about a few things. … I hope you’ll fight this with me, Rhonda. And I, I just ask that you please trust my judgement. I, I won’t let anything happen to you.

Dave Cawley: Rhonda told Doug she didn’t want to hear it. He wasn’t in control. He couldn’t protect her.

Doug Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): I need you Rhonda. I think we need each other.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): I’m gonna go, okay?

Doug Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): Honey?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): Don’t give me that, okay? I can see right through it, Doug. I’m going. I’m going now.

Doug Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): Please don’t hang up on me.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): I’m gonna go. I’m not hanging up. I’m saying goodbye.

Doug Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): Rhonda—

Rhonda Buttars (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): What?

Doug Lovell (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): Please, please don’t leave me like this.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 16, 1992 prison phone recording): I don’t want to talk anymore, Doug.

Dave Cawley: If Doug’d had doubts about Rhonda’s loyalty before that call, they could have only grown more ominous afterward.

[Ad break]

Dave Cawley: Doug called Rhonda again the following day, on Sunday, one week after writing her the angry letter. Rhonda told him she wasn’t feeling well.

Doug Lovell (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): Well I feel a little better today than I did yesterday. I had a lot of time to think. That’s all you got to do over here is think. Right now nothing to do. Think or fight. Take your pick. Rhonda, I don’t know how things are going to turn out but I want you to know and, uh, and have faith that I will do the right thing. Y’know, when the time comes. Y’know? Let’s see what happens and y’know see what kind of cards are dealt to us.

Dave Cawley: Rhonda didn’t say much, even as Doug peppered her with more questions. What time was she supposed to be to court? Had the police given her a list of charges? Did they leave her any papers?

Doug Lovell (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): And it’s extremely odd how they did it to you. I mean, if they want to charge us, they would come up and say, ‘Mrs. Buttars—’

Rhonda Lovell (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): I ain’t no Mrs.

Doug Lovell (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): Well, ‘Ms. Buttars, we’re South Ogden police department. You know who we are. We have a warrant for your arrest. Uh, would you please, uh, turn around put your hands behind your, put your hands behind your back.’ You’d do that. They’d probably have a lady officer with them. They would take you down to court. They would book you, fingerprint you, take your mugshot and then they’d question you, ask you if you want an attorney. They’d read you your rights. They never did none of that. That’s why I, I question the whole thing. And I’m not saying they won’t charge us.

Dave Cawley: But, Doug said, the odds of a conviction were very low.

Doug Lovell (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): I mean, there’s probably 10 people in all of America that’ve ever been convicted on a, on a homicide charge without first proving that there’s been a murder. Y’know, a body. I mean, it’s extremely rare. It’s never been done in Utah, not on a capital homicide. It’s never been done in Utah.

Dave Cawley: That number’s not quite right. There have obviously been more than 10 no-body homicide convictions in the United States. But Doug was correct that no-body capital homicide convictions — which qualify for the death penalty — were and are rare. Rhonda was not much interested in this bit of trivia. So Doug pivoted, making an emotional appeal.

Doug Lovell (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): I miss you, Rhonda. I miss everything we had. And I’m sorry I blew it. I really am. I mean, I can’t believe what direction I have sent my life in. I just can’t believe it.

Dave Cawley: He apologized for acting selfish, for spending their money, for causing her unhappiness. Rhonda bit her tongue.

Doug Lovell (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): Is there anything you want to say to me?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): No.

Doug Lovell (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): Nothing at all?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): Hmmnmm.

Doug Lovell (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): I wish we hadn’t grown apart. Do you ever regret that?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): What?

Doug Lovell (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): Uh, growing apart the way we have.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): No. You’re the one that did it, not me.

Dave Cawley: Standing on sentiment was not a strong play for Doug.

Doug Lovell (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): Do you just want to go?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): Yeah.

Doug Lovell (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): You’re sure not too talkative with me, honey.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): I don’t feel good. Did you forget that part?

Doug Lovell (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): No.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): Oh.

Doug Lovell (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): I feel extra bad when you don’t feel good ‘cause I know what you like. And I can be that. I can very easily be that. Do you believe that?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): No.

Doug Lovell (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): You ain’t gonna give me a glimpse of hope, are you?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): Mmmnmm.

Doug Lovell (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): You’re not gonna let even a little bit of light in, huh?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): You had your chance.

Doug Lovell (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): And that’s, that’s it, for life, forever, for eternity?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): Hah.

Doug Lovell (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): Huh?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): Hmm.

Doug Lovell (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): Sounded like a perfume for a minute, didn’t it?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 17, 1992 phone recording): Yep.

Dave Cawley: Doug concluded this call by telling Rhonda no matter what, he would do the right thing in the future. The next morning, he came out of his cell for breakfast just in time to witness a brawl. He told his brother Russ about it on the phone.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 prison phone recording): Boy, they got one of these sections down here, [expletive], right at breakfast, man, a big old fist fight. [Expletive]. Y’know, like I gotta get up and go through this [expletive]. It’s crazy, man, it’s crazy. [Expletive], there’s been probably a half-dozen fist fights just, just since I’ve been over here. Since Thursday.

Russ Lovell (from May 18, 1992 prison phone recording): Really?

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 prison phone recording): It’s bizarre.

Dave Cawley: Doug vented to his brother about how much worse life was in the Uinta facility compared to SSD. He figured it wouldn’t be long before he could force the prison to send him back.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 prison phone recording): ‘Cause technically I’ve done nothing wrong, to be moved. I’ve done nothing in the institution to be moved. And technically right now they have to keep my job for me and they have to keep my spot at SSD. So, you know, I’m not too worried about all that. Because as long as I’m moved for court reasons or health reasons or something, something that has nothing to do with something that I’ve done since I’ve been in here, you know, they can’t uh, they can’t do anything. So all that’s still good, but y’know, how long that’ll be good, I don’t know. I mean, I hope this ain’t even gonna go to a preliminary hearing.

Russ Lovell (from May 18, 1992 prison phone recording): Oh yeah.

Dave Cawley: Of course, the real motive for Doug’s call was to make sure his brother would be at the arraignment hearing the next day, to support Rhonda.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 prison phone recording): To be honest with you, I’m not worried about it because I know I wasn’t involved in anything like that. And I know Rhonda wasn’t. But, you know, if they’re going to try to attack Rhonda, y’know, I don’t want my children’s lives disrupted. That’s what it boils down to.  Y’know, and Rhonda doesn’t deserve to go through this. You know what I mean?

Russ Lovell (from May 18, 1992 prison phone recording): Yeah, oh yeah.

Dave Cawley: Doug suggested if Rhonda were arrested at the arraignment, Russ and their dad, Monan, should put up a property bond to cover her bail.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 prison phone recording): Like, you know, when dad put that $25,000 for me. He didn’t lose a thing. I mean, there’s no way I’d skip out on you or dad and I know she wouldn’t. [Expletive], she’s got nowhere to go. She ain’t even got a relative that lives out of the state. And Rhonda wouldn’t do that anyway.

Dave Cawley: Russ said he wasn’t sure why they should be on the hook for Rhonda’s bail instead of her own family. And he said he didn’t understand why police would arrest her anyhow, considering she wasn’t involved in any crime. Doug told Russ it was all a ruse. The police couldn’t have anything on him, because of course, he hadn’t done anything. Neither had Rhonda. And, he said, it’d been seven years.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 prison phone recording): I can’t believe that after all this time, Russ, they’re, they’re trying to pull something.

Russ Lovell (from May 18, 1992 prison phone recording): Well, see we’ve got this kid out at work that we’d always thought he’d killed his wife a long time ago. And uh, they just charged him with it. His name’s Wetzel.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 prison phone recording): Never heard of him.

Russ Lovell (from May 18, 1992 prison phone recording): And that, goll. That was back in, oh man, that was back in, oh man, that was long before you was locked up and they just charged him with that this year.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 prison phone recording): No [expletive]?

Russ Lovell (from May 18, 1992 prison phone recording): Yeah. Jon Wetzel’s the name.

Dave Cawley: Jon T. Wetzel. Let me pause here and tell you a bit about the Jon Wetzel case. Like Doug, Jon Wetzel hailed from the Ogden area of Utah. His estranged wife, Sharol Wetzel, had served him with divorce papers on November 13, 1985. A week later, Sharol turned up dead, having been shot once in the head and left in her car parked near the Ogden River.

A month later, around the same time Doug was standing trial for the rape of Joyce Yost, Jon Wetzel’s girlfriend Kittie Eakes was pleading guilty to murder. She admitted to the crime but said she’d acted alone. She refused to implicate her lover in his estranged wife’s execution.

Kittie headed to prison in January of ’86, just like Doug. And like Doug, she entered therapy once there. It took a few years, but Kittie ended up telling the full story of Sharol’s murder to an attorney she met through Alcoholics Anonymous.

With that, let’s go back to Doug’s phone call with his brother Russ.

Russ Lovell (from May 18, 1992 prison phone recording): Well, this one lady, they found his wife dead in a car somewhere and this one lady that Jon knew I guess took the rap for it. Now all the sudden she’s sitting crying the blues and ratting on him. So I don’t know.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 prison phone recording): Hmm.

Russ Lovell (from May 18, 1992 prison phone recording): The papers just didn’t have a lot on it.

Dave Cawley: Weber County prosecutors — the same ones who were charging Doug with capital homicide — had also filed a capital homicide charge against Jon Wetzel just a few months prior. Kittie would eventually testify against Jon, saying he’d hounded her for weeks to kill Sharon, to prevent her from taking his assets in the divorce. Jon had told Kittie when and how to do it. He’d given her drugs, as well as the money she’d need to buy a gun. Kittie had gone along and even taken the fall for it, she said, because she was in love with Jon.

The parallels to Doug’s situation were striking. The timelines of the two cases were almost identical. Both involved a sort of murder-for-hire plot, an abandoned car and a female victim who’d held a position of power over a man.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 prison phone recording): God, and I know I was going to win my appeal, Russ, too. I mean, it would have took probably 18 months to two years but I know I was gonna win that. As soon as that hit the feds, they were gonna throw that thing up in the air and say, ‘Bull[expletive.’ Y’know? ‘You can’t [expletive] do this.’ Because there was so many points, man, we was gonna get them on. That I would have won on. I know it. And I don’t know if this has triggered something or what but it seems like every time my case gets in court they pull some [expletive].

Dave Cawley: Doug finished the conversation by once again imploring Russ to protect Rhonda. To post her bail, if necessary. Later that afternoon, Doug made one final call to his ex-wife ahead of the arraignment. He struck a different tone this time, as if nothing were wrong.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): How’s my kids?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): My kids are fine.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Huh?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): My kids are fine. Two can play that game.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): It’s a joke. Please take it as a joke.

Dave Cawley: Rhonda was not laughing.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): I’ll uh, well hopefully I’ll see you tomorrow.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): I’m sure you will.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): I’ll probably be, like, handcuffed. Uh, can I get a hug?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): From me?

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Yeah.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): You’re pretty brave asking that.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Is that a possibility?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): I doubt it.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Really?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Put me through more changes Lovell than anybody I know.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): What if it’ll bring us together someday.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): I doubt it. It brought us apart.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Yeah, I know but all, through it all I wonder if it will maybe bond our relationship.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Well, don’t count on it.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Well, you never know.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Yeah, I do.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Miracles do happen.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Yeah, they do.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): I think, I think maybe if I work my butt off, what do you think?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Nope.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): You think no way for us?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): No way.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Why, hon?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): ‘Cause you put me through a lot of [expletive], Doug.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Rhonda, people can change. People can honestly, sincerely change.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Well, you haven’t to me. If you’d changed, you’d be doing something right now and you ain’t doing [expletive]. It’s pissing me off. So, you haven’t changed a bit in my eyes, Lovell.

Dave Cawley: Doug complained Rhonda she wasn’t making his life any easier. She scoffed.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): My life’s hell, Lovell. Hell.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Mine is too.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Then do something.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Oh, that’ll make it easier?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Yep.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): For me?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Yep.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Really?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Yep.

Dave Cawley: A long pause. Rhonda lit a cigarette. Its smoke hung in the air, along with all the unspoken context behind her words.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Whether you believe me or not, Rhonda, I do love you. I have always loved you. And I, and I do care more than any person’s ever cared about you. I’ve just had an odd way of showing it.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Yeah. (Laughs) I’d say.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Please don’t laugh at me. I’m serious.

Dave Cawley: Doug promised one day, he’d have an opportunity to “completely blow” her away.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): I know that I, I can give you the life that you deserve and the children the happiness that they need and deserve.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Doug, give up.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): I’m serious, Rhonda.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): I know you are. So am I.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Well, you, hey. You can fight it all you want.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): (Laughs) I’m not fighting.

Dave Cawley: Doug had to go. It was time for count and he had to go back to his cell. He told Rhonda he would see her in the morning.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Well uh, remember I’ll be thinking about you.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): ‘Kay.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Just remember, be strong, Rhonda. You got nothing to worry about. You didn’t do anything. Ok?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): ‘Kay.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Give my love to the kids.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): I will.

Doug Lovell (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Bye bye.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 18, 1992 phone recording): Bye.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: Doug arrived at the Weber County courthouse on the morning of May 20, 1992 for his circuit court arraignment. He was assigned a court-appointed defense attorney, a guy named John Caine. John’s name might sound familiar. That’s because John was the same lawyer who’d represented Doug 14 years earlier, during his 1978 trial for armed robbery.

The prosecutors assigned to the case were the county attorney Reed Richards, who coincidentally happened to be John Caine’s old law partner and whose father Maurice Richards also represented Doug in the ’78 robbery case, as well as a man named Bill Daines.

I know that’s a lot to keep track of, so let’s just focus for the moment on Bill Daines. Joyce’s son-in-law, Randy Salazar, told me he remembered first meeting Bill sometime around Pioneer Day. That’s a state holiday in Utah, celebrated each July 24th with parades and rodeos. Bill had entered the room dressed not in a suit, but instead in denim pants and a cowboy hat.

Randy Salazar: And I seen how he put his hands on the desk and just kind of talked to us and I just thought ‘Geez, I hope this guy…’ But I tell you what, that dude knew his… In fact, he was giving us dates and times and I was thinking ‘damn, you guys are going to do your job. You guys are going to do well with your job.’”

Dave Cawley: The first real courtroom clash between these two sides came not at the circuit court arraignment, but instead at a preliminary hearing on July 28. That’s when the prosecution put Rhonda on the stand. At that moment, Doug knew for certain who had betrayed him.

Terry Carpenter: She told me about the night that she’d taken Doug up there…

Dave Cawley: It was the same account she’d given to Terry Carpenter.

Terry Carpenter: And that he’d laid in the bushes across the street from Joyce’s house and waited for her to come home.

Randy Salazar: Can you believe she drove him up there? And then picked him up? What kind of person is that?

Dave Cawley: Joyce’s son-in-law Randy Salazar sat, stunned at what he was hearing.

Randy Salazar: Y’know, you think to yourself, ‘How the hell do you think this didn’t happen? How is this lady telling this story,’ y’know? ‘How are you still with this man? Why are you sticking up for him? What kind of lady are you?

Dave Cawley: At one point, Doug bolted upright.

“That’s a lie, Rhonda,” he shouted. “You know that’s a lie.”

The judge, Parley Baldwin, told Doug to take his seat. 

“Your honor, she is lying,” Doug said.

Baldwin again instructed Doug to be quiet, or else the bailiffs would remove him from the courtroom. Doug flung a curse word or two at Rhonda as the bailiffs approached.

“Sit down, [expletive] [expletive],” Doug said to them.

Terry Carpenter: He could let you believe that he was telling you the truth and emotional about it and the next second he was angry and mad and no remorse whatsoever.

Dave Cawley: Rhonda had told Terry she feared Doug. His courtroom outburst only emphasized that. Joyce’s son Greg Roberts told me over time, he’s come to feel sympathy for Rhonda.

Greg Roberts: Somewhere along the way I’ve forgiven her. I think Kim would rather see her pay a penalty for what happened, but I think that she was under the huge influence of this psychopath and she, she was in some sort of a fog that she, those options weren’t real for her.

Kim Salazar: My whole thing with her is that she is in my mind the one person that could have stopped it that night. She held all the cards. And I get fear. I understand fear. But my mom literally lived across the street from the police station. She could have dropped him off. She could have gone straight to the police station. And before he had a chance to do anything, they could have been there. And he’d have been locked up for a long time. She didn’t have anything to be scared of.

