Cold season 2, episode 2: A Case of Rape – Full episode transcript

Dave Cawley: I need to talk to you for a moment, before we get started. This is normally where I advise you of the content of this podcast — discussions of murder, domestic abuse, sexual assault and so forth — and advise your discretion in listening.

Please hear me when I say this episode in particular deserves not just discretion, but also consideration on your part about whether you really want to listen and, if so, about when, how and with whom you choose to do so.

What you’re about to hear includes a depiction of a woman’s rape and the events which immediately followed. The level of detail goes beyond what you might normally expect from a news report. People with firsthand or even secondhand lived experience in this realm might find this episode particularly difficult.

I’ve spent a great deal of time debating with colleagues — and personally deliberating — about how best to present this part of the story. This episode represents my imperfect attempt to find a balance in showing the truth of what happened to Joyce Yost against the risk of harm to survivors of similar assaults. It is in no way my intent to titillate you, exploit Joyce or sensationalize the topic of sexual assault. So, if you choose at this point to proceed, please do so with that understanding in mind.

Sheryl Worsley: I’m Sheryl Worsley, director of podcasting here at KSL Podcasts. Before we get started with this very difficult episode, I want to make sure you know that help is available 24-7 if you or someone close to you has experienced rape or any other form of sexual abuse. In the United States, you can go That’s the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network website at R-A-I-double-N-dot-org. You can also call 800-656-HOPE to connect with free resources. No one need suffer in silence. You are not alone.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: Orange orbs of streetlamp light strobed up the hood of Joyce Yost’s big, white Oldsmobile convertible, reflecting off the glass of the windshield as she drove home on the night April 3, 1985. Joyce had spent the evening having dinner with a man at a supper club called the Pier 3. She’d left a bit after 10 p.m., driving toward the apartment where she lived alone on the corner of 40th Street and Liberty Avenue in South Ogden, Utah. She had not realized someone was following her.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording):  And I pulled in my driveway and all the sudden, this little red sports car pulls right in the parking stall next to me.

Dave Cawley: Joyce’s parking stall was the third of four in the carport outside the four-flex apartment she called home. The little red car pulled up beside and slightly behind her. Its driver stepped out before Joyce had even realized what was happening. In a few short strides, he’d reached her driver door and popped it open.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): He didn’t wait for me to roll the window down or to open the door myself or anything. And he stayed right inside of the car door.

Dave Cawley: That’s Joyce’s own voice from one of the few known recordings of her. It has never before been public. The man, with feathered hair and a prominent walrus mustache, wedged his body between the car door and the chassis, preventing Joyce from closing it.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): I didn’t, ‘God,’ he says, ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this.’ Uh, but he said, ‘I noticed you at the Pier 3 and I was attracted to you and decided to follow you.’

Dave Cawley: The man said he wanted to get to know Joyce.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): And uh, he wanted to know if I would like to go have a drink and I said, ‘No thank you, I’ve got to do a few things and be up early for work.’

Dave Cawley: He did not take no for an answer. They were at an impasse.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): I uh, was reluctant to go have a drink with him. I did suggest that maybe, if anything, a cup of coffee and he didn’t seem to want a cup of coffee. He was more insistent of a drink and I was more insistent of coffee and so we forgot that.

Dave Cawley: She sensed danger. Joyce knew from experience that the path to safety was narrow. She had to tread with care, acting nice to avoid stinging this stranger’s pride.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Oh, I said, ‘What is your name?’ … ‘I don’t, y’know, know your name.’ And he says, ‘It’s Dave.’ I said, ‘If you’ll just leave,’ I said, ‘I’ll visit with you some other time.’ Y’know, and I, oh in the meantime, I brought up the age difference. I said I, ‘Obviously, I’m old enough to be your mother.’ And, ‘Well, does that matter?’ And I said, ‘Well, I guess not necessarily but,’ uh, I said, ‘I am 39 years old.’ I said, ‘How old are you?’ And he said he was 27.

Dave Cawley: Joyce didn’t date younger men and didn’t intend to start with this fellow. But he wouldn’t leave. He continued to stand next to her, blocking the car, holding her captive without touching her. That is, until he did.

This is Cold, season 2 episode 2: A Case of Rape. Back with more in just a moment.

[Ad break]

Dave Cawley: The man who stood at the side of Joyce Yost’s Oldsmobile had heard enough. With a swift stroke, grabbed Joyce’s neck with one hand. She felt the grip of his fingers on her throat, squeezing her trachea, stealing her voice. She writhed, trying break free. It did no good.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): He grabbed me by the throat and he uh, was forceful and told me if I screamed or said anything that uh, he would tear my throat open.

Dave Cawley: Joyce’s pounding heart seemed to shriek in protest, her skull throbbing to the rapid beat of her occluded pulse. The man leaned in, placing the weight of his body against her. He pressed her flat across the Oldsmobile’s split-bench front seat.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): I, I realized I was in a rape situation. That I wasn’t just with somebody that was being a little bit forceful that I was going to be able to get rid of. But I was in a rape situation.

Dave Cawley: Terror surged through Joyce. She flailed, her legs and arms swinging, infused with the desperate vitality of self-preservation. She kicked so hard her shoes flung right off of her feet. She scratched at her attacker with her long acrylic fingernails, using such force some of those nails split or were torn clean off.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): I put up a fight because that was my natural reaction and I could see that wasn’t doing any good.

Dave Cawley: After some time — seconds or minutes, Joyce tell — the man’s grip loosened. She gasped and struggled to make sense of what was happening.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Realizing I was in a rape situation I decided I’ve got to do some thinking here about how to handle this.