Dave Cawley: Rhonda’s testimony was more than enough to allow the judge to determine probable cause existed to proceed. He concluded the hearing by sending the case to the district court where, a month later, Doug pleaded not guilty to the charges. The district court judge, Stanton Taylor, scheduled a jury trial to begin on February 2, 1993.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: Several weeks before the preliminary hearing I just described, Doug’s friend Ron Barney met with a Las Vegas Metro Police detective in Nevada. Ron had something to turn over to the police. Two somethings, actually: a Browning model BL22 bolt-action rifle and a Beretta M301 12-gauge shotgun. The serial numbers for both guns were listed in NCIC, the FBI’s national crime information database, as having been stolen out of Weber County, Utah on May 5, 1985. They were two of the guns taken from the home of Cody Montgomery, Sr. by Doug Lovell and Billy Jack.

Terry Carpenter: The guns went to Callao, where they were buried.

Dave Cawley: Terry Carpenter had at long last linked the stolen guns to Doug Lovell. He’d also tracked down Billy Jack in Colorado, interviewed him and in the process discovered evidence corroborating Rhonda’s account of the Mother’s Day weekend outing when they’d buried the guns.

Terry Carpenter: Coming back home, they pull off to the side of the road and have to take a leak, to be blunt. And a trooper stops and catches them at the side of the road and we’re able to verify that that happens and who they are.

Dave Cawley: But how then had the guns ended up in the hands of Doug’s old hunting buddy Ron Barney?

(Phone ringing sound)

Dave Cawley: I called him to ask that question.

Ron Barney (from May 12, 2020 phone recording): Hello, this is Ron.

Dave Cawley (from May 12, 2020 phone recording): Hey Ron, my name is uh, Dave Cawley. I’m with uh KSL, uh radio up here in Salt Lake City, Utah. Do have a sec?

Ron Barney (from May 12, 2020 phone recording): Yep.

Dave Cawley: At the time of this phone call in May of 2020, I knew quite a bit about the history of these guns.

Dave Cawley (from May 12, 2020 phone recording): I’m trying to figure out how they ended up down there with you. Can you help illuminate that for me?

Ron Barney (from May 12, 2020 phone recording): Uh no, I really can’t. I can’t remember exactly how that went by.

Dave Cawley: I knew they’d surfaced in October of ’85 when somebody had inquired about pawning them at place in Ogden called the Gift House. I described that back in episode 4. Ron Barney at that time resided in Utah’s Salt Lake Valley. He didn’t move to Logandale, Nevada until sometime after 1988. I knew Terry Carpenter had paid Ron a visit in Logandale in May of ’91. I described that in episode 6.

Ron Barney (from May 12, 2020 phone recording): Was that, Carpenter. Was that the detective’s name that came down to Las Vegas?

Dave Cawley (from May 12, 2020 phone recording): Yep, that’s the guy.

Ron Barney (from May 12, 2020 phone recording): Yeah.

Dave Cawley: Terry had asked Ron what he knew about the stolen guns. Ron had declined to disclose at that time he possessed two of them. He hadn’t conceded that fact until Terry had made a second trip to Nevada to apply additional pressure.

Terry Carpenter: And he denied up and down and we finally says ‘well, we’ll give you so long and then if we have to charge you, we’ll charge you with possession.’ And then he cooperated.

Dave Cawley: And so that’s why Ron had surrendered the guns to Las Vegas Metro police in 1992.

Terry Carpenter: No charges were ever filed against him and the guns surfaced, anyway.

Dave Cawley: My conversation with Ron didn’t last long. He told me he didn’t want to discuss his friendship with Doug, saying he’d only known him through having gone hunting together. He considered that relationship part of his past, a past he did not want to relive.

Ron Barney (from May 12, 2020 phone recording): Okay.

Dave Cawley (from May 12, 2020 phone recording): Alright.

Ron Barney (from May 12, 2020 phone recording): Good luck with your uh, your uh, research.

Ron Barney (from May 12, 2020 phone recording): Thank you Ron, appreciate your time.

Dave Cawley: Terry’s recovery of these two guns provided further evidence of Rhonda’s honesty. And they would be a compelling piece of evidence to show a jury, hinting at Doug’s intent to kill.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: Defense attorney John Caine had a lot of work to do and not much time to do it. With just months to go before the scheduled trial, John attacked the prosecution’s case first by challenging the kidnapping and burglary counts, arguing the statute of limitations on them had expired. He also filed a motion to suppress the evidence gathered from the two wire recordings of Rhonda at the prison…

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): If I would have been mentally together, physically together, I wouldn’t be here. They’ll never convict me if I go back to court. There’s no way.

Dave Cawley: …as well as Rhonda’s damaging testimony from the preliminary hearing.

Autumn turned to winter. Subpoenas went out, ordering the investigators, Joyce’s family, Rhonda and the other potential witnesses to all appear at the February trial. With just a week and a half to go, Judge Taylor issued an order rejecting the motion to suppress. Rhonda’s testimony and the wire recordings, he said, were fair game.

John Caine immediately asked that the trial be delayed while he appealed that decision. He would ask the Utah Supreme Court to block the use of Rhonda’s testimony and the wire tapes. Judge Taylor agreed to the delay. The trial was placed on hold.

John told Doug if they won this appeal, he stood a very good chance of also winning the entire case. If the appeal failed, however, John warned his client they would get “hammered.” Everything hinged on Rhonda. John also started talking to the county attorney, his old friend Reed Richards. They were frank with one another. Reed said the only leverage Doug had was that Joyce’s children Kim Salazar and Greg Roberts wanted her body returned.

Greg Roberts: We definitely were willing to compromise if he really gave us her body.

Dave Cawley: And so, Reed said he was willing to take the death penalty off the table if Doug would return Joyce’s remains. It wasn’t a formal offer, more of a testing of the water. John didn’t want to commit before discussing it with Doug, so he went to the prison for a face-to-face. He posed the question: would Doug be willing to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life with the possibility of parole? Doug said yes. John needed more assurance. He didn’t want to get down the road with the negotiation and have it fall apart because Doug couldn’t deliver.

He asked could Doug really locate the body, given all the time that had passed? Doug said he could find it in the dark. In fact, he was willing to go do it right that moment. John reminded him it was the middle of winter. Doug told his attorney that didn’t matter. He’d be able to find Joyce’s body even in a blinding snowstorm.

Ep 7: Shameless

Rhonda Buttars dropped by the Utah State Prison on January 18, 1992 to visit an inmate: her ex-husband. She carried a concealed audio recorder past the fences, making a secret audio recording of her meeting with Doug Lovell.

Rhonda had done this once before. She’d made the first Lovell wire recording in May of 1991, just weeks after first confessing her knowledge of Joyce Yost’s murder to South Ogden police Sgt. Terry Carpenter. That first wire recording had captured Doug making incriminating statements about having killed Joyce to keep her from testifying against him in a rape case.

The front entrance to Utah State Prison complex at Point of the Mountain, as it appeared on May 2, 2021. Rhonda Buttars twice wore a hidden recording device into the prison at the request of South Ogden police to record her ex-husband, Douglas Lovell. Photo: Dave Cawley, KSL Podcasts

The audio quality from the first wire had been marginal, bordering on unintelligible. At one point, Doug had seemed to reference the location of Joyce’s body but his words had been too distorted to discern on the audio tape.

Rhonda’s goal for the second wire recording was to bait Doug into disclosing the location of Joyce’s remains and to capture his words in high fidelity.


Nagra audio recording of Doug Lovell

To that end, Terry Carpenter and a U.S. Secret Service agent named Glen Passey procured a miniature reel-to-reel tape recorder made by a Swiss company called Nagra. The Nagra was, at the time, the type of high-end audio equipment used by U.S. intelligence agencies.

The investigators concealed the recorder beneath Rhonda’s clothing before sending her in to the prison shortly after 2 p.m. She met her ex-husband in a visiting area minutes later.

“They want the death penalty out of me. Carpenter told me that. He wants to see me executed and you’re the only one that can do it,” Doug told Rhonda.

Terry Carpenter
South Ogden police Sgt. Terry Carpenter took over the Joyce Yost homicide investigation in 1988. He broke the case in 1991 by gaining the trust of Doug Lovell’s ex-wife, Rhonda Buttars. Photo: Terry Carpenter family

A copy of the audio recording from second wire recording obtained by Cold through an open records request reveals Doug was concerned about a newspaper story that had recently published about the Joyce Yost case.

“I think that they surfaced this story out hoping that I would get on the phone and say, you know, something that might incriminate me,” Doug said.


State of the case

Doug had at that point in 1992 not yet been charged with the murder of Joyce Yost. He was serving a pair of 15 years-to-life prison sentences for kidnapping and sexually assaulting Joyce, but had publicly maintained his innocence for both crimes.

“If they find a body, I have motive,” Doug said. “They can’t prove opportunity.”

Doug had lost a direct appeal of his conviction in the rape case at the Utah Supreme Court but was pursuing a habeas corpus appeal of his sentence. He’d enlisted the help of a fellow inmate, William Babbel, in drafting the paperwork for the second appeal. As part of that effort, he’d also asked Babbel to draw up a statement, as if it’d been written by Rhonda.

“All you got to do is sign it, date it and get it notarized and send it back to me,” Doug said.


Doug Lovell’s deceptions in the audio recording

The statement drafted for Rhonda was to include at least two falsehoods. The first involved one of Doug’s shirts.

Joyce Yost had told police hours after Doug had abducted and assaulted her that he’d provided a blue shirt for her to wear home. The shirt had been introduced as evidence during the sexual assault trial in December of 1985.

Doug wanted Rhonda to claim he had not owned any such blue shirts.

Doug Lovell shirt
The evidence list for Doug Lovell’s December, 1985 sexual assault and kidnapping trial included the shirt Joyce Yost said Doug had given her to wear home following the rape. Highlight added by the Cold team.

The second issue involved his stolen Mazda RX-7. At the trial, a woman named Sharon Gess who’d worked at the club where Doug had first encountered Joyce testified she’d been stalked by a driver in a red sports car with flip-up headlights.

“Well now how controversial is that? I drive a little red car with flip-up lights,” Doug told Rhonda on the audio recording. “That really tainted the jury a lot.”

It appears you don’t have a PDF plugin for this browser. No biggie… you can click here to download the PDF file.

This segment of Sharon Gess’ December 11, 1985 trial testimony in the kidnapping and sexual assault case against Douglas Lovell was preserved in a brief filed with the Utah Supreme Court. Gess had told the trial court Doug had been harassing her. She also said she’d been followed by a red sports car with flip-up headlights.

Doug admitted to Rhonda on the wire that he’d “hit up” on Gess at her workplace but insisted Gess had lied during the trial about being followed. He intended to counter Gess’ testimony by having Rhonda claim she’d had possession of the Mazda during the period Gess reported being stalked.

“I’m just preparing you now for what’s coming up months down the road,” Doug said, “so you don’t have to argue about it on the phone because I think your phone’s tapped.”


Joyce Yost’s remains

Doug repeatedly reassured Rhonda that she wouldn’t be arrested in connection with Joyce Yost’s murder and, if she was, he would arrange to have her bail quickly posted.

“If they come at you Rhonda … they’re going to treat you like a dog,” Doug said. “They’re going to come at you religiously. You know, ‘you’re a Mormon and the right thing to do would be to do this-and-that.’”

Rhonda did not reveal that she’d already confessed her role in the plot and was at that time cooperating with police. When she directed the conversation toward the topic of Joyce’s remains, Doug side-stepped the issue of their location, saying only that he’d covered the body with leaves.

“You think that will never happen, that they’ll find it,” Rhonda asked.

Doug said no, leaving Rhonda to ask why he felt so confident.

“Do you know what seven years of leaves are? A lot,” Doug said. “I mean, we’re talking mountains. There’s snow on the ground down here. What do you think’s on [Joyce] up there?”


The Causey body

Doug said he’d felt nervous the first few years after the murder, fearing a hunter might find the body. That fear had since abated.

“The only thing I’m nervous about is that one time that caller called in. I remember seeing it on TV,” Doug said.

This was a reference to news reports about an anonymous caller who’d phoned Roy police and the Weber County Sheriff’s Office on April 3, 1987 and claimed to have found a woman’s body near Causey Dam.

Causey body
Causey Reservoir is an impoundment on the South Fork of the Ogden River. An anonymous caller told police in April of 1987 that he’d located a woman’s body in a canyon adjacent to the reservoir. The Doug Lovell audio recording from the second wire at the Utah State Prison included Doug’s discussion of the anonymous caller. Photo: Dave Cawley, KSL Podcasts

Doug said he believed the anonymous caller report was a fake, because he was the only person who knew the whereabouts of Joyce Yost’s body.

“That’s why I think it’s a fish story. I really do,” Doug said. “I think they’re scared to death I’m going to get out. I really do.”


Episode credits
Research, writing and hosting: Dave Cawley
Audio production: Nina Earnest
Audio mixing: Trent Sell
Additional voices: Andy Farnsworth (as Jeff Pratt), Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell)
Cold main score composition: Michael Bahnmiller
Cold main score mixing: Dan Blanck
KSL executive producers: Sheryl Worsley, Keira Farrimond
Workhouse Media executive producers: Paul Anderson, Nick Panella, Andrew Greenwood
Amazon Music team: Morgan Jones, Eliza Mills, Vanessa Rebbert, Shea Simpson
Episode transcript: https://thecoldpodcast.com/season-2-transcript/shameless-full-transcript/
KSL companion story: https://ksltv.com/461939/investigators-other-victims-may-be-found-near-joyce-yosts-body/
Talking Cold companion episode: https://thecoldpodcast.com/talking-cold#tc-episode-7

Cold season 2, episode 7: Shameless – Full episode transcript

Dave Cawley: Greg Roberts saw his mother everywhere. He’d spot cars on the highway that looked like Joyce’s Oldsmobile…

Greg Roberts: Big white Delta 88. Huge car.

Dave Cawley: …and catch himself doing double-takes at stoplights, hoping to see her behind the wheel. The conversations he’d had with his mom, after her rape, replayed over and over in his mind. He agonized about what she hadn’t told him.

Greg Roberts: I talked to her real regularly but in the meantime, y’know, I was at school and she didn’t want to effect my schooling and grades and things that were going on so…

Dave Cawley: A single thought haunted Greg: he had not been there to protect her. He didn’t share this pain with anyone, save perhaps his sister and father.

Mel Roberts: He holds a lot of it inside of him.

Dave Cawley: Mel Roberts told me Greg bore this burden, the sense of guilt, in private.

Mel Roberts: The only time we’ll ever talk about it is if we’re just together alone. We don’t talk about it much when other people are around.

Dave Cawley: Greg had finished dental school and, at the end of 1990, wrapped up his residency with the Georgetown University Medical Service in Washington, D.C. He’d achieved his childhood dream and become not just a dentist, but an oral surgeon. The person who would’ve been most proud of him, who would have celebrated his achievement more than anyone, was not there. Nearly six years had passed since Greg had first faced the question of whether or not to drop out of school and move home to help search for Joyce. Mel had urged him to hold fast.

Mel Roberts: I still think it was the right decision. … There wasn’t a thing he could do by being there.

Dave Cawley: Now, at the start of 1991, Greg confronted a new choice: where to go next. Mel had settled down in Texas and he seemed likely to stay there. Kim and aunt Dorothy were both in Utah. And Joyce was, well, Greg didn’t know. Much of what he then knew about his mother’s disappearance had come to him secondhand. This was, after all, the age before Google. If you even had internet access at home, you paid for it by the minute and it tied up your phone line.

For years, Kim had cut articles about her mom out of the local newspapers and mailed them across the country to Greg. She’d promised to keep him informed of every development. This tether kept tugging Greg back toward South Ogden, toward where he’d last seen his mom in the summer in 1984, waving goodbye as he’d pulled away from her in his overloaded Honda Accord.

The time had come for Greg to return home.

This is Cold, season 2, episode 7: Shameless. From KSL Podcasts, I’m Dave Cawley. Back after this quick break.

[Ad break]

Dave Cawley: Colleen Bartell struggled to get through to Doug Lovell. She’d been working as a licensed clinical social worker at the Utah State Prison since 1979, the same year Doug had arrived there on an armed robbery conviction. But they hadn’t met until 1989, when Colleen was assigned to manage the Merit Two program at the prison’s special service dormitory, or SSD. That’s where Doug was living.

Many of the inmates enrolled in the Merit Two program were there to work through mild cognitive or behavioral issues and they demanded much of Colleen’s time. As a result, she didn’t interact with Doug much at first. She hadn’t been the one to admit Doug to program, either, but knew from his file the ostensible purpose for his presence was treatment for depression. She noted he seemed guarded. That began to change about six months into Colleen’s assignment at SSD, round about the time Doug’s wife Rhonda filed for divorce. Little by little, he started to talk. Colleen figured it had just taken time for Doug to suss out if he could trust her.

Doug told Colleen he’d been wrongly accused and convicted. He said hadn’t raped Joyce Yost. Colleen focused her efforts on helping Doug address this denial. She wanted him to understand his minimizations of his own actions were impediments to his progress in therapy.

She continued to observe Doug as the weeks and months went on. She noted he was high-functioning and stable, something she couldn’t say for all of the inmates at SSD. He was not violent. In fact, he often mediated disputes between prison staff and other inmates.

Perhaps the best example of this came in August of ’91, when Jeff Pratt — the lead corrections officer at SSD — had a dangerous accident. Jeff placed a letter about it in Doug’s jacket, or file. Here’s what it said.

Andy Farnsworth (as Jeff Pratt): Letter of appreciation for Doug Lovell, inmate number 14679. On August 11, 1991, at approximately 1712 hours in the supply room at SSD, a defective can of insecticide sprayed on me in the face and eyes, causing a burning sensation. At that point I was blinded and not sure of the direction out. Lovell grabbed my arm and led me to the bathroom speaking precise directions in a calm voice to get me there quickly. Once in the bathroom, Lovell got the water going and helped me flush my face and eyes … credit Lovell for preventing any serious harm or injury to me.

Dave Cawley: Colleen transferred out of SSD about that same time. She took over another program, doing group-oriented substance abuse counseling. Doug applied to join. This was interesting, considering Doug claimed not to be using at that time. In fact, he said he’d been off pills since first arriving at the prison in 1986. But now he wanted Colleen’s help in figuring out why he’d become addicted in the first place. It was either progress, or a ruse.

Colleen denied Doug’s application for group drug abuse counseling. Not because she didn’t think he was being honest, but because she didn’t have room. Yet.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: South Ogden police sergeant Terry Carpenter had spent the summer of ’91 working to verify information he’d received from Doug Lovell’s ex-wife, Rhonda. He also spent a lot of time transcribing — by hand — the audio recording from the wire Rhonda had worn into the Utah State Prison.

Dave Cawley: And I know the quality of the tape that first time around—

Terry Carpenter: Is horrible.

Dave Cawley: —pretty rough.

Terry Carpenter: But I laid on the floor of my living room with my stereo and would push backward and forward and play ‘em and my poor little wife would help me try to understand what they were saying.

Dave Cawley: A copy of that tape would later go through enhancement at FBI headquarters, but it didn’t help much. Still, Terry was able to make out enough. He’d heard Doug mentioned Tom Peters and Billy Jack, the two men Doug’d hired to kill Joyce. Terry had already talked to Tom once at the Utah State Prison, but dropped by to see him again on September 5, 1991.

Terry Carpenter: ‘Kay, we’re recording this now so…

Dave Cawley: And this time, he put their conversation on tape.

Terry Carpenter (from September, 1991 police recording): How you doing?

Tom Peters (from September, 1991 police recording): Oh pretty good. How about you?

Terry Carpenter (from September, 1991 police recording): I’m doing, alright.

Tom Peters (from September, 1991 police recording): (Laughs) You’re doing alright.

Dave Cawley: Listen close, because this audio comes from an old cassette tape and Tom’s voice isn’t always clear.

Terry Carpenter (from September, 1991 police recording): You getting any flak over our last visit?

Tom Peters (from September, 1991 police recording): Uh, a little. There is some concern.

Terry Carpenter (from September, 1991 police recording): Is that right? Did he talk to you about it?

Tom Peters (from September, 1991 police recording): Yeah. Well, I talked to him, actually.

Dave Cawley: Tom told Terry that on the day of his last visit to the prison, Doug had confronted Tom and asked what he’d told the detective.

Tom Peters (from September, 1991 police recording): At first he said, yeah, he said, ‘Man, I don’t know how you can do this to me,’ you know? I said, ‘I didn’t do nothing to you,’ you know? I says, ‘Really Doug, I ain’t done nothing.’ He said, ‘But you did.’

Dave Cawley: Tom had insisted he hadn’t said anything. Doug hadn’t been convinced, because Terry Carpenter had known about his having paid people to have Joyce killed. In this next clip, Tom tells Terry that Doug’d told him “When he started telling me these things, I knew it had to be you.”

Tom Peters (from September, 1991 police recording): What he said, he said, ‘Man,’ he said, ‘When he started telling me these things I knew it had to be you ‘cause you was the only one that knew.’ And he said, ‘But then he told me about some guns.’

Dave Cawley: Terry had told Doug he knew about the stolen guns. Doug had never told Tom about the guns, which he’d swiped with someone else.

Terry Carpenter (from September, 1991 police recording): He never mentions this other guy’s name?

Tom Peters (from September, 1991 police recording): No, he never mentions nobody’s name.

Terry Carpenter (from September, 1991 police recording): If you heard it, would you remember it?

Tom Peters (from September, 1991 police recording): Maybe. If I heard a name. Yeah, I mean, yeah I would probably know a man if I heard it.

Terry Carpenter (from September, 1991 police recording): Well what I’ve understood is that it was Billy Jack.

Tom Peters (from September, 1991 police recording): Yep, That’s what he said. Yeah. He did mention it. That’s right. He did say Billy Jack. Now, I said, ‘I don’t even know Billy Jack.’

Dave Cawley: This discrepancy had caused Doug a little bit of doubt, giving Tom cover. Tom said Doug had also asked him during their talk if he’d ever visited his father’s cabin.

Terry Carpenter: I think he asks him three or four times. ‘You remember my dad’s property? You remember my dad’s property?’

Dave Cawley: Tom told Terry he’d never been up to the Lovell family cabin, but speculated maybe that’s where Doug had buried Joyce.

Tom Peters (from September, 1991 police recording): Could it be up there? I don’t know.

Terry Carpenter (from September, 1991 police recording): That’s a good speculation.

Tom Peters (from September, 1991 police recording): I’ve been places with him. I mean, umm, to waterfalls. But God, I don’t know if I would even remember. But I know he hunts. He’s a—

Terry Carpenter (from September, 1991 police recording): He loves to hunt.

Tom Peters (from September, 1991 police recording): And he’s been all over the mountains.

Dave Cawley: Terry again told Tom he needed his help. Joyce deserved justice. Tom agreed and described what he’d felt when he’d first learned Joyce was missing.

Tom Peters (from September, 1991 police recording): But I remember when we found out about her, and I remember the flyers that come across me, very, like a band on my chest, you know? Because he’s already raped her once and then to go again and there he is and now he’s going to kill her, you know? So I thought, ‘That poor woman,’ you know? Her nightmare. A nightmare on top of a nightmare.

Dave Cawley: “A nightmare on top of a nightmare.” Tom said he was willing to help. In exchange he wanted Terry to pull strings and get him assigned to an inmate firefighting crew. That way, Tom could serve out the rest of his sentence outside the prison fences. Life inside had grown uncomfortable. Tom said Doug had once come up behind him in the chow hall and kissed him on the top of the head.

Tom Peters (from September, 1991 police recording): But I know it gives me chills when he puts his hands on me from behind and kisses mean top of my forehead. That does not feel good.

Dave Cawley: Tom called it the kiss of death.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: Greg Roberts’ return to South Ogden allowed him to take care of some unresolved business. He went to court at the end of September 1991, and asked to have his mother declared deceased. Greg had heard from a life insurance agent in the months after his mom’s disappearance. She’d had a $10,000 policy and had listed Greg as the beneficiary. The company wouldn’t pay out though while her status remained unresolved. The judge’s order declaring Joyce deceased changed that. The insurance company wrote a check for $13,000, with the extra money being interest that had accrued on the principal. Greg would have given up every single penny of it to have his mother back.

Greg Roberts: It just changed a lot of things.

Kim Salazar: And nothing’s ever been the same.

Dave Cawley: Kim, Greg and those closest to their family held a funeral. They gathered at Washington Heights Memorial Park cemetery and placed a headstone for Joyce. The ritual helped draw them together in their ongoing grief.

Kim Salazar: She didn’t have a negative bone in her body. She was never cross. She was never foul or nasty. She was happy, she was beautiful, she was, she was the whole package. She was just wrapped up with the most beautiful bow.

Dave Cawley: They shared memories, regaling Kim’s growing kids with stories of their grandmother.

Kim Salazar: And my oldest daughter’s really the only one that has any real memories of her … because the other two were younger.

Dave Cawley: But after it was over, Kim’s husband Randy said it felt somehow hollow. They all knew their trauma was open-ended.

Randy Salazar: I remember telling Kim, like on Memorial Day and Mother’s Day, ‘Do you want to go take some flowers over to your mom?’ ‘My mom ain’t there,’ she says, ‘that’s just a rock.’ She says ‘My mom’s not there.’ I said ‘But it’s a place,’ y’know? And she said ‘No, she is not. I want to go where my mom is.’

Dave Cawley: Kim believed Doug Lovell knew right where her mom was. But prosecutors had still had not charged him with Joyce’s murder.

Kim Salazar: He had two 15 year-to-life sentences that both had a minimum mandatory, so they knew he wasn’t going anywhere.

Dave Cawley: She didn’t know Doug had a plan to beat that sentence and win his freedom.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: While Greg was going to court in September of 1991, so was Doug’s appellate attorney, Robert Archuleta. He filed a motion asking a judge’s permission to review the confidential pre-sentence report a probation officer had prepared on Doug after his conviction in the rape case. Doug intended to challenge the legality of his 15-to-life sentence by arguing the pre-sentence report had included unsubstantiated claims he’d killed Joyce Yost.

Judge Rodney Page held a hearing on Archuleta’s motion and, at the start of October, granted permission for the attorney to review the pre-sentence report. A short time later, Archuleta withdrew as Doug’s attorney. Now, I can’t say for sure — because Archuleta is deceased — but it’s possible what he saw in the pre-sentence report made him re-evaluate his decision to represent Doug. In Archuleta’s absence, Doug turned to one of his co-workers at the prison’s sign shop for legal advice. His name was William Babbel.

William Babbel (from December, 1991 police recording): I’m one of the head inmate litigators of this place. I’m suing the department every other day.

Dave Cawley: William had discussed Doug’s case with him at length, even before Archuleta’s withdrawal. He’d been helping Doug draft what’s known as a writ of habeas corpus. For that purpose, Doug had provided William with transcripts from the rape trial.

William Babbel (from December, 1991 police recording): When I first started looking at his legal stuff he said that, y’know, it was a consensual thing and I said (tape blips) … and I’ve read your transcripts. I said, ‘I’m not stupid, I can see right through this. Y’know, you might try that dodge with these guys but (tape blips) you’re gonna have to come clean.’

Dave Cawley: William said Doug did come clean, at least as far as the rape was concerned. He admitted he’d kidnapped Joyce and sexually assaulted her. He was guilty of that. On December 18, 1991, Doug had come to work at the prison sign shop with a new legal request for William. He wanted to know if it was possible to force South Ogden police to give back the pictures they’d taken from Rhonda’s apartment the prior June.

William Babbel (from December, 1991 police recording): And I asked him, ‘Well, who’s the cop that’s got the pictures?’ And he said, ‘Carpenter.’ I says, ‘That same one that come and talk to you?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’ And I says, well,’ can’t remember exactly what it was that we were talking about that led up to that, but I says, ‘can he stick you with this?’ And he said, ‘There’s no way.’ He says, ‘When she disappeared from the O club, or when she left the O club and then when she disappeared, I was surrounded by eight witnesses. He can never stick this on me.’

Dave Cawley: William had heard enough. The following day, he phoned South Ogden police and asked to speak with Terry Carpenter. Terry didn’t know William, but he headed down to the prison and sat down with him for this candid conversation, which you’ve been hearing.

Terry Carpenter (from December, 1991 police recording): Umm, how did you know to call me?

William Babbel (from December, 1991 police recording): Because him using your name. ‘[Expletive] Carpenter, sonofabitch is bothering my wife again.’

Dave Cawley: William didn’t much care for Doug.

William Babbel (from December, 1991 police recording): I’m the inmate’s inmate but this guy’s dirty as hell and anything that he says that I think you can use, you’re going to get.

Terry Carpenter (from December, 1991 police recording): Okay.

William Babbel (from December, 1991 police recording): Because he’s slime.

Dave Cawley: Strong words, coming a guy like William Babbel. William was serving time for a crime that bore startling similarity to Doug’s. Unlike Doug, William never made good on the threat to kill the woman he’d abducted and raped.

William Babbel (from December, 1991 police recording): Y’know, I’m here on an ugly crime myself. It’s not anything like this. And it’s, y’know I’ve done my little stipend for the state and got myself straight and got away from all the dope and [expletive] and I really regret the things I did. Y’know, but I talk to this guy and just watching him, y’know, he’s pond scum.

Dave Cawley: William did not ask Terry for any favors, as Tom Peters had. He didn’t want a kind word to the parole board or a transfer to a different facility. He just wanted Doug out of the way.

William Babbel (from December, 1991 police recording): He has no conscience, he has no remorse, he has no moral values. This guy’s morally bankrupt. He’s slime. He just is. And I’ve read the transcripts and I’ve read his testimony and heard all his bull [expletive] and I’m absolutely convinced that he either arranged her murder or did it himself.

Dave Cawley: William was living in SSD undergoing sex offender treatment. He believed Doug didn’t belong in SSD. He said Doug should instead be housed in the prison’s Uinta facility — maximum security — a place for killers.

William Babbel (from December, 1991 police recording): And y’know, anything I can do to help you send him across the lawn to Uinta 2 to let him sit over there and rot, y’know, I’ll do.

Dave Cawley: Terry asked William about his conversations with Doug. Had Doug ever described how Joyce’d died? No. Had he ever disclosed where Joyce’s body was? No.  But William said Doug had possibly dropped clues.

William Babbel (from December, 1991 police recording): There’s something that sounds like her name that uh, he’d told Holthaus.

Terry Carpenter (from December, 1991 police recording): (Tape blips) Something that sounds like her name?

William Babbel (from December, 1991 police recording): Or yeah, a place where he’d gone hunting that has the same, uh, sound as Joyce Yost’s name.

Terry Carpenter (from December, 1991 police recording): There’s a prominent place where people hunt deer that’s called Yost, Utah.

William Babbel (from December, 1991 police recording): Yeah.

Dave Cawley: Yost is a ghost town, in the far north-western corner of Utah, near the Idaho and Nevada borders. It’s near a mountain range called the Raft River Mountains, a popular spot for deer hunting. Doug had told detective Bill Holthaus he remembered Joyce’s last name because it was the same as the town of Yost. Bill had testified to that during the 1985 trial. William Babbel, it seemed, had done his homework.

Perhaps the most interesting story William had to share though, involved an encounter he said he’d had with Doug the prior May.

William Babbel (from December, 1991 police recording): He said that somebody had come out and talked to him about this Joyce Yost coming up missing and he was concerned that he was gonna be questioned on, uh, this Sheree Warren’s, uh, disappearance too.

Dave Cawley: Terry perked up at the mention of Sheree Warren, the missing woman from Roy, Utah who’d disappeared just a short time after Joyce and whose car had turned up in Las Vegas. Terry had a hunch Doug Lovell might’ve had a hand in Sheree Warren’s disappearance, though he couldn’t prove it.

William Babbel (from December, 1991 police recording): Y’know, and other than that one conversation—

Terry Carpenter (from December, 1991 police recording): Is he involved in that, Bill?

William Babbel (from December, 1991 police recording): I think he is. I think he knows about it. And he says, ‘Well, they’ll never, they’ll never stick me with that because Cary Hartmann is the one that’s gonna end up eating that one.