Dave Cawley: She started to talk, tossing out any reason that might dissuade him. She said she was pregnant, even though she wasn’t. She said her husband was inside and he would come out and find them, even though she wasn’t actually married. He didn’t care. The man told her to stop fighting. He told her they should take a drive.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): So, he wanted me to go to his place in Sunset and I said ‘No.’ I was not going.

Dave Cawley: Joyce feared going with this man to his house would mean the end of her life. That’s why she dared say no.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): And he said, ‘Do you want it right here?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ I decided at this point to cooperate.

Dave Cawley: It wasn’t as though he’d given her an actual choice.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): He, uh, took off his pants, pulled up my dress, pulled my pantyhose down and he did proceed to have sexual intercourse.

Dave Cawley: Joyce’s language here is clinical and precise. In a bit, I’ll share more about the circumstances behind this recording which should help explain her choice of words. For now though, just understand that Joyce calling this “sexual intercourse” doesn’t adequately describe to what was happening to her.

While forcing himself upon Joyce, the man also tore open the front of her shirtwaist dress. The thread connecting three of its buttons snapped. Those buttons clattered onto the upholstered car seat, joining the severed fragments of Joyce’s fingernails. The man also tore open the clasp of her bra and ripped off her pantyhose. Joyce endured the indignity, hoping when the man had satisfied himself, he would leave her in peace. But that’s not what happened.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): That wasn’t good enough for him. He was still was insistent on going to his place.

Dave Cawley: Joyce’s thoughts were jumbled.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): So, I absolutely did not want to do that but I also figured I wasn’t going to have any choice.

Dave Cawley: She offered a silent prayer in her mind, begging God for help. Her hands swept about the car, fingers frantic to find some way of defending herself. They came across an object, cold and metal. Her keys. Joyce’s knuckles closed around them.

She saw her target as she looked up at the shadowed face of the man atop her. Joyce’s muscles tensed. Her arm swung upward, driving the blade of one of those keys toward the dim spot where she believed the man’s eye would be. He caught the glint of it coming and recoiled a fraction of a second before the blow landed.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): I was hoping to get him in the eyes but I got him right alongside the nose here on the side of the face.

Dave Cawley: The key raked down the left side of the man’s nose, tearing open the skin around the curve where his nostril and cheek met. Blood raised in the wound. He grappled Joyce again, shook her and threatened to kill her. He had a gun, he said, so she’d better behave.

The man straightened up, pulling up his pants. Joyce saw an opportunity.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): While he was doing that, I laid on my horn. I was able to get ahold of my horn hoping that if I just did that, that maybe a neighbor inside of the apartment complex would, would come out.

Dave Cawley: The car’s horn seemed to shriek in the quiet of the night. The man’s arm shot out, his hand once again gripping her throat. He yanked her out of the car and tossed her onto the ground. The car horn fell to silence.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Well, that was a total loss. Nobody came out, nobody came to my rescue. So, by this time my shoes were off, I didn’t even have my purse. I didn’t have my keys, either.

Dave Cawley: The man then dragged Joyce over to his car. She tried to break free, to run, but the man kept hold of her. He shoved her inside his car, pressing her head down into the cramped passenger footwell of the little sports coupe. Joyce was folded in half, her back on the floor, her legs up against the passenger seat’s headrest. The man dropped into the driver seat beside her, saying again as he did so that he had a gun.

“One wrong move,” he said, and he would not hesitate to use it.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): By this time I’m, I’m really frightened and I do feel like my life is on the line. … My children, my grandkids, everybody was flashing through my mind and I, I, I felt like my life was on the line.

Dave Cawley: Joyce heard a metallic sound, a sort of click.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Just before he pulled out of the driveway he did something. And I, I wasn’t sure what he was doing but it was like he was putting a shell in the gun, a gun or something. He was doing something.

Dave Cawley: The sports coupe’s rotary engine cranked to life. The man put the car into reverse, backed out onto the street then began driving away from Joyce’s apartment. She couldn’t see a thing. The Mazda’s interior was all black. All she could make out were the sunroof overhead and the slats of louvers running across the back window.

“Don’t make any wrong moves,” the man said.

He reached his right hand across the car’s center console and placed his hand high on her hip, holding her in place. He pulled the hand away for only moments at a time, when he needed to shift gears.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): I didn’t honestly think he had a weapon but I, I wasn’t going to take any chances, either. So, I cooperated all the way. I didn’t move, I didn’t argue, I didn’t try to get out of his car or anything.

Dave Cawley: Loud music played over the car stereo, drowning out the waspy rasp of the engine. Time seemed to stretch and distort. Joyce couldn’t tell how long the drive lasted. Her internal compass spun, her sense of direction obliterated. The car did, eventually, come to a stop. Joyce heard the driver door open and shut. Then, the rear hatch popped open, only to slam shut as well.

The next thing she knew, the man was draping something over her face, pressing a dark, silky fabric against her eyes. It felt cool against the heat of the bruises that were forming beneath her skin. He didn’t tie the fabric around her face, only held it in place with his hand. The blindfold made it difficult for Joyce to find her balance as she more or less rolled out of the little car. The man used his other hand to push her in the direction he wanted her to go. She dared not run or shout by this point. Instead, she went along in silence.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Then he led me into his house, blindfolded and back to his bedroom and just more or less dropped me on the bed, waterbed.

Dave Cawley: Water. Joyce’s throat burned. She asked her captor if she might have a glass of water.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): And he was, seemed reluctant at first to get me the drink of water but I said, ‘Look, I’m not going any place and I’m not, I will cooperate with you.’

Dave Cawley: After thinking it over, the man pulled a cigarette out of a pack, lit it and gave it to Joyce. He lit one for himself as well, then went into the kitchen to grab a beer and fetch Joyce some water. She glanced around the room but couldn’t make out much of anything in the dark. The only light came from the glow of a digital clock radio on the headboard. She calmed herself and tried to think. Physical resistance hadn’t worked. Neither had appeals to this man’s sense of decency. So, she decided to try and negotiate.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): In fact, when he came back with the drink of water, and we sat and had in fact a couple of cigarettes, I felt as though I was maybe talking him out of it. I said, ‘Look, I, y’know, if you have a problem or there’s something bothering you or anything I can do to help you,’ I said, ‘Please, let’s talk about it.’ And umm, he didn’t want to tell me too many things because I think, I don’t think he wanted me to know too much about him. And I did tell him that if he, y’know, didn’t hurt me, that I wouldn’t hurt him.

Dave Cawley: Joyce wondered if something had happened to the man earlier in the night at the Pier. She asked if he’d had trouble with a girlfriend and offered to talk to him about it. He started to say something, then stopped, apparently thinking better of it. The man said there was only one reason he’d brought Joyce to his home.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): This conversation didn’t do me much good because he was still going to proceed with intercourse and told me to undress. So I undressed, what was left of my clothing and uh, I cooperated with him and uh, he uh, stopped having intercourse for awhile. In fact, we had another cigarette and then uh, he, I asked him if he would please take me home. I said, ‘I’m very tired, I have to work tomorrow,’ and I, y’know, all these things to try and get him to take me home. He said, ‘I’m not through yet.’

Dave Cawley: I’m going to interrupt here and acknowledge we’re about to enter a part of this story involving description of specific sex acts. These are matters of fact and while difficult to hear are necessary to understand later events. I include such detail only with that relevance in mind.

The man began again. He made demands. He ordered her to perform oral sex. Humiliated and terrified, she complied.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): So, I thought, ‘Well, I’m on his grounds and I don’t know whether he’s going to, y’know, still harm me at this point so I cooperated.

Dave Cawley: At one point, the man told Joyce he wanted to perform anal sex. This was too much. In spite of her fear of death, Joyce said no. The man insisted. She held her ground. To her surprise, he didn’t resort to using physical force and instead gave up on the demand. A minor victory, perhaps, but a monumental one for Joyce in that moment.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): When he was through, then uh, he said, ‘Do you want me to take you home now?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’

Dave Cawley: Here, Joyce noted a shift in the man’s demeanor.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): He uh, seemed to be feeling remorse, like he uh, ‘Oh, I can’t believe, can’t believe I did this,’ y’know? And uh, I said, ‘Well,’ he asked me how I felt and I said, ‘I don’t feel well at all.’ I don’t mean like I was sick to my stomach, I just was not feeling well about the whole situation mentally.

Dave Cawley: She found her ruined dress and wadded it into a ball.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): I asked him if, if he had an old t-shirt or a sweatshirt or something that I could wear home and uh, he got me a light blue silky Arrow shirt.

Dave Cawley: Joyce pulled the shirt over her torso — the man didn’t give her any pants — and then she followed the him out of the bedroom. He didn’t cover her eyes this time and thanks to a single light he’d left on in the kitchen, she was able to see the layout of the house. He led her through it, out the side door and onto the driveway. The moon, just a day short of full, painted the landscape with soft, silver light.

Joyce looked around. She saw several bags of trash sitting next to the door. She noticed a carport but no garage. And she saw the car, a red Mazda. The man led her over to the car and sat her down in the passenger seat, right-side-up this time. He put his key in the ignition and turned it. The car’s headlights popped up from the hood. Joyce made note of that detail: the car had flip-up lights.

The man backed out of the driveway, then headed east. In the moonlight, Joyce could see the looming figure of the Wasatch Mountains on the horizon, unmistakable even at night. But she wasn’t sure exactly where in Sunset they were. She caught a glimpse of a road sign that read 200 West. The man made a few turns before ending up at a place Joyce did recognize: the onramp to the I-15 freeway at 650 North in Clearfield, the city immediately to the south of Sunset.

The west gate of Hill Air Force Base sat just across the overpass. Joyce’s sister Dorothy’s house, which she visited frequently, was only a quarter of a mile or so to the south east. The Pier, where Joyce had had dinner with her “gentleman friend” Lex Baer just hours earlier, was right down the road as well.

The man who’d abducted her and repeatedly raped her, seemed to be lost in thought as he steered the car onto the freeway.

“I’m really a nice person,” he said after a time. “I don’t normally do things like this.”

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): I was feeling terrible and uh, he said, ‘I, I probably won’t ever get to see you again.’ I didn’t even want to tell him at that point that he was absolutely correct because I knew I still wasn’t home yet—

Dave Cawley: To Joyce, it seemed as though he was feeling remorse.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): In fact, he, he took my hand and he held my hand and I said, ‘I have a feeling you’re probably a gentleman.’ ‘Yeah,’ he said, ‘I’m the type that sends roses and buys presents and, and uh, y’know, does nice things.’

Dave Cawley: The type that sends roses.

The car continued north, every rotation of its tires bringing Joyce that much closer to home. It exited the freeway and turned onto 40th Street. The peak of Mount Ogden, looming five-thousand vertical feet above, seemed to grow larger in the windshield with each passing second. At last, Joyce’s apartment came into view. The Mazda slowed to a stop at the curb.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): So then he said, ‘What is your husband going to say?’ And I said, ‘That’s really my problem, not yours.’

Dave Cawley: Hopefully, she said, her husband would be asleep and wouldn’t notice her coming in looking as she did. Then, she wrenched the handle of the car’s passenger door, pushed it open and swung her legs out. Her bare feet came down onto the cool grass.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): I just got out of the car and uh, had my clothes in my hand and walked over to my car because my car still had the car door open. My purse was in it, my car keys were in it. My shoes were in it. And I gathered up those things and went on into my apartment.