Dave Cawley: I’ve mentioned Cary Hartmann before. He was Sheree Warren’s boyfriend at the time of her disappearance in October of ’85. But by this point in ’91, Hartmann was in prison for a series of rapes he’d committed.

Larry Lewis (from KSL TV archive): Hartmann’s conviction carries a maximum prison term of from 15 years to life. … He also faces trial on three other rape charges.

Dave Cawley: Cary hadn’t been charged and convicted until 1987, more than a year after Doug went away for assaulting Joyce.

Terry Carpenter (from December, 1991 police recording): How, why does he know so much about Sheree Warren?

William Babbel (from December, 1991 police recording): I don’t know. And that, uh, really struck me hard because I knew, uh, I was in a therapy group with Cary Hartmann—

Dave Cawley: William said he’d heard Cary’s side of the story while they were both in that sex offender therapy group in SSD. Cary had since been moved to a far-flung county jail and as far as William knew, Doug and Cary never crossed paths. William suggested if Terry wanted to get Doug talking, he should get Joyce and Sheree’s names mentioned together on the news.

William Babbel (from December, 1991 police recording): (Tape blips) Even if you could get somebody to dummy up some stories somewhere in, in print, y’know. Investigation on Sheree Warren’s top of the list. Y’know, stick it in the Tribune, have somebody stick it in the Tribune where he’s gonna see it, y’know or—

Terry Carpenter (from December, 1991 police recording): Does he go over the paper real close?

William Babbel (from December, 1991 police recording): Every day. We get the paper in the shop every day.

Dave Cawley: William said there were recorders on the phones at the prison. If police claimed to have found a woman’s body in the mountains near Ogden, Doug would probably call out and have someone go check and see if Joyce was still where he had left her.

Terry Carpenter (from December, 1991 police recording): They tie me a little bit as far as legalities of deliberately purporting something that we know not to be accurate and uh, so I have some, y’know, I have problems with that. I, I don’t know if I could slide something there or not. I don’t know.

Dave Cawley: Terry confided in William he was ready to serve Doug with capital homicide charges any day now. Prosecutors had given him the green light. William said now was the time. Anything police had on Doug, they should use as soon as possible.

William Babbel (from December, 1991 police recording): Something you might want to do is when you rock this guy, is request that Corrections, y’know because it’s a capital case and you don’t want him talking to anybody, is sequester him in max and monitor his phone calls and monitor his mail and monitor everybody he talks to. See, they can put him in max so he can’t talk to anybody.

Dave Cawley: Terry made note of the suggestion, thanked William for his time and went on his way.

[Ad break]

Dave Cawley: A series of news articles about the Joyce Yost case appeared in Utah newspapers on Friday, January 17, 1992. Stories also played on TV and radio, stating police were “reopening” their investigation into Joyce’s disappearance. The Associated Press quoted Terry Carpenter as saying “We have some new leads in the case but it isn’t appropriate for me to discuss them.” Joyce’s son, Greg Roberts, figured Terry was working an angle.

Greg Roberts: He’s always uh, playing mind games with Doug Lovell. I think he’s been good at it.

Dave Cawley: The following day, Terry met with Rhonda Buttars on the outskirts of the Utah State Prison. She’d agreed to once again wear a wire inside the fences. Terry had a couple of reasons for wanting a second go-round. Most important was getting Doug to disclose the location of Joyce’s body, something he had not done during the first wire recording the prior June. Rhonda intended to ask questions more specific to that point this time.

Audio quality was the second reason. The audio from the first wire recording had bordered on unintelligible, as you heard in the last episode. Playing that garbled recording for a jury was not likely to have the hoped-for impact.

In the months since the first wire recording, Terry had managed to scrounge up a better piece of equipment. A former colleague of his by the name of Glen Passey worked as a special agent for the U.S. Secret Service. Glen had access to legit spy gear, including a little recorder from a Swiss company called Nagra.

Glen Passey (from January 18, 1992 wire recording) Okay, you’re on. Are we running?

Dave Cawley: The Nagra unit was the Swiss watch of field audio recorders: tiny and precise.

Terry Carpenter (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): This is, ah, Rhonda Buttars, Glen Passey and Terry Carpenter. We’re all just preparing to enter the Utah State Prison. We’re currently at the Academy, which is just east of the prison, across the freeway.

Dave Cawley: The Nagra tape wasn’t exactly hi-fi but it was an improvement.

Terry Carpenter (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): Rhonda’s gonna drive over and we’re gonna follow her in. See you in a minute.

Rhonda Buttars (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): Bye.

Dave Cawley: Rhonda hadn’t been out to visit Doug in months. As she prepared to drive over, Elton John and Boy George wailed their duet of “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” over the car stereo.

(Music plays)

Rhonda Buttars (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): Think it hears, gets that? (Laughs)

Dave Cawley: The jokes and nervous laughter, as well as the music, ended when Rhonda reached the prison gate.

(Music ends)

She walked inside, her heel clicks echoing through the austere corridors.

(Sound of Rhonda walking)

Dave Cawley: Familiar ground. Rhonda knew where to go.

Prison guard (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): You’re here to see?

Rhonda Buttars: (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): Doug Lovell.

Dave Cawley: She headed into the crowded visiting area and waited for the staff to bring her ex-husband out to meet her.

Rhonda Buttars (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): Hi.

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): Hi.

Rhonda Buttars (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): How you doing?

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): How you doing?

Rhonda Buttars (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): Good.

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): In a dress?

Rhonda Buttars (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): Yeah.

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): What’s up with that? (Laughs)

Rhonda Buttars (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): Can’t I wear a dress?

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): Yeah, I like it.

Dave Cawley: They moved to a table and sat down. Rhonda told Doug she felt nervous because it’d been awhile. He laughed. He wasn’t nervous at all. They swapped some small talk, bantering about Doug’s weight. He’d dropped from nearly 200 muscular pounds down to about 175, on a diet of rice and tuna. Rhonda said eating was her favorite hobby, or maybe sleeping. Doug said his was sex. At one point, he complimented the way her legs looked in her dress.

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): Boy, I always loved your thighs. Long legs, but with meat.

Dave Cawley: If you couldn’t make that out, he said “I always loved your thighs, long legs but with meat.” Doug also brought up another of his favorite hobbies: watching country music on TV.

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): And ah, by the way, Garth Brooks last night? Was bitchin.

Dave Cawley: The prior evening, NBC had broadcast an hour-long special called “This is Garth Brooks.”

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): They interviewed his, ah, wife, Sandy last night. And she said he had long hair, beard, just, you know, ah, and you know when he sings, he’s not a stander, he runs around. He and this other guy broke a guitar, you know, and he jumped off in the audience and you thought, ‘God man, he’s crazy.’

Dave Cawley: What’d most caught Doug’s attention though was the country artist’s performance of a single song.

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): He sang that song, Shameless.

Dave Cawley: Garth Brooks’ cover of the Billy Joel song “Shameless” had appeared on his third studio album. It’d become a chart-topping hit at the end of 1991. The song included a stanza that goes like this:

“I’m shameless, shameless as a man can be. You could make a total fool of me. I just wanted you to know that I’m shameless.”

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): So anyway, ah—

Dave Cawley: Doug turned to the topic of the newspaper article, the one stating South Ogden police were re-opening the Joyce Yost case. He asked Rhonda if she’d seen it. She said she had. Doug said he thought her phone was bugged.

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): And I think that they surfaced this story out hoping that, that I would get on the phone and say, you know, something that might be, incriminate me.

Rhonda Buttars (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): Really?

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): Yeah. Yeah, I do. I don’t think there is, no person.

Dave Cawley: By “no person,” Doug meant police couldn’t have any source for information about what’d actually happened to Joyce other than himself.

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): Well they say they have, possibly somebody that can lead them, ah, to the body. Ah, to the remains. Which, ah, you know, first off, ah, you know, they don’t even know if, if she’s even deceased, you know?

Dave Cawley: He speculated the only reason police were chattering to the media about Joyce now was his writ of habeas corpus.

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): I feel really good about my writ. Real good.

Dave Cawley: Rhonda questioned just how Doug was managing to afford all of the legal fees. He said the writ wasn’t going to cost him a dime. He’d fired his attorneys and was working with an inmate who knew the law.

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): I, ah, I fired both Cook and Archuleta.

Rhonda Buttars (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): [Unintelligible]

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): And ah, I went with this inmate. He really knows his law work.

Rhonda Buttars (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): Who is it?

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): William Babble.

Dave Cawley: Ah, William Babble, the “inmate litigator” who worked with Doug at the prison sign shop. Doug felt confident in his ability to go pro se, or to represent himself. He’d done it before.

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): It’s like, you know that thing up there, that poaching thing? Nobody could have represented us better than me, because I knew what had to be said. And I’m telling you, I’m this close to saying, ‘I don’t want an attorney. I’ll do this myself.’ Because he is going to be…

Dave Cawley: If Doug decided he did need an attorney, he said he’d just use appointed counsel. And even then, he would call the shots.

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): This is another thing about my attorneys. When they give me an attorney, he is gonna speak for me. I’m not gonna listen to no more, ‘I don’t want to do this, or we’re not gonna do this.’ I’ll, I’ll stand up and I’ll fire him. I’ll say, ‘Your honor, he’s not doing what I want him to do and he does not have my special interests in mind. Therefore, I want him terminated.’ And we’ll start this all over.

Rhonda Buttars (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): Right.

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): Because John [expletive] me. John, he [expletive] me royal, you know?

Dave Cawley: By John, he meant John Hutchison, the attorney who’d defended him in the rape case. Hutchison’s actions — or lack thereof — during the 1985 trial were what Doug’s writ was all about. He contended Hutchison had made several errors that had prejudiced the jury. They included failing to object to the testimony of Sharon Gess, the woman Doug had gone to the Pier 3 to see on the night he first encountered Joyce.

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): Remember that Sharon Gess gal that got up and testified that she was being, ah, stalked around or something by a little red car? That was highly, highly, ah, that was a reversible error by itself, right there.

Dave Cawley: When Doug’s writ went before a judge, he said he wanted Rhonda to testify for him. She would say she had been driving his car — the red Mazda — and not him.

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): You had my Mazda RX-7 for awhile, but not, I don’t think during the time that Sharon said that she was being followed. Ah—

Rhonda Buttars (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): I can’t remember all that.

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): I, I know, I, I’m just, I know. I’ll go over all that with you but I’m just preparing you now for what’s coming up months down the road.

Dave Cawley: Doug wanted Rhonda to lie for him, under oath. The point of this was to undermine what Sharon Gess had testified to and suggest John Hutchison should have pursued this line of attack during the trial.

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): Sharon Gess testifying, ah, saying that she was, ah, stalked around by somebody that she didn’t even say she could identify. All she said was it was a little red car with flip-up lights. Well now, how controversial is that? I drive a little red car with flip-up lights. And she didn’t say, ah, so you know that tainted the jury. I mean, that really tainted the jury a lot. And it could have been a reversible error.

Dave Cawley: But because Hutchison hadn’t objected during the trial, the Utah Supreme Court had refused to even consider this issue on appeal. Doug hoped to get the court to address it with his writ. Doug went on a little tangent here, bringing up his 1978 trial for the armed robbery at the U-Save Market.

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): Do you remember when Sherrill and Hooker and I did that robbery?

Rhonda Buttars (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): Yeah.

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): Can you remember that gal that got up and testified that she, that she, ah, identified me?

Rhonda Buttars (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): Oh yeah.

Dave Cawley: He’s talking about Kellie, the 18-year-old U-Save Market clerk who’d bumped into Doug behind the store that night while the robbery was taking place. Remember, she’d told police she’d startled a man after spotting him ducked down by the rear bumper of what turned out to be the getaway car.

Kellie told me — and police records reflect — she had reported exchanging words with Doug.

Kellie Sherrod Farr: He actually, I said hello and so did he because I startled him and he startled me.

Dave Cawley: Kellie had testified to that at Doug’s robbery trial in ’78, helping secure his conviction. Now, in ’92, Doug told Rhonda Kellie had lied for the police, saying “she did not identify me, I know she didn’t.”

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): I know, Rhonda, that she did not identify me. I know she didn’t. I never seen her. But I know that the police had her get up and say, ‘We know this,’ you know, ‘blah blah blah, if you could just identify this, it’s the only way we can link this guy,’ ‘cause she was really the only one that could put me there.

Dave Cawley: Kellie has never heard this wire recording. When we spoke, I told her what Doug had said and asked if there was any truth to it.

Kellie Sherrod Farr: The cops didn’t coach me on anything.

Dave Cawley: Kellie had seen Doug obscuring the license plate on the getaway car.

Kellie Sherrod Farr: ‘Cause he was behind the car, crouched down.

Dave Cawley: Judge for yourself which of these two people you believe.

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): You know that’s bull[expletive] and I think it’s the same thing with Sharon Gess. For one thing, I don’t think she was ever, ever followed.

Dave Cawley: It seemed there was little Doug detested more than a woman who contradicted him. He told Rhonda Sharon Gess had also lied for the police, saying “I did hit up on Sharon where she worked, but I don’t think she was ever followed by anybody.”

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): Ah, you know, I did hit up on Sharon at, at a, you know where she worked, where she was a waitress, but I don’t think she was ever, ever followed by anybody.

Dave Cawley: Doug’s writ appealing his sentence also attacked other bits of evidence, like the blue Arrow-brand shirt Joyce said he’d given her after the rape. Doug wanted Rhonda to tell a judge he’d never owned any shirts like that.

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): But anyway, the shirt. The shirt that you’ll testify to? Ah, as soon as you see it, you’ll, you’ll, I mean, my lawyer will ask you, ‘Have you, have—’

Dave Cawley: It seemed like a lot for Rhonda to keep straight. Doug had anticipated this. He told her his buddy William Babbel drafted a statement on her behalf.

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): So, I’ll send you the state—, you won’t have to fill out a statement. I know that will save you some work. This guy already filled everything out. All you gotta do is get it signed and date it and have it notarized.

Dave Cawley: Rhonda told Doug she hated going to court for him. Stories in the newspaper always led to people asking her uncomfortable questions.

Rhonda Buttars (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): You know, I just heard from people saying, you know, ‘They have new evidence. What’s going on? Na na na.’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t know.’

Dave Cawley: Doug did show some sympathy here.

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): I do. I do know you’re going through a lot, Rhonda, I do. I, I mean every day, five days a week, I imagine the phone rings a lot.

Dave Cawley: Doug said when he got out, he wanted to take Rhonda and the kids and move, maybe to Canada. He intended to go straight and invest in ostrich farm. He apologized none of the money from his mom’s life insurance had materialized the way he’d promised.

But while Doug daydreamed of the pine-dappled mountain slopes and picturesque Pacific coast of British Columbia, Rhonda worried about more immediate concerns. She told him she feared being arrested.

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): Rhonda, I think if they ever talk to you again, or me, they’re gonna have a warrant. And it’s gonna be yours, mine’s gonna be capital homicide and yours is gonna be conspiracy to commit. … The reason they would arrest you or me because they’re certain in their minds that we had something to do with it. They’re, they’re, they don’t know whether I, I did it or I had somebody do it. But they’re certain. The weakest point that they can find is you.

Dave Cawley: Doug promised Rhonda the police didn’t have anything. No body, no evidence, no witness.

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): Rhonda, I don’t see how they can have anybody that can lead them anywhere. I am the only one that knows where she’s at.

Dave Cawley: I know that’s tough to make out. But what Doug said is “I am the only one that knows where she’s at.”

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): I told you that I would never tell anybody, remember? No matter what. And I, I haven’t. I’ve never told anybody.

Dave Cawley: As if to prove this point, Doug mentioned the anonymous caller who’d phoned police in 1987, claiming to have found a woman’s body in the mountains east of Ogden.

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): They’re, the way they projected this was, ‘We think we know where the body of Joyce Yost remains are.’ I know that’s a lie. I am the only one. The only one. You don’t!

Dave Cawley: The conversation had veered into dangerous territory for Doug. Rhonda pushed him, asking if he’d ever revisited the site. Doug said yes, to better conceal the body and to retrieve Joyce’s watch. The watch he’d tried to pawn in Salt Lake City.

“You were with me,” he said.

It’s not clear to me now, listening to this muffled audio, if Doug meant you were with me at the pawn shop or you were with me when I revisited the body. Either interpretation could be valid.

Rhonda questioned if Doug still worried, the way he used to each deer hunting season, that someone might stumble across Joyce’s remains. Doug said no, because she was high in the mountains and seven years of leaves would keep her covered. The only time he’d worried was when that anonymous caller had claimed to have found a body.

Doug ran through a list of people who might have given information to police. Roy “DJ” Droddy, he said, was a snake. Billy Jack perhaps, because he had known about the stolen guns. But Doug said Billy Jack didn’t actually know he’d killed Joyce. Neither did Tom Peters, for that matter. Rhonda was the only one who knew. The only one who could get him convicted and executed.

Visiting time was coming to an end. As Rhonda prepared to leave, Doug started questioning when she would be back with the kids. He suggested they come down the very next weekend. They began to argue.

Rhonda Buttars (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): It’s gotta be Doug’s plan. You are like that, you are.

Dave Cawley: Rhonda complained he was being pushy, controlling and manipulative.

Rhonda Buttars (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): You manipulate, Lovell.

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): I do. I do.

Rhonda Buttars (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): I mean, that’s probably the worst, being a manipulator, than, I mean even trying to be in control. That’s fine, I think I’m that way too. I mean, who doesn’t want their own way?

Doug Lovell (from January 18, 1992 wire recording): You can’t be in control unless you manipulate.

Dave Cawley: “You can’t be in control unless you manipulate.” Finally, Rhonda stood to leave. Doug told her he worried about her. If worse came to worse, he said, the police might arrest her. If they did, the detectives would claim to have all the evidence in the world. But Doug promised there was no way they could have anything after such a long time. He was wrong. Rhonda was carrying that evidence out of the prison with her on a tiny little Nagra tape deck.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: The platen on Doug Lovell’s typewriter spun, bringing a clean sheet of white paper into place. He put his fingers to the keys, then began pecking out a message to his ex-wife.

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): Rhonda, this is the hardest letter that I think I’ve ever had to write.

Dave Cawley: It was Sunday, May 10, 1992.

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): I have tried in every way I know how to be nice and a friend to you and at the same time be the best father I can be to Alisha and Cody, considering where I am at.

Dave Cawley: Doug had reached his breaking point. The typewriter clattered as he rattled off a list of grievances.

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): I asked you to sign and send back some papers to me that you knew were very important to my case. You said you sent them and yet I never received them, so I sent you another copy and guess what, I never received that one either. I wonder why?

Dave Cawley: Procedural blunders weren’t his real reason for writing. The intent, it soon became apparent, was more personal. He accused Rhonda of cheating on him…

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): I accepted that and went on with my life. But that doesn’t seem to be enough for you. You want to continue to make it hard, why?

Dave Cawley: …a rather brazen point of contention coming from a man convicted of sexually assaulting a woman while he and Rhonda were still married. He had other gripes.

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): I have written or sent a card to the kids every week for 2 1/2 years now, missing only two. I have sent money, Christmas & Birthday presents to the kids. I have tried in vain to call and arrange visits with them, only to be disappointed time after time. … The kids don’t write me, according to you they don’t want to come down & see me, our conversations on the phone are so distant I hardly even know them.

Dave Cawley: Doug couldn’t comprehend why.

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): But I have no chance of having any kind of relationship with them as long as you remain to be the type of person you are. … For the life of me Rhonda I’ll never understand why you act the way you do. I have done nothing to deserve the way I have been treated by you, nor has my family.

Dave Cawley: Doug had spent the better part of the prior year worried his ex-wife would crack. He knew she was the strongest possible witness against him if police made good on their threat to charge him with the murder of Joyce Yost. Yet, Doug had also become frustrated with Rhonda. So, he said, they were done. No more visits. No more phone calls.

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): This has been damned hard for me to write Rhonda but I won’t and can’t let you roller coaster my life anymore by using our children.

Dave Cawley: The roller coaster car that was Doug’s life was at that moment perched at the very top of a precipitous drop, primed for the fall.

Ep 6: Here We Are

Five years had passed since the August 10, 1985 disappearance of Joyce Yost. South Ogden police detective Terry Carpenter, who’d inherited the investigation, had exhausted all leads but one: a far-out claim that Joyce had died at the hands of a satanic coven.

The tip had come from a woman named Barbara who’d been diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder. During therapy, Barbara had reported recovering memories of having witnessed a ritualistic murder. She’d told a psychologist, and later Terry, that men in black robes had dismembered and burned a blond-haired woman she believed was Joyce Yost.

“She just knew that Joyce was buried in a gravel pit and she’d been scooped up in a truck and taken away,” Terry said.

South Weber gravel pit
The Staker Parsons quarry at the mouth of Weber Canyon, as it appeared on April 24, 2021. South Ogden police searched this area while attempting to verify claims a satanic coven had killed Joyce Yost. Photo: Dave Cawley, KSL Podcasts

Barbara had told Terry the leader of the coven had accepted a contract to kill Joyce. She’d said the person who’d offered the contract was a man named “Love.”

Joyce Yost task force

The emergence of the coven lead in August of 1990 brought new life to the Joyce Yost investigation. Terry, in cooperation with the Weber County Attorney’s Office, formed a task force comprised of additional law enforcement officers from surrounding agencies.

Joyce Yost phone-o-gram
Clearfield police took this phone message for detective Bill Holthaus, following a call from South Ogden police Sgt. Terry Carpenter on August 20, 1990. Carpenter was at that time assembling an interagency task force to investigate the five-year-old Joyce Yost disappearance.

The task force spent months during the winter season of 1990-1991 surveilling and interviewing purported members of the coven group. They conducted searches of the property in South Weber where the coven was said to meet, as well as of a nearby gravel pit where Barbara had said Joyce Yost’s body was initially deposited. Cadaver dogs and forensics teams were unable to locate human remains there.

“I can’t tell you the hours that we put into trying to prove or disprove it,” Terry said.

Terry had his own skepticism about the coven lead, but hoped the investigative press would uncover new evidence linking Joyce Yost’s disappearance to the most likely suspect: Douglas Lovell.

“We’d known all along that Doug killed her. We just couldn’t prove it.”

Former South Ogden police Sgt. Terry Carpenter

But by the spring of 1991, efforts related to the coven lead were beginning to stall. The woman at the center of the story, Barbara, told Terry during an interview on March 13, 1991 she doubted the validity of her own memories.

Hail Mary to Rhonda Buttars

Terry decided to make a long shot play in the hopes of verifying the coven lead. On April 10, 1991, he went to the state office where Doug Lovell’s ex-wife Rhonda Buttars worked. He intended to ask Rhonda questions about the information Barbara had provided.

“You talk to both of them hoping at some point they may cross or that there might be some ties there or that there might be some indication that yes, Barbara’s telling you the absolute truth,” Terry said.

Terry told Rhonda he believed she knew more about what’d happened to Joyce Yost than she’d previously disclosed. He said as long as she hadn’t pulled the trigger, he would attempt to secure immunity for her.

“And she says ‘oh, he didn’t shoot her, he just stomped on her throat,’” Terry said. “And she almost immediately started to cry. And I says ‘Rhonda, we can help you.’”

Former South Ogden police Sgt. Terry Carpenter speaks about Rhonda Buttars’ confession on April 10, 1991. Terry had convinced Rhonda to share what she knew about her ex-husband Doug Lovell’s Aug. 10, 1985 killing of Joyce Yost.

The coven lead had been untrue, a red herring. Yet, it had also indirectly led to the most significant break in the Joyce Yost case.

Rhonda Buttars confession

Rhonda Buttars’ confession to Terry Carpenter unfolded with a play-by-play account of the night of August 10, 1985 and the following morning, encompassing her ex-husband Doug Lovell’s murder of Joyce Yost.

Rhonda told Terry she had driven Doug from their apartment to a street just east of Joyce’s apartment sometime between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m., where she’d dropped him off. Rhonda had known Doug intended to kill Joyce.

“He’d laid in the bushes across the street from Joyce’s house and waited for her to come home,” Terry said.

Doug Lovell bushes Rhonda Buttars confession
Rhonda Buttars told Terry Carpenter her ex-husband, Doug Lovell, hid behind these bushes across the street from Joyce Yost’s apartment on the night of August 10, 1985. Photo: Weber County Attorney’s Office

Rhonda said Doug had cased Joyce’s apartment a few weeks prior to the night of August 10 and had discovered a window did not latch tight. He intended to enter Joyce’s apartment through that window after she’d gone to sleep.

After dropping Doug, Rhonda had returned to her own apartment and gone to sleep.

“Meet me at the Wilshire”

Rhonda told Terry she awoke to a phone call from Doug sometime around 5 a.m. the following morning. He’d called her from the Hermitage Inn in Ogden Canyon and told her get out of bed and meet him at the Wilshire Theater in South Ogden. She’d arrived there to find Doug driving Joyce’s Chevy Nova.

Wilshire Rhonda Buttars confession
This May 1, 1985 aerial image captured by the Idaho Air National Guard shows the Wilshire Theater (center) at its prominent position on Harrison Boulevard in South Ogden, Utah. In Rhonda Buttars’ confession, she said her ex-husband had told her to meet him at the Wilshire following the murder of Joyce Yost. The Wilshire was demolished in the late 1990s. Photo: Utah Geological Survey

Rhonda said Doug had instructed her to follow him up Combe Road to a water tank where he’d abandoned Joyce’s car.

“And she says ‘he stepped out of the car and threw the keys down the hill,’” Terry said. “That’s exactly where we find the keys, I know she’s being 100% honest with me.”

Joyce Yost car
South Ogden police recovered this car, Joyce Yost’s Chevy Nova, from near a water tank in Wasatch Mountain foothills days after Yost disappeared. Years later, Rhonda Buttars’ confession included an accurate description of where police had found the car’s keys. Photo: Weber County Attorney’s Office

Rhonda said Doug had then joined her in her car, bringing with him a suitcase containing Joyce’s clothing. Together, they’d then driven to a wooded lot off the side of U.S. Highway 89, where Doug had burned the clothing.

Terry Carpenter Rhonda Buttars confession
Former South Ogden police Sgt. Terry Carpenter stands near where Doug Lovell reportedly burned Joyce Yost’s clothing the morning following her murder. This area has since been excavated as part of an expansion of the nearby U.S. Highway 89. Photo: Weber County Attorney’s Office

Morning light had been growing on the eastern horizon while Rhonda’d waited for Doug to burn Joyce’s clothing, she’d said. The suitcase had proved too big to burn, so she’d told Terry that Doug had returned to the car with it.

Weber River bridge
Rhonda Buttars told Terry Carpenter she believed her ex-husband, Doug Lovell, had discarded Joyce Yost’s suitcase by tossing it into the Weber River at the U.S. Highway 89 bridge near the mouth of Weber Canyon. Photo: Dave Cawley, KSL Podcasts

They’d then driven back north to where the highway crossed the Weber River and Doug had disposed of the suitcase there.

Up by Causey

Rhonda told Terry that Doug had described to her how he’d startled Joyce awake when he’d entered her apartment. He’d been holding a knife and in the ensuing struggle, he’d slashed Joyce’s fingers. The wound had bled, causing a blood stain on Joyce’s mattress.

Doug had told Rhonda he’d bandaged Joyce’s hand, mopped up the blood with a washcloth, stripped the bed sheets, flipped the mattress and remade the bed.

Then, Rhonda said Doug had told her he’d taken Joyce out to her car, driven her to some place “up by Causey,” walked her from the road up a hill into a patch of trees and strangled her to unconsciousness. Then, to make sure Joyce was dead, Doug had reportedly told Rhonda he’d stomped on Joyce’s throat.

“She says ‘I wasn’t there that’s just what Doug told me,’” Terry said. He had previously seen the bloodstained mattress recovered from Joyce’s apartment and believed it was more likely Joyce had died in the apartment. “But that’s what he’d told her and that’s what she thought.”

Locations of interest relating to Cold season 2, episode 6.

Rhonda told Terry that at some point the morning following the murder, Doug had discovered Joyce’s blood on his own clothing. They had then driven together to where Riverdale Road crosses the Weber River and Doug had disposed of his bloodstained clothing by setting fire to it in a trash can.

Hear what happened after Rhonda Buttars’ confession in episode 6 of Cold: Here We Are

Episode credits
Research, writing and hosting: Dave Cawley
Audio production: Nina Earnest
Audio mixing: Trent Sell
Cold main score composition: Michael Bahnmiller
Cold main score mixing: Dan Blanck
KSL executive producers: Sheryl Worsley, Keira Farrimond
Workhouse Media executive producers: Paul Anderson, Nick Panella, Andrew Greenwood
Amazon Music team: Morgan Jones, Eliza Mills, Vanessa Rebbert, Shea Simpson
Episode transcript: https://thecoldpodcast.com/season-2-transcript/here-we-are-full-transcript/
KSL companion story: https://ksltv.com/461379/secret-recording-broke-open-joyce-yost-murder-case/
Talking Cold companion episode: https://thecoldpodcast.com/talking-cold#tc-episode-6

Cold season 2, episode 6: Here We Are – Full episode transcript

Dave Cawley: South Ogden police sergeant Terry Carpenter drove into downtown Ogden on the afternoon of April 10, 1991. He headed to a building on Washington Boulevard, which housed the offices of the Utah Department of Social Services. The offices where Doug Lovell’s ex-wife Rhonda worked.

Terry Carpenter: Kind of out of the clear blue went into work one day … and said ‘Rhonda, y’know, let’s level with each other.’

Dave Cawley: Terry saying this came out of the “clear blue” was perhaps an oversimplification. So let’s back up just a step. Terry was at that time in the spring of ’91 pursuing a longshot lead in the Joyce Yost case. It centered on a claim Joyce had died at the hands of a satanic coven. This tip had come from a woman named Barbara, as I described in the last episode. In this next clip, you’ll hear Barbara say she knew a contract had been put out on Joyce by a guy named “Love.”

Barbara (from April 1991 police recording): I was told that she, that there had been a contract and that her name was Joyce Yost and that I shouldn’t tell anyone or it would be pretty serious trouble.

Dave Cawley: Terry had spent weeks trying to verify this. He’d scoured a gravel pit, searching for bones. He’d told Barbara her information was the most valuable and pressing available in the case. There were no other leads.

Terry Carpenter (from March, 1991 police recording): If I had other leads that were more valuable and more pressing, those would be the areas I’d be concentrating on. Do you think I would have set on this group that you’re involved with for the last several weeks if I had something better that I had to work on? I don’t. This is the most prominent thing that is here right now and it’s very realistic and it’s very feasible.

Dave Cawley: But in truth, the coven lead was fast turning into a dead-end. Which is part of what prompted Terry’s impromptu visit to Rhonda’s work.

Terry Carpenter: You talk to both of them hoping at some point they may cross or that there might be some ties there or that there might be some indication that yes, Barbara’s telling you the absolute truth.

Dave Cawley: Rhonda and Terry sat down in the office break room. She told Terry about her divorce. They reminisced about the time — five years earlier —  when Terry had taken Rhonda to jail on the poaching warrant. Her story of that poaching situation had evolved somewhat in the time since. She now told Terry Doug had gone up to Monte Cristo the night before their encounter with the wildlife officer and shot two deer. He’d wanted to retrieve the antlers, so he’d dragged her up there the next day for that purpose.

Rhonda insisted again, as she had before, she had no knowledge of what’d happened to Joyce Yost. Terry fixed her with a stare. Then, he said…

Terry Carpenter: ‘We know that Doug killed Joyce. We know that you’re involved. We know that you helped him, to some extent. And provided that you didn’t pull the trigger, we can get you immunity.’ And she says ‘oh, he didn’t shoot her. He just stomped on her throat.’ And then she went ‘oh,’ like ‘I really blew it.’

Dave Cawley: This was not at all the break Terry might’ve expected. He had sudden clarity. The story Barbara had told about the coven was in no way true.

Terry Carpenter: She thinks Joyce Yost was killed by her dad and the coven and just didn’t happen.

Dave Cawley: It didn’t happen because Doug had killed Joyce himself. Rhonda had kept that secret for years. It’d gnawed at her. Ever since her divorce, she’d considered coming forward. But how could she do that without ending up in prison herself?

Terry Carpenter: And she almost immediately started to cry. And I says, ‘Rhonda, we can help you.’

Dave Cawley: Terry repeated his promise. He would do everything he could to secure immunity.