Dave Cawley: The apartment door closed behind Joyce with a thud. She locked it. A wave of emotion then washed over her. Tears cascaded down her cheeks. Her entire body convulsed in spasms.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): I was quite hysterical at that time and I was trembling, I was shaking, I was cold, I was upset.

Dave Cawley: Joyce didn’t know quite what to do, standing there in a man’s shirt in the middle of the night, her sense of security shattered. She had to tell someone what’d happened to her, but didn’t dare dial the police. Instead, she picked up the phone and called her sister, Dorothy. It was after 1 a.m. on the morning of Thursday, April 4, 1985 when Dorothy Dial, or Dot as her friends called her, came awake to the sound of her telephone ringing.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): I just told her what’d happened and she was, y’know, startled to get a call from me at that hour and, and find me hysterical and she said, ‘What in the world is the matter?’ And I said, ‘I have been raped.’

Dave Cawley: Dorothy is no longer alive, but she shared her side of this experience in a 1992 police interview.

Dorothy Dial (from January 1992 police recording): She was crying and she said, ‘I, I have been raped.’ And I told her to call the, the police.

Dave Cawley: Joyce told Dorothy she didn’t want to do that. Terror gripped her. He might come back.

Dorothy Dial (from January 1992 police recording): She said that he told her that he had a gun. She never seen it, but he, he had threatened her with a gun.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): She says, ‘Well you call the police.’ And I said, ‘I really don’t want to be put through the humiliation.’ I said, ‘I’ve watched A Case of Rape twice and seen things on TV and I said, ‘I don’t want to go through it.’ But I said, ‘I feel like, y’know, tomorrow he could go out and harm somebody’s little girl or something,’ y’know?

Dave Cawley: A Case of Rape was a made-for-TV movie that first aired in 1974. It starred actress Elizabeth Montgomery — then best known for her leading role in the TV series Bewitched — as a woman who is twice raped by an acquaintance. She reluctantly pursues charges, endures a grueling experience as a witness during the criminal trial and then watches the man who raped her walk free after being acquitted. The movie had had a profound impact on Joyce. She did not want to go through a similar experience.

Dorothy Dial (from January 1992 police recording): She was scared and upset. Ah, I, I think for awhile she didn’t really know what to do.

Dave Cawley: Dorothy did her best to calm her younger sister. Joyce then began to pour out the story of what’d happened to her that night.

Dorothy Dial (from January 1992 police recording): She said that she had been up at the Pier (phone rings) for dinner with a friend and left and, ah, when she got in the, ah, driveway of her apartment, a car pulled in beside her and she didn’t know that she had been followed.

Dave Cawley: Joyce told Dorothy she’d never seen the man before.  He’d attacked her without provocation, abducted her and raped her.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): And uh, she said, in fact, the more she heard from me, the angrier she was getting and she says, ‘Well, you call the police right now,’ or she said, ‘If you don’t, I will.’ So, I said, ‘I will.’

Dorothy Dial (from January 1992 police recording): And she was a little bit hesitant, at first, and ah, I told her, ‘If you don’t call them, I will.’ But she, she called and called me back and, and said that, umm, she had called. In fact, the police came while we were still talking.

Dave Cawley: I have a copy of a handwritten South Ogden police dispatch log from that night. It shows Joyce’s call to the police came in at 1:58 a.m. The dispatcher sent two patrol cars to Joyce’s apartment. Officer Rob Carpenter arrived first. When Joyce answered his knock at the door, she was wearing a green velour jogging suit. She’d changed out of the shirt the man had given her. But, importantly, she had not yet showered. Carpenter stepped inside, followed moments later by the second officer, Mel Hackworth. Carpenter began taking a report from Joyce, rolling tape on a little handheld recorder.

Officer Rob Carpenter (from April 4, 1985 police recording): And you realize how serious this accusation is, don’t you?

Dave Cawley: It’s tough to make out, but Carpenter was asking Joyce if she really wanted to go through with making a report.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Yes I do.

Officer Rob Carpenter (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Alright, I just want to make sure. It sounds like there’s some doubt on, on whether you really want to report this now or not.

Dave Cawley: He wasn’t trying to discourage her, from what I can tell, but was instead picking up on Joyce’s own hesitance.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): I know, I mean, I know how I feel.

Dave Cawley: Joyce had, after all, not wanted to report the rape to police.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): And yet…

Dave Cawley: She’d done so only when pressed into it by her sister.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): He might be sitting here tomorrow night. I don’t know what to do. I don’t—

Officer Rob Carpenter (from April 4, 1985 police recording): He might be, I’m, I’m just saying, you’re acting as though you, you really don’t want to do this but you’re doing it anyway. That’s what I’m—

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): I know.

Officer Rob Carpenter (from April 4, 1985 police recording): That’s what I’m saying.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): I know, I know.

Dave Cawley: Officer Carpenter wasn’t doubting Joyce, but instead giving her the opportunity to end the process there. Joyce considered what might happen if she backed out. She told Carpenter she worried the man who’d attacked her might go on to hurt someone else. And so, she decided to press on, to tell what’d happened. She said she wasn’t sure the man had had rape on his mind when he’d first approached her.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Maybe if I’d have gone with the guy and had a drink with him, I’d have been better off. Like, y’know, I had no idea I was getting myself into such a mess.

Dave Cawley: She wondered aloud what had caused him to snap. She said she believed the man had a conscience and must be feeling as miserable as she was. Yet, she couldn’t reconcile that with what he’d done.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): I feel like, like he feels like hell about it and yet he did it. I mean, y’know, I feel like tomorrow it could be somebody’s little girl, y’know? And uh, or, somebody else.

Dave Cawley: Officer Carpenter collected Joyce’s clothing. She pointed out a blood spot on the dress, saying she thought it could be from the wound she’d inflicted with her keys. And she handed over the shirt the man had given her to wear home. Carpenter took all of it, placing each item in its own brown paper evidence bag. Next, he asked Joyce if she had a physician or gynecologist whom she saw regularly.

Officer Rob Carpenter (from April 4, 1985 police recording): We’re going to have to have you examined, is the thing. And uh—

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): When?

Officer Rob Carpenter (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Tonight. As soon as possible.

Dave Cawley: Joyce was going to have to undergo an invasive physical exam, what’s known as a rape kit. The two officers conferred about how best to proceed. Carpenter said he’d start writing up a report and checking in the evidence while Hackworth drove Joyce back to Sunset to look for the house.

The three of them then walked out to the carport. The Oldsmobile’s driver door was still hanging open. Joyce showed the officers where the man had parked and how far he’d dragged her. Then, she and Mel Hackworth sat down in his squad car.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): I know he’s, I know he’s feeling pretty bad about it.

Officer Mel Hackworth (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Hold on just a sec. Dispatch 30.

South Ogden dispatcher (from April 4, 1985 police recording): 30.

Officer Mel Hackworth (from April 4, 1985 police recording): I got the victim with me now. We’re gonna head back out to Sunset, see if we can find out where this guy lives. My mileage is 79,593.1. We’re leaving from this address.

South Ogden dispatcher (from April 4, 1985 police recording): 30, 10-4. KSM 897-0233.

Dave Cawley: It was 2:33 a.m. Hackworth started driving down 40th Street, headed for Sunset. He talked to Joyce as he drove, probing for more specifics: words or phrases the man had used, what she’d seen or even smelled inside his house.

Much of the sound that’s to follow will be difficult to understand. Listen close and in this clip, you’ll hear Joyce say she’d cooperated because the only thing worse than being sexually abused would be to die.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): I had made up my mind at that point, I was going to cooperate with everything because, uh, I guess the only thing I figured that would be worse than being sexually abused at that point was to die.

Officer Mel Hackworth (from April 4, 1985 police recording): That’s, that’s right.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): And I cooperated.

Dave Cawley: Here again, Joyce made reference to that TV movie, A Case of Rape. Joyce told Hackworth the ending — in which the rapist is acquitted by a jury and the victim’s life is shattered — was on her mind.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Yeah and, y’know, the guy walks out with a smile on his face and here they showed her throughout the movie, I mean she was really, she was beaten and bloody and, y’know, abused in every which way, right?

Officer Mel Hackworth (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Well—

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): The thing, the thing that bothers me is I, I had made my mind to cooperate with this guy which, would in turn probably make him feel like, like I was enjoying myself. And I also told him, I said, ‘Look, I’ll be your friend. I’ll give you my phone number.’ I said, ‘If you want to talk to me.’ I had told him my name. I mean, anything. I wasn’t going to put up a fuss. And uh, I wanted, I wanted to live. I was scared. I was scared.

Dave Cawley: If you couldn’t make that out, Joyce said she feared the rapist might’ve interpreted her cooperation as consent. She’d told her name and phone number because she wanted to live. She was scared. Hackworth tried to reassure Joyce, telling her prosecutors won rape cases all the time. Defense attorneys could be tough to face but he encouraged Joyce not to let that deter her. Hackworth drove through Sunset and just over the border into Clearfield. He turned onto 650 North and asked Joyce if she recognized the route.

Officer Mel Hackworth (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Now, here’s the freeway entrance.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Right, uh huh.

Officer Mel Hackworth (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Okay. This is the road you came up?

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Uh huh.

Dave Cawley: They headed down to 200 West, the street Joyce remembered seeing a sign for when leaving the man’s house. Hackworth drove down each cross street as Joyce peered out the window. She told him more than anything, she was looking for that little red car.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Of course I’m, what I’m looking for more than anything is that little red car and who knows what he’s done with that one. Oh Jesus, I wonder if it’s that house back there. (Sound of car reversing)

Dave Cawley: So many ranch houses, all lined up in rows, all looking somewhat alike. Joyce struggled to find the right one, telling Hackworth she thought it was going to be easier.

Officer Mel Hackworth (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Should we try it?

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Try the next street over and see what…

Dave Cawley: Joyce struggled to find the right one.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Shoot!

Dave Cawley: Telling Hackworth she thought it was going to be easier.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): I thought this was going to be easier.

Dave Cawley: She began to grow frustrated with herself.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Goll, I wanted to remember everything so good. And, y’know, I did have my mind on so much, and just—

Dave Cawley: Hackworth gave her continual reassurance.

Officer Mel Hackworth (from April 4, 1985 police recording): That’s alright, just relax. Everything will be fine.

Dave Cawley: He believed her.

Officer Mel Hackworth (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Now, do you want me to go up the street a little ways?

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Well, I was thinking about up this street and possibly—

Officer Mel Hackworth (from April 4, 1985 police recording): That’s fine.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Does that one go up?

Officer Mel Hackworth (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Yup. Let’s go up this street and see what we have.

Dave Cawley: Time and again, they reached the end of a street without Joyce pointing out a house. But they did succeed in finding the road sign she’d seen.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Somehow, see, see this 200 West sign, but how in the heck did we get to it?

Officer Mel Hackworth (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Well, this is a street we haven’t been down yet. So let’s—

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Oh, we haven’t?

Dave Cawley: Hackworth turned off of 200 West onto 750 North, the last street in Clearfield before reaching the border with Sunset. That’s when it happened.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): See that place right there?

Officer Mel Hackworth (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Yeah?

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Oh my God. He helped out.

Officer Mel Hackworth (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Is that it?

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): It sure is.

Dave Cawley: Joyce spotted a little red Mazda sitting under a carport next to a house. Hackworth hit it with his spotlight and made note of the license plate. It read W-W-P 1-0-1.