Terry Carpenter: And so we talked, and we talked and we talked and she got 2,000 pounds off of her chest.

Dave Cawley: Terry’s breakthrough with Rhonda had not come by way of intimidation, technology or clever tactics. It’d simply resulted from his offer of empathy and her willingness to trust.

Terry Carpenter: She’s (sighs) I mean, she’s, y’know I’ve interviewed hundreds of people and know she’s cleaning her soul. She’s telling me what the truth is.

Dave Cawley: That was no small step on Rhonda’s part. She knew what Doug’d done to the last woman who’d crossed him. Terry promised not to let that happen again.

This is Cold, season 2, episode 6: Here We Are. From KSL Podcasts, I’ve Dave Cawley. We’ll be right back.

[Ad break]

Dave Cawley: Terry Carpenter had knocked the frost off the cold case of Joyce Yost’s disappearance. He took his breakthrough to the Weber County Attorney the day after his meeting with Rhonda Buttars.

Terry Carpenter: They’re excited. They’re finally willing to say we’ve got enough evidence now to go forward. But they still have to prove it.

Dave Cawley: That was complicated by the fact Rhonda and Doug had been husband and wife at the time of the Joyce’s murder. Utah law provided Rhonda spousal privilege, which meant…

Terry Carpenter: We can’t compel her to testify. She has to do that of her own free will.

Dave Cawley: Rhonda I should mention, did not respond to an interview request for this podcast. Neither did her children. But Rhonda showed her free will by meeting with Terry again on the evening of May 1, 1991, for an on-the-record interview.

Terry Carpenter (from May 1, 1991 police recording): Has anyone pressured you into doing this, Rhonda?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 1, 1991 police recording): No.

Terry Carpenter (from May 1, 1991 police recording): Have I made any threats against you?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 1, 1991 police recording): No.

Terry Carpenter (from May 1, 1991 police recording): Or promises to you, except the immunity?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 1, 1991 police recording): No promises except immunity.

Terry Carpenter (from May 1, 1991 police recording): Okay.

Dave Cawley: They went step-by-step through the events of the night Joyce Yost died. Rhonda described driving Doug over to Joyce’s apartment in her blue Pontiac 1000 hatchback sometime between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. Her daughter Alisha, then four years old, had been in the back seat, asleep.

Terry Carpenter (from May 1, 1991 police recording): Can you tell me why you dropped him off?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 1, 1991 police recording): ‘Cause his intentions were he was going to break in Joyce’s apartment to kill her.

Terry Carpenter (from May 1, 1991 police recording): ‘Kay. Did he tell you that?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 1, 1991 police recording): Yes.

Terry Carpenter (from May 1, 1991 police recording): You knew that that’s what he had planned to do.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 1, 1991 police recording): Yes.

Dave Cawley: Rhonda said she and Doug had been there before. She’d taken her husband by Joyce’s apartment at least twice during the summer of ’85. He’d discovered the broken lock on window during one of those visits. On the night of the murder, Rhonda said she’d driven east on 40th Street to the intersection with Evelyn Road. She’d flipped around and come to a stop about 350 feet up the street from Joyce’s apartment. Doug had popped open the passenger door and stepped out into the dark, telling Rhonda he would call her later. So, Rhonda went home. She put Alisha to bed, then went to sleep herself. Her phone rang hours later. Rhonda said it was probably sometime between 4 and 5 a.m. She answered. It was Doug. He told her he was “in the canyon.”

Terry Carpenter (from May 1, 1991 police recording): ‘Kay. Is that what he told you? ‘I’m in the canyon.’

Rhonda Buttars (from May 1, 1991 police recording): Mmmhmm.

Terry Carpenter (from May 1, 1991 police recording): You remember that?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 1, 1991 police recording): Yes. Because he said, ‘I’m in the canyon and by the time you get to the Wilshire,’ you know, ‘I’ll be there. We’ll probably meet there at the same time.’ And he said ‘I want you to follow me so I can ditch the car.’

Dave Cawley: The Wilshire Theater was a three-screen movie house, a kind of old community landmark in South Ogden, right on the main drag of Harrison Boulevard. The Wilshire was only two miles away from Doug and Rhonda’s apartment.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 1, 1991 police recording): But, okay, and then like I got dressed. Got my little girl, put her in the car and went to the Wilshire and he was already at the Wilshire, in the parking lot waitin’ for me. And so I pulled up to him—

Terry Carpenter (from May 1, 1991 police recording): What was he driving?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 1, 1991 police recording): Joyce’s car.

Dave Cawley: Doug had a nylon stocking pulled over his hair and was wearing gloves.

“What took you so long,” he asked. “I beat you here and I came clear from the canyon.”

Doug ordered Rhonda to follow him. He started east, through a quiet neighborhood at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains, headed up the hill. Rhonda followed the red glow of taillights up Combe Road to Melanie Lane. The street climbed until it could go up no more. They were at the edge of the city. Nothing above it but mountain: 4,000 vertical feet of scrub oak and scree.

Rhonda parked her car and waited while Doug steered Joyce’s car off of the asphalt onto a dirt track that disappeared into the brush. The track, out of sight of the road, climbed up to a squat water tank.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 1, 1991 police recording): He drove up by the water tower and I stayed on the road and waited for him to come down.

Dave Cawley: A car went past, leaving Rhonda to wonder what she’d say if anyone stopped to ask her what she was doing there. But that car didn’t stop. When Doug returned, he was on foot and carrying a large blue suitcase. He stuffed that into the back of the Pontiac before settling into the passenger seat. He instructed Rhonda to head back down to Highway 89 and go south. Rhonda noted her husband seemed a little nervous, but not much, considering what he’d just done. And yes, he told her the story as she drove.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 1, 1991 police recording): He said he broke in the apartment and she was laying on her bed and she was asleep. And it was, I think he said the TV was on and a light was on. It was like she fell asleep watching TV and he said he had a knife with him and when he and went to reach over to grab her by the mouth, so she wouldn’t scream that he cut her hand. And so, umm, he said he got her up and he was, umm, washing her hand and trying to get all the evidence and the blood and everything, so no one would know that she had been bleeding.

Dave Cawley: Rhonda said Doug had made Joyce strip the sheets after wrapping her hand. When he’d tried to mop up the blood on the mattress with the washcloth, he found it simply made the stain even larger. So, he’d flipped the blood-stained mattress and remade the bed with a fresh set of sheets.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 1, 1991 police recording): And she was, you know, begging him, y’know, ‘Let’s just call Birch and I’ll tell him whatever you want me to say, that you really didn’t rape me’ or whatever. But Doug was afraid that she would call Birch and then say that he was trying to rape me again. So Doug was just telling her, ‘It’s okay, I’m just gonna take you to some people and hide you out for awhile,’ ‘cause there was a court date coming up and he didn’t want her to be there, I guess.

Dave Cawley: Rhonda said Doug had made Joyce pack some clothes and makeup into a suitcase as if she were just going on a trip.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 1, 1991 police recording): Doug kept telling her that, you know, ‘I’m not gonna hurt you, I’m just gonna take you to these people.’ So then, umm, I guess after he got her hand wrapped, umm, he got in her car and he said he made her drive up the canyon and they went up by Causey and he said, umm, he didn’t go far off the road. He just stopped the car and got out of the car and walked up this hill and it wasn’t very far off the road. And, umm, grabbed her neck and was choking her and then I think he stepped on her neck and stomped on it and smashed it.

Dave Cawley: By Rhonda’s account, Doug had killed Joyce with his own bare hands.

Terry Carpenter: How much of that’s true? I don’t know.

Dave Cawley: Terry told me he believed Rhonda was being honest with him.

Terry Carpenter: Rhonda’s a, a meek, mellow person and there’s no way that she was making any of that up.

Dave Cawley: But he doubted Doug had been completely honest with her.

Terry Carpenter: We know that’s not how he killed her because of all the blood that was between the mattress. He killed her in the apartment. He didn’t take her up on the mountain to kill her.

Dave Cawley: But which mountain? Where was Joyce? Rhonda didn’t seem to know, aside from it being somewhere near Causey Reservoir.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 1, 1991 police recording): And said he, umm, buried her as best he could and he didn’t have any, anything to really bury her, y’know, like a shovel to dig a hole that I recall. And he said he didn’t bury her very deep. He just, you know, like put leaves or shrubbery or dirt over her. And she had her purse at the time, he said, and he dumped all of her stuff out by her, her purse and then just left it. And he was saying, ‘You know, that was a mistake.’ He shouldn’t have left her purse and her ID, everything that was in her purse was right there by her body.

Dave Cawley: Rhonda said Doug acknowledged he would have to go back and fix that mistake.

Terry Carpenter: And then he went back a week or so later because it was bowhunting season and was afraid somebody’d find her laying on the ground and that’s when he buried her.

Dave Cawley: But let’s not get too far ahead. As the eastern sky started to take on the soft hue of impending sunrise on the morning after the murder, Rhonda had chauffeured Doug to a vacant lot at the intersection of Highway 89 and Oak Hills Drive in the city of Layton.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 1, 1991 police recording): And then he got out and umm, there was a camp area and where there’s a fire he started the suitcase on fire. I don’t know if he did the suitcase. I can’t remember because the suitcase seemed like it would take forever to burn. I just remember the clothes, for sure. He burned the clothes.

Dave Cawley: Rhonda waited in her car as Doug tended the fire, the growing light of dawn gaining in intensity with each passing minute. Rhonda said she then drove him to a spot along the Weber River, where he tossed the suitcase into the water. Then, they went home. At some point that morning, Doug’d discovered his pants and shoes were stained with Joyce’s blood. So he and Rhonda had left the apartment and drove to a place where Riverdale Road crosses the Union Pacific Railroad’s Riverdale Yard. Doug ducked under the viaduct, where he found a large drum or barrel. He put his bloodstained Levis in it, then set fire to them and walked away.

Terry Carpenter (from May 1, 1991 police recording): You indicated that Doug told you he was going up to get rid of Joyce. You knew that that’s why he was going up there. Had he ever talked about doing that before to anyone else?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 1, 1991 police recording): Yes. He talked to his friend, Billy Jack.

Dave Cawley: Further evidence of Rhonda’s forthrightness.

Terry Carpenter (from May 1, 1991 police recording): Rhonda starts to talk about the fact that he’s paid people to do this. And so other names come out.

Dave Cawley: Rhonda told Terry how Billy Jack had sawed the barrel off of a stolen gun, chickened out and buried the weapon in a field near Joyce’s apartment. She told Terry about meeting with Tom Peters at his girlfriend’s place in Salt Lake City, how Doug had turned an entire workman’s comp check over to Tom in the hopes he would “take care” of Joyce. How Tom had taken the money but failed to do the job.

She described how Doug ended up trying to pawn Joyce’s wristwatch, the one he’d left with her body but later retrieved. No pawnshop would offer him more than 50 bucks, so he’d tossed it out the car window while driving down State Street in Salt Lake City one day. Terry asked Rhonda if she was concerned at all about what they’d discussed.

Rhonda Buttars (from May 1, 1991 police recording): I’m worried about, if Doug finds out. I’m really scared.

Terry Carpenter (from May 1, 1991 police recording): What would Doug do?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 1, 1991 police recording): He’ll have someone come after me.

Terry Carpenter (from May 1, 1991 police recording): And what do you think they’d do?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 1, 1991 police recording): Kill me.

Terry Carpenter (from May 1, 1991 police recording): ‘Kay. You believe that, Rhonda?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 1, 1991 police recording): Mmmhmm. Yep.

Dave Cawley: Rhonda took a polygraph, which showed she was being truthful. And she continued to feed information to Terry. She told him Doug had not stopped calling her, in spite of their divorce. Terry asked if she would be willing to record those phone calls. Rhonda said yes.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: Shirley Lovell — Doug’s mom — died as a result of a pulmonary embolism on Friday, May 17, 1991. She was 55 years old. The family planned funeral services for the following Tuesday, May 21st, in Oak City, Utah, the tiny rural community where both she and Doug’s father had been raised and where Doug had spent his own early years.

Doug made an immediate request to the prison staff. He wanted to attend the funeral. The Utah Department of Corrections at that time classified Doug as a “level three” inmate. The medium-security ranking meant he had to remain within the prison perimeter at all times. Only level fives could leave the grounds. Still, Doug believed he had a strong case for an exception. His file, also known as his jacket, didn’t include any write-ups for serious violations. He was neat and polite. He didn’t brawl, he’d never tried to escape and he worked hard at his job in the prison sign shop. He’d become a leadman, with his own office.

Carl Jacobsen, who’d been one of his Doug’s guards when he’d first arrived at SSD back in ’86, often introduced him to visitors there. Carl had developed something of a rapport with Doug over the years. He’d since promoted to the rank of lieutenant. Managing visitation inside and outside the prison fell within Carl’s new responsibilities. Carl might’ve been the closest thing to an ally Doug had among the prison staff. But when he received the request for an off-site visit, it gave him pause. Doug, Carl believed, presented a flight risk. If given the opportunity, he might use the funeral to stage an escape.

While prison managers debated the question of whether to approve the funeral trip, Doug received a visitor at the prison. On the morning of Monday, May 20th, his boss at the sign shop told him his attorney was waiting to speak with him. Doug was at that time working to appeal his sentence in court. A new lawyer, Robert Archuleta, had signed on to help him. But that’s not who was waiting for Doug when he made his way over to the prison offices. It was Terry Carpenter.

Terry Carpenter (from May 20, 1991 police recording): Doug was advised of his rights per Miranda at which time Doug was asked if he understood each of these right and he stated that he did.

Dave Cawley: Terry didn’t make a tape recording of the conversation itself, but he did record these notes afterward.

Terry Carpenter (from May 20, 1991 police recording): I asked him with these rights in mind would you be willing to talk with me and he stated no.

Dave Cawley: Terry told Doug that was fine, he should just sit and listen. He then explained new information had come to light about the death of Joyce Yost. He now knew enough to secure a capital homicide charge.

Terry Carpenter (from May 20, 1991 police recording): Doug refused to talk about it and I told him that I knew that he was involved in this and he stated, ‘No, you’re wrong I don’t have anything to do with it, there is absolutely nothing that I know about the disappearance of Joyce Yost.’

Dave Cawley: Terry said he knew Doug had arranged to have Joyce killed and that a “payment was made.”

Terry Carpenter (from May 20, 1991 police recording): Doug shook his head, again denied any knowledge of it and stated he would gladly go to trial.

Dave Cawley: Terry had one other tactic to try. He told Doug the Department of Corrections was not going to let him attend his mother’s funeral. But he could make it happen.

Terry Carpenter (from May 20, 1991 police recording): The time that I approached him, I approached him uh knowing that his mother had just passed away and hoping that there may be some feelings there of remorse or that he may be in a frame of mind more willing to talk to me regarding the death of Joyce Yost, knowing that she was also someone’s mother.

Dave Cawley: Terry said if Doug wanted to go, he had to first give up the location of Joyce’s body.

Terry Carpenter: He just flat adamantly denies anything. He doesn’t have anything to do with it. He has no knowledge of it and just flat tells me that I’m wrong.

Dave Cawley: Doug responded by saying, “[expletive] you.”

Terry Carpenter: You sit and look at him and know without a question that he’s lying to you and you can just flat see the devil in his eyes.

Dave Cawley: Doug told Terry he couldn’t keep him there then he stood and walked out of the room. Terry wasn’t done at the prison, though. He had the guards haul in another inmate: Tom Peters. He’d only just learned of Doug and Tom’s friendship from Rhonda.

Terry Carpenter (from May 1, 1991 police recording): How did he know Tom?

Rhonda Buttars (from May 1, 1991 police recordings): He knew Tom from last time when he was in prison.

Dave Cawley: Terry proceeded to tell Tom he was aware Doug had paid him to “take care” of Joyce Yost. Tom, in response, suggested a hypothetical. Suppose, he said, a friend came to another friend and offered to pay to have a woman taken care of. The second friend agrees to the point of taking the money, but with no intention of ever killing anyone.

Terry Carpenter (from May 20, 1991 police recording): And then Mr. Peters’ tense changes and he says, ‘I took the money. At the time I was h—, I mean,’ and he says it just that way. ‘I mean this person at that time was a heroin addict and he took the money for the purpose of getting high on heroin and that’s exactly what I did. My girlfriend and I—’ and then he realizes again that he has changed tenses. He stops and he says, ‘This person and his girlfriend then took the money and went out and got high on heroin with no intentions whatsoever of having anything to do with the murder.’