Officer Mel Hackworth (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Dispatch, 30.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): (Whispering) That’s it.

South Ogden dispatch (from April 4, 1985 police recording): 30, go ahead.

Officer Mel Hackworth (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Get a 28 on Whiskey, Whiskey, Papa one-zero-one.

South Ogden dispatch (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Standby.

Dave Cawley: In police 10-code, 10-28 is a vehicle registration check.

South Ogden dispatch (from April 4, 1985 police recording): 30.

Officer Mel Hackworth (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Go ahead.

South Ogden dispatch (from April 4, 1985 police recording): What kind of vehicle was that plate off?

Officer Mel Hackworth (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Looked like a Mazda.

Dave Cawley: The dispatcher recorded the address at 3:01 a.m. From there, Hackworth told Joyce it was time for them to go the emergency room. They started north toward McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden.

Joyce sat without speaking for a time, finding herself carried along in the flow of events that felt beyond her control. The relief and elation she’d felt at having found her attacker’s hideout had all too soon given way again to fear. And so, she asked the police officer who sat next to her in his squad car the one question that kept repeating in her mind.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): How uh, how safe am I? Uh, if they come after him and, how safe, y’know?

Officer Mel Hackworth (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Well, I don’t know.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): (Nervous laugh)

Dave Cawley: “How safe am I?” Hackworth said it was difficult to know just what was cooking in the man’s mind.

Officer Mel Hackworth (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Guy might be as meek as a lamb and our detectives might go out there and he feels bad about it and if he was drunk or if was under the influence of some intoxicant or something and he realizes he screwed up, he may just admit to everything and go down and get his comeuppance and that’s it. You just don’t know.

Dave Cawley: Joyce told Hackworth she sometimes felt fearful living alone, ever since her son, Greg, had moved away to attend dental school. Of the units in her fourplex, she said, only three were occupied, hers and two others. If her attacker came back to get her, it wouldn’t be hard for him to figure out which unit was hers.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Nobody lives above me. There isn’t anybody in that one for quite some time. And then there’s just one down next to me and then her parents live in the upstairs.

Dave Cawley: The situation reminded her, she said, of a problem she’d had a couple years earlier with a young college football player who’d approached her after seeing her sunbathing out in the yard one day. He’d been large, physically imposing and very insistent. He’d showed up at her door in the middle of the night. Joyce had been so unnerved by it that she’d filed a police report about his harassing advances. It just so happened that Mel Hackworth had also been the officer who took that report.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Did you come to my house before?

Officer Mel Hackworth (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Yeah.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): When that football player—

Officer Mel Hackworth (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Kept bothering you?

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Yes.

Dave Cawley: Joyce said the football player had come back a year later and apologized for how he’d treated her. Maybe the man who’d raped her that night would feel a similar stroke of guilt and confess. Or, maybe he would just claim it’d been consensual. Joyce said she knew how it would look. Maybe she hadn’t fought hard enough.

Officer Mel Hackworth (from April 4, 1985 police recording): You did tell him no, did you ever tell him no, you didn’t want to have any sexual intercourse with him, or did you ever—

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): I really didn’t because, umm, I pretty well knew what I was in for and I didn’t want to, I didn’t want to make anything any worse. I, I just uh—

Officer Mel Hackworth (from April 4, 1985 police recording): So the only thing you ever told him you really said no to was the, was the rectal?

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Yeah.

Officer Mel Hackworth (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Okay.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Y’know, I mean, I, I figured I did my fight and my, uh, whole bit in my own car and out, y’know, there. And uh, that’s where I really did put up the fight and tried to, uh, oh I just wanted to hurt him so bad. Wanted to do something to him.

Officer Mel Hackworth (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Okay.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): I, I fought there and then I realized he, y’know, got ahold of me and thought, I know I’m in for it.

Dave Cawley: The patrol car pulled into a parking stall outside the hospital emergency department. It was 3:16 a.m.

Officer Mel Hackworth (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Dispatch 30.

South Ogden dispatch (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Go ahead.

Officer Mel Hackworth (from April 4, 1985 police recording): I’ll be at McKay ER. I’m on 79611.7.

South Ogden dispatch (from April 4, 1985 police recording): 10-4. 0316.

Officer Mel Hackworth (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Okay, let’s go in.(Car doors open and close)

[Ad break]

Dave Cawley: Bill Holthaus wasn’t sure what time it was. All he knew was he’d been deep asleep when his phone started ringing. He was the detective on call for the Clearfield police department on the night of April 3, 1985.

Bill Holthaus: I was at the time Charlie 16. And I was low man on the totem pole. There were 16 officers. It wasn’t a big, it wasn’t a big police department.

Dave Cawley: Clearfield wasn’t a big city, either, especially back then. It claimed a population just shy of 20,000 people. Many of its residents commuted to jobs in larger cities nearby, like Ogden or Salt Lake City. Hill Air Force Base occupied Clearfield’s eastern border. To the west were onion fields stretching out toward the marshes and mud flats of the Great Salt Lake. Clearfield’s heart was the Freeport Center, a former Navy supply depot-turned-business park. But when those warehouses closed down each night, the city went to sleep.

Bill Holthaus: My chief of police when I was in patrol would say, ‘I would like you to get two citations a night.’ Not just me, but everybody. You would be lucky if you could find two cars moving, y’know, in the middle of the night.

Dave Cawley: The phone call that’d rattled Bill from sleep in those dark hours came from the lone patrolman on duty, Randy Slater. Randy told Bill they’d received a call from another town — South Ogden — where police had taken a report of a rape.

Bill Holthaus: …that had occurred in our city, would I come in and interview her?

Dave Cawley: Clearfield sat at the far northern end of Davis County, while South Ogden was at the southern end of Weber County.

Bill Holthaus: It was questionable at the time, because there were two jurisdictions involved, who was going to take the case. But there was a South Ogden patrol officer that took the initial call and he felt like it probably was our case.

Dave Cawley: Bill got out of bed and got dressed. At the same time, a young woman named Jan Schiller received a similar call at her home in the nearby city of Layton. Like Bill, she was on call, not for the police department, but for the YWCA.

Jan Schiller: Even though you’re on call, umm, it still startles you because it always happens when you’re asleep.

Dave Cawley: Jan had taken a volunteer position as a rape victim advocate. She was 25 years old and fresh out of college.

Jan Schiller: I had just seen this volunteer opportunity and it was during the recession years and I just thought, ‘Gosh, I’d like to get, y’know, some experience even just volunteer while I’m, y’know, working at just a job for the, y’know, until I get something that I really want.’

Dave Cawley: This was Jan’s first actual call-out — one of only two she would ever take. She put hair in a ponytail and started driving bleary-eyed toward South Ogden police headquarters. Joyce was already there by the time Bill and Jan each arrived.

Jan Schiller: I mean, Joyce was, y’know, sitting upright, square-shouldered. … And I was thinking, ‘Wow, this woman is so together and I feel like a slob.’ (Laughs) Which is kind of a funny, funny reaction.

Bill Holthaus: She was not the typical young rape victim that you see on television.

Dave Cawley: The rape kit exam had taken about an hour-and-a-half, so it was after 4:30 by the time Joyce, Jan and Bill sat down for a formal interview. The smell of brewing coffee wafted on the air.

Bill Holthaus (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Okay, we’re ready to start. Is everybody still awake?

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Coffee?

Bill Holthaus (from April 4, 1985 police recording): He’s, he’s working on it.

Dave Cawley: This recording — taken from the only surviving cassette tape copy of the interview known to exist — is the source of many of the clips you heard in the first half of this episode. It had sat for years undiscovered in a box at the Weber County Attorney’s Office until I started looking for it. Even Joyce’s own children had never heard this tape.

Bill Holthaus (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Okay Joyce, what I would like you to do, is I would like you to tell me in your own words what occurred tonight, probably starting at the Pier.

Dave Cawley: Although he was then 40 years old, detective Bill Holthaus had only been a cop for a couple of years and only a detective for about half of that.

Bill Holthaus: But it was the first sexual case that I had handled.

Dave Cawley: That’s not to say Bill was a novice when it came to interviews.

Bill Holthaus: The interview in and of itself wasn’t that, wasn’t difficult.

Dave Cawley: To understand why, I need to tell you a bit about who Bill Holthaus is. Bill grew up in Michigan in the years immediately following the end of World War Two. His father had emigrated to the states from Germany, settling in the city of Wyandotte, between Detroit and Lake Eerie.

His father was a devout Lutheran who pressured Bill, one of three children in the family, to enter the seminary. Bill didn’t want to do that. He wanted to see the world. So, in 1962 at the age of 18, he rebelled by enlisting in the U.S. Air Force. Bill started out as a missile mechanic, then became a bomb loader. He bounced around the globe, serving at various Air Force bases.

While stationed in San Antonio, Texas, he took a second job as a reserve police officer. One night, while responding to a call about a man burglarizing storage units, he stepped out of a patrol car. A man on the roof of the storage unit building opened fire. A bullet hit Bill in the lower leg. Bill would face hostile fire again, while serving two tours in Vietnam and Cambodia, first in 1966, then again in ’69 and ’70. Bill moved up the enlisted ranks of the Air Force, becoming a First Sergeant. He went to work in air operations.

Bill Holthaus: Even in the, in the Air Force part of my job as you move up the supervisory levels is interviewing people and I always did enjoy that —  not that I was always good at it — but I always enjoyed it and I really just kind of fell into it.

Dave Cawley: As a senior non-commissioned officer, Bill often had to mediate disputes between subordinates, including some cases of sexual misconduct.

Bill Holthaus: I had had experience with young airmen, female airmen, who had been molested and stuff.

Dave Cawley: By 1980, Bill had landed in Utah, at Hill Air Force Base. His 20-year mark with the Air Force was approaching and he felt an itch to make a change. Even though he was by then in his mid 30s, he wanted to go college. To make tuition money, Bill took a side job.

Bill Holthaus: I was doing security work for a Job Corps center.

Dave Cawley: The center was home to hundreds of young people who lived in dorms while receiving vocational training. Problems were inevitable in that environment and Bill often ended up interviewing Job Corps residents who were suspected of petty crimes.

Bill Holthaus: In the process of that I met all the police officers, all the patrolmen. And I, I got a call from the chief of police saying that they liked the way that I’d done the interviews and testified in court to some of these cases ‘cause if I was the initial interviewer, I had to go to court — most of them were misdemeanors — uh, and uh, I was offered a position when it became available.

Dave Cawley: So in 1982, Bill retired from the military and took a full-time job with the Clearfield police department. He was 38. Bill spent several months working dispatch, then patrol. He didn’t actually attend the police academy until the department had an opening in its investigations division. When he at last started his academy class, he found himself surrounded by younger cadets.

Bill Holthaus: The interesting thing about the police academy in Utah is you can be 21 or 38 and you have to still pass the same physical stuff so it becomes difficult (laughs) when you’re 38 years old.

Dave Cawley: All this is to say that when Bill sat down with Joyce early on that April morning in 1985, he brought with him a lot of life experience. Jan Schiller, the rookie rape victim advocate, could see it in the way he carried himself.

Jan Schiller: He was big and had the shorter haircut and, y’know, he had that cop presence but when he spoke, it was, it was very gentle even with the gruff voice. There was a lot of caring in that voice.

Bill Holthaus (from April 4, 1985 police recording): During, or while you’re telling me this, I may stop you and ask you some questions. If you find that that is breaking your train of thought, then let me know. Then we’ll go back and ask the questions later.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Okay.