Dave Cawley: Terry asked Tom if he would tell that story from the witness stand.

Terry Carpenter (from May 20, 1991 police recording): And Tom thought for a minute and said, ‘No, I can’t deny it, it’s true but I will invoke my right.’ And I says, ‘you mean your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent to avoid incriminating yourself?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’

Dave Cawley: Tom said he had good reason to worry. Doug Lovell was not his friend.

Terry Carpenter (from May 20, 1991 police recording): Tom indicated to me that he was afraid of problems from Doug. He says, ‘If I can see him coming I’ll be ok, but Doug’s the type that he will come up and get you from behind.’

Dave Cawley: Shirley Lovell’s funeral came and went. Doug did not attend.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: The swelter of the southern Nevada afternoon had started to recede from the Moapa Valley. Heat radiated from the scorched ground, even as twinkling stars emerged in the violet blanket of the clear desert sky. Ron and Deb Barney were at home in Logandale, a small community between I-15 and Lake Mead, about 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Just after 9 p.m. on May 23, 1991, they heard a knock at the door. When they answered, they found two men standing on the doorstep: sergeant Terry Carpenter and lieutenant Val Shupe of the South Ogden, Utah police department. The Barneys invited the officers inside to talk. Terry had learned Ron was one of Doug’s closest friends. He told Ron he’d soon be arresting Doug for the murder of Joyce Yost.

Terry Carpenter (from May 23, 1991 police recording): Mr. Barney indicated to me that he didn’t believe in any way, shape or form Doug Lovell was involved, that he was a good person.

Dave Cawley: Terry did not record the conversation, again, only these notes after-the-fact.

Terry Carpenter (from May 23, 1991 police recording): We talked in some detail about the fact that this good person had committed a series of armed robberies, that this good person had committed a very brutal rape upon a woman, that this good person had been poaching.

Dave Cawley: Deb scooted their kids to bed as it became clear the conversation was turning to more sensitive matters.

Terry Carpenter (from May 23, 1991 police recording): He had some question about whether he raped the woman or not. Doug had told them that they actually had just had sex together and the woman wanted the relationship to go further and Doug said no and she got mad and screamed rape.

Dave Cawley: Terry countered this, explaining in some detail how the evidence showed Doug’s assault on Joyce had not been consensual.

Terry Carpenter (from May 23, 1991 police recording): And I made the comment that, ‘Yeah, whenever Doug is on dope, that that’s what happens to him.’ And uh, Debbie immediately made the statement that, ‘Doug doesn’t do drugs.’

Dave Cawley: Terry said yes, Doug did do drugs, the prescription kind. There was the matter of Doug’s phony back injury during the summer of ’85, for which he’d obtained several prescriptions.

Terry Carpenter (from May 23, 1991 police recording): Also indicated that the night that Joyce disappeared that Doug was taking a very strong drug at that time allegedly for his back which there is much in question as to whether the back problem is a legitimate deal or just a guise for him to receive some kind of drugs while he is in prison.

Dave Cawley: And how about the issue of the stolen guns, the ones Doug and Billy Jack had taken from the home of Cody Montgomery in May of ’85? The ones they’d buried behind the cabin near Callao.

Terry Carpenter (from May 23, 1991 police recording): I asked Mr. Barney if he had any knowledge about Doug burying some guns. Ron paused for probably 10 seconds and stared at the table and then says, ‘Well yeah, he did tell me about some stolen guns, he buried them someplace. I’m not sure where he buried them.’

Dave Cawley: Terry already knew where the guns had come from and where at least some had ended up.

Terry Carpenter: And Ron was very hesitant to talk about them.

Dave Cawley: Doug had told the Barneys he expected a judge would soon overturn his sentence. They’d discussed having him come stay at their place in Nevada once he won his freedom. Terry asked if that’s really what they wanted, considering how Doug had been convicted of armed robbery, how he’d kidnapped and sexually assaulted a woman, how he’d stolen guns and cars, how he’d poached deer.

Terry Carpenter (from May 23, 1991 police recording): With that understanding they began to think and Debbie made the comment that she was concerned about her children, that they had become fairly good friends with Doug and that they had some major concerns about Doug coming to live with them.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: In the week following his mother’s funeral, Doug Lovell came across a newspaper story that caught his attention. It dealt with another inmate at the Utah State Prison, a man named James Carlos Foote. Foote had been charged with sexually abusing a child in ’84, when he’d touched a six-year-old girl while lifting her into his truck. Foote, who had no prior criminal history, cut a plea deal and received a sentence of one-to-15 years in prison.

Parole board guidelines suggested the punishment for Foote’s crime should’ve been two years of incarceration. He’d gone before the board three times since arriving at the prison, and was each time peppered with questions about other cases of child sex abuse in which he might have been involved. Foote denied having any sexual contact with any other children. As a result, the board determined he was not being forthcoming and declined to grant him a release date.

Foote filed suit against the board, claiming his estranged wife — who worked for the Utah Department of Corrections — had added unfounded accusations about him abusing other neighborhood children to his file. He said the board was essentially punishing him for crimes he’d not been convicted of, depriving him of his constitutional right to due process. His lawsuit had made its way to the Utah Supreme Court in November of 1990. In its ruling in March of ’91, the high court justices unanimously agreed due process rules did apply to the board of pardons, same as to the courts.

In other words, Foote had a right to know what was in the file and to challenge it. So, in May of ’91, after serving more than six years, Foote filed a second lawsuit. That’s what’d landed his story in the paper and before the curious eyes of Doug Lovell. Doug saw parallels to his own situation. He believed Judge Rodney Page had sentenced him for murdering Joyce, not for kidnapping and sexually assaulting her. And Doug had not been able to review the pre-sentence report Page relied on when making his decision.

Doug had a friendly prison guard make a copy of the newspaper story. He placed it in an envelope and addressed it to Rhonda. Then, he called her… and Rhonda rolled tape, starting this recording.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Hello?

Operator (from recorded 1991 phone call): Hi, will you pay for a collect call from Doug?

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Uh huh.

Operator (from recorded 1991 phone call): Thanks, go ahead.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Hi.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Hi.

Dave Cawley: …not to discuss his own mother’s funeral, which Rhonda had attended without him days earlier, but to share the good news.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Because see now when I go to the board, they can’t even ask, they can’t even, they can’t even make a mere statement, y’know, ‘What do you know about Joyce?’ They can’t even ask that anymore because of what’s been ruled.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Yeah?

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): And a lot of things are swinging now in my favor. And I think they’ve always been hoping that umm, y’know, that when I eventually went to the board, if I lost my appeal, if I went to the board, the board could say, ‘Hey, y’know, what about this?’ Y’know, and then keep me here for X amount of years longer. And now that can’t happen.

Dave Cawley: Doug had more good news for Rhonda. He told her about his new attorney, Robert Archuleta. Robert was already trying to track down a copy of Doug’s pre-sentence report, so they could go about challenging what was in it. That wasn’t the only update he had to share.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): I guess Carpenter’s been assigned to the case.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Who?

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Carpenter. Terry Carpenter.

Dave Cawley: Rhonda did not let on she was by then well acquainted with Terry Carpenter. Doug didn’t bother to ask, continuing right on describing their meeting the day before the funeral.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): I said uh, ‘I got nothing,’ y’know, ‘I got no statement.’ Y’know, I told him, ‘If you want to turn the recorder on, I’ll tell you that, y’know what I’m gonna tell you right now. I don’t know anything about it. I wasn’t involved, directly or indirectly, in it.’ And I says, ‘And I don’t know and I don’t think anybody else even knows that this woman is deceased.’ I says, ‘Now, if you want me to make that kind of a statement, I will.’ And he says, ‘Well, that’s not what I’m looking for.’ I says, ‘Well then what you want is for me to say something that’s not true. Y’know, what you want me to do is say that I was involved in something that I wasn’t. And I can’t do that.’

Dave Cawley: Rhonda mentioned a detective had dropped by her apartment on the day of the funeral, but she wasn’t at home.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): So they’re probably trying to look for me, too.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Yeah, well and I’m, I’m surprised they haven’t got ahold of you by now. I figured you would have been the first one that they got ahold of.

Dave Cawley: At no point during any of this did Doug take a moment to express grief or sadness over the loss of his mother. The following week, after Memorial Day, he called Rhonda again. This time, he did want to talk about his mom, or at least her life insurance. Doug said it appeared he and his brother Russ were poised to split about $81,000. The money would mean he was all set for when he got out. Rhonda told Doug Carpenter had showed up at her apartment with a search warrant.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Well, I got a visit last night.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Did you?

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Yep. They came and, they came and, uh, searched the house and went through everything.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Did you let them?

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Yeah, they had a warrant.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Did they really?

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Yep.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): What’d they find, what did they take?

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Uh, some pictures.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): What kind of pictures?

Dave Cawley: Hunting pictures. Polaroids of Doug, Rhonda and Billy Jack at the cabin near Callao.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): I don’t know how many they took but they took some. I’m not sure which ones. I think, well, I think of, like, well, everybody. Y’know, your friends. They wanted to know their names and stuff.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): No kidding?

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Yep.

Dave Cawley: Doug didn’t seem to like this one bit.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Huh. Did they try to question you?

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): No, not really. They just said they’d get back with me. They just wanted to do a search. That was basically what they were doing.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Huh.

Dave Cawley: The topic of the pictures would come up again and again in the days that followed. At one point, Rhonda told Doug his life would be easier if he just told the truth. He brushed off that suggestion, saying he wanted the photos back as soon as possible.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Well, I don’t think they’ll keep them. Why you worried?

Dave Cawley: He didn’t answer the question. But he did urge Rhonda to come visit him that weekend. All of this action in the case had him wanting to talk to her, face to face. Not over the phone, where they might be monitored. So, it came as a disappointment when he called Rhonda on Sunday, June 2nd. The weather was bad in Utah and Rhonda told Doug she wasn’t going to drive down to the prison for a visit. Maybe next week. Doug couldn’t wait. He took a risk and brought up, in a round-about way, the topic of Joyce.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): But umm, y’know you shocked me by something you said the other day.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): What?

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): About the truth?

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Why?

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): I, I just couldn’t believe you said that. It still blows me away, totally away.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Why, what do you mean?

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): That you would ask me to do something like that.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Well, why?

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Do you know what you’re asking?

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Huh uh. I guess not.

Dave Cawley: There was a lot of static on this part of the call and it’s difficult to understand, even after aggressive noise reduction. What Doug said there was shocked by Rhonda’s suggestion that he tell truth. He asked if she knew what she was asking. Rhonda said “I guess not.”

In this next clip, Rhonda tried a different approach, telling Doug she wondered how he lived with it. You’ll hear Doug say “in all honesty Rhonda, what I’ve been living with for years is far worse than that.” 

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): I don’t know, I just wonder how you live with it.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Well, in all honesty Rhonda, you know, what I’ve been living with for years is, is far worse than that.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): What does that mean?

Dave Cawley: What could Doug have possibly been referring to? Doug said he didn’t want to talk about it. It was a subject he only addressed with Kate Della-Piana, his prison therapist. Listen again and you’ll hear Doug say “on a scale of 1 to 10, this doesn’t even rate and I’ve lived with it for a long time.”

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): But I can assure you that, that this, doesn’t even, y’know on a scale of 1 to 10, doesn’t even, doesn’t even uh, doesn’t even rate. Y’know, and I’ve lived with it for a long time.

Dave Cawley: What ever this other mystery problem was, he didn’t provide specifics. He only would say it caused him a great deal of shame and guilt. At this, Rhonda again said it was perhaps time to spill his guts, to get it all out. Doug said “Get what out? I didn’t do anything.” This triggered an argument, with Doug telling Rhonda he worried about her and what she might do.

Doug Lovelll (from recorded 1991 phone call): I mean uh, you’ve never been through this, Rhonda.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Well, excuse me. So should I do it just to experience it or what?

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): No, no. Hey and umm, don’t try to fight with me—

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): I’m not, man. Don’t try and fight with me.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): I’m not.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Yeah, you are.

Dave Cawley: In frustration, Doug told Rhonda he didn’t know her anymore. She agreed, saying they just weren’t on the same wavelength. Time apart, she said, does that to people.

[Ad break]

Dave Cawley: Doug Lovell’s new attorney called Rhonda Buttars late in the day on Friday, June 14th, 1991.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Hello?

Robert Archuleta (from recorded 1991 phone call): Is this Rhonda?

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Yes.

Robert Archuleta (from recorded 1991 phone call): Oh Rhoda, this is attorney Robert Archuleta.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Uh huh.

Robert Archuleta (from recorded 1991 phone call): How are you?

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): I’m good, how are you?

Dave Cawley: Robert apologized for not having his notes in front of him, a fact made clear when he referred to Joyce Yost as Janet Riost. He explained he’d talked to Terry Carpenter about his recent visit to Doug at the prison.

Robert Archuleta (from recorded 1991 phone call): I did get some information out of this detective Carpenter. He said he’d talked with four people who’d had discussions with uh, with uh, with uh, Mr. Lovell about, I suppose, having her executed or murdered.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Hmm.

Robert Archuleta (from recorded 1991 phone call): And, y’know, this guy, I think he’s lying to me about that.

Dave Cawley: That’s because Robert said Doug had consistently denied any involvement with Joyce’s disappearance.

Robert Archuleta (from recorded 1991 phone call): Doug seems like a pretty nice guy to me.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Yeah, he is. He’s a good guy. Nice guy.

Robert Archuleta (from recorded 1991 phone call): Yeah, that’s what I think, too. I mean, I don’t know anything about your relationship but otherwise he seems like a pretty good guy and he insists he didn’t do this. He says, ‘No, I didn’t kill anyone.’

Dave Cawley: Robert asked Rhonda if she’d ever been questioned by the police.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Ever? Yeah. Birch, umm, did years and years ago.

Robert Archuleta (from recorded 1991 phone call): And what’d you tell him, you didn’t know anything?

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Yeah.

Robert Archuleta (from recorded 1991 phone call): And that’s pretty much true, isn’t it?

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Uh huh.

Robert Archuleta (from recorded 1991 phone call): I mean, you didn’t know any more than you’ve told me.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Right.

Dave Cawley: Rhonda didn’t tell Robert about her more recent conversations with Terry Carpenter. She only mentioned Terry had showed up at her apartment with a search warrant. She explained how Terry had seized photos of Doug and his friends.

Robert Archuleta (from recorded 1991 phone call): And who were your friends?

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Umm, they took some of Tom Peters, Billy Jack, Deb and Ron—

Robert Archuleta (from recorded 1991 phone call): Tom Peters, that’s it. That’s the one that they alleged. Uh, Billy Jack did you say?

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Uh huh.

Robert Archuleta (from recorded 1991 phone call): Who else?

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Deb and Ron Barney.

Dave Cawley: Robert told Rhonda if Terry came back around asking any more questions, she should refuse to answer. He said the police were simply shaking the tree to see what might fall out.

Robert Archuleta (from recorded 1991 phone call): See they made some pretty outlandish things about them. They told me they think Doug has killed two people.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Oh really?

Robert Archuleta (from recorded 1991 phone call): Uh huh. Then somehow they, they’ve alleged in somewhere that he was part of this automobile theft ring.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Hmm.

Dave Cawley: Rhonda played ignorant, saying Doug hadn’t really been in trouble with the law that much prior to the rape case.

Robert Archuleta (from recorded 1991 phone call): ‘Kay. Otherwise, did you have a pretty good marriage?

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Yeah.

Robert Archuleta (from recorded 1991 phone call): It was alright?

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): It was alright, yeah.

Dave Cawley: Later that same night, Doug called Rhonda. She told him about her conversation with Robert.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): I feel like I was on trial. God, 20 questions, man.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): From him?

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Yeah.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): The attorney?

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Yeah.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Yeah, he’s, he’s, he’s good, Rhonda.

Dave Cawley: Doug said Robert wanted to represent him, if South Ogden police made good on the threat of filing a capital homicide charge. He’d given Robert marching orders, if that were to happen.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): ‘I want you to represent my ex-wife.’ I says, ‘I’m not worried about myself.’ I says, ‘I want her taken care of. I don’t want her to spend a night in jail. If, if bail, uh, if she’s arrested, I want bail, I’m going to get with Russ and dad, I want bail immediately arranged.’ And uh, and I told him, I says, ‘Don’t worry about defending me.’ I says, ‘I want her defended.’ And he says, ‘Well, y’know—’

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): So what’re you trying to say, that’s where I’m going?

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): No, no, no.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): [Expletive]

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): No, Rhonda, I’m not. I am—

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): I can’t deal with this [expletive], Lovell. I told you before. I can’t deal with it again. The nightmare, the hash over all this [expletive]. If they come and do that, I swear to God, I’m gonna freak out.

Dave Cawley: Doug promised Rhonda if she were arrested, she would be out of jail within hours.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): I don’t care. It’s, it better not happen. I’ll be so friggin’ mad, you won’t even, oh God. See sparks coming out of my face. ‘Cause he’s scaring me. My voice started shaking, man. He says, ‘Hey, y’know, they sound like, y’know, they got something.’ And they told, that cop told him, ‘Hey, I’m arresting his ex-wife and three other friends.’ And I just went, ‘Oh that’s, that’s good to know.’

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Well—

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): And goes, ‘Well, what’d they say to you?’ And I go, ‘Nothing.’

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Rhonda, you had nothing to do with it. I had nothing to do with it. None of my friends had anything to do with it. You have nothing to worry about. All they’re trying to do is shake something. They’re trying to shake a tree and seein’ if an apple falls.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Oh God, you sound like him.

Dave Cawley: Doug couldn’t reassure his ex-wife, try as he might.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): And I’m making all the arrangements for, for him to be there for you and for, y’know, to be bailed out.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Oh, well that’s comforting, Doug.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Well, Rhonda, it may happen. It may happen.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): I know, and that’s real comforting to know. I want to go there again, [expletive].

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Rhonda, I, y’know I was hoping you’d be, at least be comforted to know that I’m trying to do everything I can for you.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): No you’re not.

Dave Cawley: Doug told Rhonda they could talk about it more in person on Sunday, when she came to visit him. Their conversation was cut off anyhow. But he dialed Rhonda again first thing the next morning.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): What’re you wearing?

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Huh?

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): What’re you wearing?

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): When?

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Now.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): My jammas.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Really?

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Mmmhmm.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Hmm.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Why?

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): I just always like knowing what you’re wearing when I talk to you. I like to picture you.

Dave Cawley: This time around, he didn’t mention the attorney, his appeal, or Joyce Yost. He simply reminded Rhonda of her plan to come down and visit that weekend. And, he told her to tune into his favorite TV show later that night to see country music videos. Doug’s favorites were Lorrie Morgan and Patty Loveless. But he’d also just heard the Alabama song “Here We Are” from their 1990 album “Pass It on Down.”

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): I listened to the words to it really close yesterday and it’s you and I to a T except for one line.

Dave Cawley: The chorus of that song goes: “We had to break it all down to build it back up, lean on each other when the times got rough, how we survive going through so much, baby you and I could write a book about love.” As for that one line that Doug said didn’t fit? “We’re still together after all this time.”

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: Rhonda followed through on her promise to visit Doug that Sunday, June 16, 1991. Doug was almost up to 200 pounds, the extra weight in the form of muscle. Rhonda complimented him saying, “You look good.” He said, so do you. Then, he asked if she’d watched the country music videos. Rhonda said she had. He said Patty Loveless was beautiful and Rhonda resembled her.

Terry Carpenter: It’s kind of interesting ‘cause Rhonda’s pretty nervous.

Dave Cawley: Doug didn’t know it, but Terry Carpenter was also hearing his sweet talk. Rhonda had agreed to wear a recording device into the prison.

Terry Carpenter: I have one that we have hidden up in a bra strap on Rhonda.

Dave Cawley: It transmitted in real-time to a receiver, which Terry had with him in an observation room just above the prison’s outdoor visiting area.

Terry Carpenter: The location that I’m in, I’m able to be up above them and looking down into the room that they’re in.

Dave Cawley: Terry had also wired Rhonda with a backup, standalone recorder that was strapped to one of her thighs.

Terry Carpenter: There’s a couple of times that Doug would try to put his arm around her and she’d slap his arm away and he’d try to reach over and put his arm on her leg and she’d slap it away and wouldn’t. He’d look at her like ‘What’s the matter with you?’

Dave Cawley: Rhonda went on chatting. This was mostly performative, a show of normalcy, of boring routine for the other people scattered around in the visiting area. Doug dropped the pretense, once it seemed no one was paying them any attention. He leaned in and asked Rhonda, if he were charged with Joyce’s murder, would she testify?

Doug Lovell (from June 16, 1991 wire recording): In all honesty Rhonda, you know, it, I mean, it crossed my mind, but I didn’t believe it, you know? I mean, I just couldn’t picture you sitting on the stand testifying against me. Uh, and I couldn’t see Tom doing it either.

Dave Cawley: I know that’s pretty garbled, but Doug said “I just couldn’t picture you sitting on the stand testifying against me. And I couldn’t see Tom doing it either.” Much of this audio from this wire recording will be difficult to understand. I’ll interpret as necessary.

Doug reassured Rhonda he had never and would never tell anybody the truth of what he’d done to Joyce. In fact, he said he’d lied to his therapist, Kate Della-Piana, to throw her off the scent. And he said if the police tried to arrest Rhonda, he’d take care of it, just as he had with the poaching charge. Rhonda said she didn’t want to go through it, to have everyone at work talking about her.

Rhonda Buttars (from June 16, 1991 wire recording): I don’t want to go through it. Do you hear me? I don’t want to go, I don’t want them coming to work again, or even if it’s home. Everybody’s going to find out again and I’m going to be the talk at work. I can’t deal with this, Lovell.

Dave Cawley: An exasperated Doug asked Rhonda just what she wanted him to do about it. How could he reassure her? Her answer was simple: tell the truth. Doug said that was not an option. If he came clean and admitted what he’d done to Joyce — both the rape and the murder — it would mean his life.

Doug Lovell (from June 16, 1991 wire recording): I committed a first-degree felony to cover another felony. It’s the death penalty. At the very least, they’re going to give me life without parole. If I cooperate with them, and go to them, they’re going to give me life without parole.

Dave Cawley: “I committed a first-degree felony to cover another felony. It’s the death penalty.” Rhonda said she didn’t understand. After all, murderers cut deals all the time. He’d probably just do an extra five years or something. No, Doug said. There’s a big difference between something like manslaughter, say when two guys are in a brawl and it goes too far, and what he’d done to Joyce.

Doug Lovell (from June 16, 1991 wire recording): I premeditated, premeditated. I planned to kill Joyce. I planned to end Joyce’s life. That’s premeditated capital homicide.

Dave Cawley: “I planned to kill Joyce, I planned to end Joyce’s life. That’s premeditated capital homicide.” Doug had just confessed to murdering Joyce Yost on tape. Rhonda asked if Doug believed in an afterlife. He said he did.

Terry Carpenter: And Rhonda says to him ‘Doug, you realize that your mom now knows that you killed Joyce.’ And his comment is ‘my mom knows now a lot worse about me than just Joyce.’

Doug Lovell (from June 16, 1991 wire recording): Mom knows. Mom now knows far worse about me things than that, Rhonda. And I, and I, I know I at least have the satisfaction of knowing that when mom passed on, that I was correcting my life. I was doing everything I could, Rhonda, to correct my life, you know? And mom knew that I was pretty happy, you know? And I believe that she believed that.

Dave Cawley: “Mom now knows far worse about me things than that.” For the second time in just a matter of weeks, Doug seemed to imply his raping and murdering Joyce was not the worst thing he’d ever done.

Terry Carpenter: You tell me what can be worse than killing somebody, if he hasn’t killed multiple people.

Dave Cawley: What about Joyce’s body? Rhonda asked if someone might have found it. No chance, Doug said. He alone knew where it was. He said he hoped to someday share that location with his therapist, Kate, so Joyce’s family could have closure. But only if he could do it on his terms, in a way where he’d be protected. Otherwise, it would be the death penalty. Which brought Doug back around to the question of who could possibly testify against him. So, what about it, Rhonda?

Doug Lovell (from June 16, 1991 wire recording): I want to. I want to know straight up. If, you know, [unintelligible] hits the fan, I mean, and it could get heavy, Rhonda, are you gonna ever testify against me?

Dave Cawley: “Are you gonna ever testify against me?” Rhonda said no, unless she had to. If she ended up in jail, he had better start talking. At this, Doug laughed. Police were fools, he said. He’d embarrassed them after the poaching arrest and he would do it again. But this was good. He felt reassured. He’d looked Rhonda in the eyes and heard her say she was not going to talk.

Doug Lovell (from June 16, 1991 wire recording): But I, I just wanted to hear from you, y’know? Look at you, to hear it, you won’t testify.

Dave Cawley: Soon, he promised, everything would be back to the way it was before. He wanted to be out with her. He was sorry for their hard times, but he was correcting himself and would be back to the nymphomaniac he was at 17 years old.

Doug Lovell (from June 16, 1991 wire recording): I want to be out there with you, Rhonda.

Rhonda Buttars (from June 16, 1991 wire recording): I want you out there too, D.L.

Doug Lovell (from June 16, 1991 wire recording): I mean, I want us out there. I want to be husband and wife again. And ah, I’ll be honest with you. It would break my heart if you ever got married again, because I know that no two people were more right for each other than you and I. And I know I’ve had some hard times out there and I know that I took some bad things out on you. And I’m sorry. All I can tell you is that I’m correcting all that now, and ah, will be back to myself where I was when I was 16, 17 years old. Yeah, I was a nymphomaniac back then.

Rhonda Buttars (from June 16, 1991 wire recording): I remember Lovell.

Dave Cawley: Doug vowed to shower her with sweet, sweet romance. He told his ex-wife, the woman who alone could undo him with her testimony, she was his future. Rhonda responded by saying “then tell.” Doug said if he told the truth, they wouldn’t have a future together. Telling the truth was his “final straw.”

Rhonda Buttars (from June 16, 1991 wire recording): Then tell.

Doug Lovell (from June 16, 1991 wire recording): Tell the truth? Rhonda, then we would never have a future.

Rhonda Buttars (from June 16, 1991 wire recording): Yes we would. Aren’t you willing to find out what would happen if you say, what if by chance something comes out? I mean, make it vague, you know, ‘What if, what if I did do it? What would happen?’

Doug Lovell (from June 16, 1991 wire recording): Okay. That’s, that’s a final straw. That isn’t something I have to deal with now.

Dave Cawley: If it came down to that, if Doug were cornered and forced to admit he’d killed Joyce, he promised Rhonda he would not reveal her role.

Doug Lovell (from June 16, 1991 wire recording): Now, if I came forward and tell the truth, then I’m gonna be on the news. I don’t want that. If I ever did tell the truth, Rhonda, I would never say that you knew anything about it. Ever. Okay?

Dave Cawley: What’s more, when he got out, Doug said he would be a reformed man. No more sleeping around, no more girlfriends, only Rhonda.

Doug Lovell (from June 16, 1991 wire recording): Y’know, I feel more loving and I feel more romantic.

Rhonda Buttars (from June 16, 1991 wire recording): I’ll believe it when I see it.

Doug Lovell (from June 16, 1991 wire recording): Well I, well I’m coming to you, Rhonda. Like I said, like a freight train.

Dave Cawley: “I’m coming to you … like a freight train.”  When they stood to leave, Doug planted Rhonda with a kiss.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: Later that night, after Rhonda had returned home from the prison, she received a phone call.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): I want to treat you like a lady and make you feel like a woman, 24 hours day and night.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Hmm, scary.

Dave Cawley: It was Doug.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Well listen, thanks for coming down today. I, uh, did it help you any?

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Yeah.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): It helped me tremendous, ‘cause there’s a couple things I needed to hear from you and uh, and I, I believe it. And it helped me a lot. And uh, I meant everything I said to you, Rhonda.

Dave Cawley: That included, Doug said, a promise to be together with Rhonda, Alisha and Cody as complete family.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Get ready for a train, okay?

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Hah. Yeah, your kiss blew me away.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): You’re gonna have a loose one on your hands.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Huh?

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): ‘Cause you’re gonna have a loose one on your hands.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Your kiss blew me away.

Dave Cawley: The kiss.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): And the kiss was nice. And uh, I got goosebumps.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): (Laughs)

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): I did, I honestly did.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Yeah, it made me sweat.

Dave Cawley: The following weekend, on Saturday, June 22nd, he phoned Rhonda again.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): When you gonna come down and see me again?

Cody (from recorded 1991 phone call): Umm, maybe tomorrow.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Maybe tomorrow?

Cody (from recorded 1991 phone call): Yeah.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Alright, that’d be neat, huh?

Cody (from recorded 1991 phone call): Uh huh.

Dave Cawley: The recordings Rhonda made of these phone calls captured many conversations like this between Doug and the kids. I’ve chosen not to share almost any of that, out of consideration for their young ages and personal privacy. The clips I’m using here are only included because they provide important context regarding Doug, his methods of persuading Rhonda to visit him and his knowledge of the backcountry. To that last point: Doug asked Alisha if she’d enjoyed her time with her biological father the prior weekend. She said, “Not really.”

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Did you go up Ogden Canyon to camp?

Alisha (from recorded 1991 phone call): Huh uh, we went, I don’t know. But we went up there and umm, couldn’t find a place to camp so we just went back to his house.

Dave Cawley: Doug presumed it must have been too crowded for Alisha’s father. Doug said it would’ve gone differently had he been there. He knew how to get off the beaten path, away from other people.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Can you remember ever camping with me when you was little?

Alisha (from recorded 1991 phone call): No.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Can’t you really, honey?

Alisha (from recorded 1991 phone call): Mmmnmm.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): That’s too bad. Gosh, we use to, me and you and mom used to go up to some doozy places, honey. We used to four-wheel drive all the way up the mountain.

Alisha (from recorded 1991 phone call): I remember some of them. Like going up there and getting stuck.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): (Laughs) Yeah, we did that too. Do you remember spending the night in the creek?

Alisha (from recorded 1991 phone call): Nuh uh.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Remember, the truck got stuck in the middle of the creek, this, this little river and we had to spend the night in the truck and we was right in the middle of the creek?

Alisha (from recorded 1991 phone call): Mmmhmm and we had to sleep on the, in the truck. Mmmhmm.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): That was, that was a time I’ll never forget, honey. Believe it or not, I had a lot of fun. That was uh, that’s camping to me. I hate being around other people when I leave the, when I get up in the mountains I don’t like being around other people. That’s not, that’s not like camping.

Dave Cawley: Doug told Alisha he would try to arrange for her to go visit his dad’s cabin, just as soon as the rest of the family could get together. When Rhonda came back on the phone, Doug asked if she’d read the articles he’d sent to her.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Yep.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): What’d you think?

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Sounds good.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): It does, huh?

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Yep.

Dave Cawley: As I explained earlier, they dealt with a Utah Supreme Court decision and a lawsuit filed by a state prison inmate. Taken together, Doug believed they meant the state’s board of pardons would not be able to ask him about or even consider Joyce’s disappearance when he came up for a parole hearing.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): They don’t have, they don’t have the power anymore. The Supreme Court took it away from them. It’s like they held it, it’s like, ‘Na na na.’ And they went, ‘Whoa!’

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Yeah. They had too much, I think.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Yeah, they got way too much. Man, what they been doing with people here is [expletive].

Dave Cawley: Getting the articles to Rhonda, and getting her to read them, had taken no small effort on Doug’s part. Now, he wanted the newspaper clippings back for his own files.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Can you send me those articles back though?

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Yeah.

Dave Cawley: And in parting, he reminded Rhonda of his favorite Saturday night event.

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): Hey, you know what comes on at 10?

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): Oh God, what?

Doug Lovell (from recorded 1991 phone call): My country videos, Rhonda.

Rhonda Buttars (from recorded 1991 phone call): I know, what? Who?

Dave Cawley: Doug said Restless Heart would be on, but they probably wouldn’t play his favorite song. Roseanne Cash would sing her latest. Her hit single at the time was a song titled “What We Really Want.” Rhonda would like it, Doug said. The opening verse went like this:

“We tried to make ourselves pay for something we’ve never done. We threw the best parts of life away on street talk, strangers and drugs. What we really want is love what we really need is love.”