Bill Holthaus (from April 4, 1985 police recording): But we’ll start out by trying to ask them during, while it’s fresh in your memory. Okay?

Dave Cawley: Jan had never heard this recording of the interview, until I played it for her.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Y’know, tomorrow he could go out and harm somebody’s little girl or something.

Jan Schiller: (Listening to audio of Joyce) I remember her saying this.

Dave Cawley: Upon listening back, she praised the way Bill — the large, gruff detective — validated Joyce.

Jan Schiller: He was never mocking and he was always just, y’know, trying to give her that control. ‘I’m going to ask you questions, but if that’s not working for you, we’ll wait.’ Y’know that, ‘I’m giving you the choice of how to do this again.’

Dave Cawley: By that point, Joyce had already recited the events of the prior evening multiple times — to her sister, to the South Ogden officers, to the physician at the hospital — and as a result her thoughts were less jumbled, her voice less emotional.

Bill Holthaus (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Okay, can you tell me anything in particular about the sports car? Was it a soft top, was it a convertible-type sports car?

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Uh, it had a sunroof.

Bill Holthaus (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Had a sunroof. So it was a hard top, then. In other words, it didn’t have a canvas top. It had a hard top on it.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Right, right. It was a little, shiny red Mazda with the—

Bill Holthaus (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Oh, it was a Mazda.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): —uh, lovlor, louvres in the back window.

Bill Holthaus (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Okay.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): They’re black. The car is red.

Dave Cawley: I need to acknowledge here journalistic ethics typically preclude identification of sexual assault survivors without their prior consent. Joyce is not able to provide that consent, due to circumstances I’ll discuss in later episodes. I’ve had to consider with care the level of detail to include in this narrative. My decisions are driven in part by knowing Joyce made this police report willingly and later provided a substantially similar account in open court, making those facts a matter of public record.

Back to the interview.

Bill Holthaus (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Starting out with the Pier, and about what time of night—

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Okay, I met—

Bill Holthaus (from April 4, 1985 police recording): —did it start at?

Dave Cawley: Bill had Joyce go over it all in fine detail: the attack in her car, her physical struggle, the man dragging her to his car.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): I don’t think there was a gun but I did not see one.

Bill Holthaus (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Okay, so the sound that you heard when you were leaving there—

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): I can’t figure out what he did. I really can’t—

Bill Holthaus (from April 4, 1985 police recording): —did it sound like a tape recorder? Possibly putting a tape in a tape recorder?

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Possibly, he did have some very loud music going.

Dave Cawley: Jan felt awed by Joyce’s poise.

Jan Schiller: I was so impressed with how really quite calm she was in the retelling of everything, how articulate she was. I just, I thought, y’know, in her day-to-day life she must have been such a confident, fun woman and just that, y’know, her, her umm, her sense of, ‘I’ve got to think this through and how do I get through this safely,’ y’know, that she was that with it while all this was happening to be having those thoughts.

Dave Cawley: Bill, too, found Joyce’s demeanor remarkable. Given their similar ages, he chalked it up to her also having had life experience.

Bill Holthaus: She’d been a, either a divorced or separated mother, she’d raised kids, umm, she’d had a traumatic experience but probably not the first one in her life. Y’know, she’d had children who’d had problems, those kinds of things.

Dave Cawley: This also helped when Bill had to pivot the interview toward some very direct questions.

Bill Holthaus: I did feel, feel an empathy for her. I will, y’know, I thought that she was wronged. I did. But there’s certain questions you have to ask.

Bill Holthaus (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Okay. Now, you say you had intercourse. Uh, was this in the missionary position? Meaning face-to-face?

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Yes.

Bill Holthaus (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Anything other than that?

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Uh, then he had me turn over and that—

Bill Holthaus (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Okay.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): And that, he had me in some very unfeminine positions or whatever you should say.

Dave Cawley: Joyce wasn’t quite as forthcoming in her descriptions here as she’d been in her conversation with officer Mel Hackworth a couple hours earlier. Bill did not press her, at least not right at that sensitive moment.

Bill Holthaus: I was little bit hesitant to ask her some questions in the initial interview. It became more comfortable later in subsequent interviews. But the first one was a little difficult for me. I still remember that.

Dave Cawley: The deeper into the details they went, the more of the experience she relived, the less control over her emotion Joyce maintained. Her body began to shake, just as it had when she’d arrived back home.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): I was quite hysterical at that time and I was trembling, I was shaking, I was cold, I was upset.

Bill Holthaus (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Like right now, so why don’t you stop for just a moment—

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Well—

Bill Holthaus (from April 4, 1985 police recording): —and have, have a cup of coffee—

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): —no, y’know, I—

Bill Holthaus (from April 4, 1985 police recording): No, stop right now and have a cup of coffee and then we’ll talk— (Tape stops)

Dave Cawley: Here, and at a couple other points, Bill stopped the recorder, giving Joyce time to compose herself. During one of those moments, Jan took Bill aside.

Jan Schiller: And I was saying, ‘My gosh, she is so put together’ and he said, ‘But did you notice her broken fingernails? This woman’s put together.’ I mean, she worked at a department store. She was this elegant, put-together, sophisticated-looking woman. He said, ‘Yeah, she wouldn’t have gone out with broken fingernails.’

Bill Holthaus: What convinced me that something really had happened was the evidence. Y’know, I believed what she was saying based on the evidence that I first saw.

Jan Schiller: He was reading her so well. He was catching things that I wasn’t catching. Although I was quite young, I might have caught them being older and he’d had a whole lot more experience, but, y’know like the broken fingernails and the, ‘Yes, we’re going to stop and you’re going to, y’know, have a cup of coffee. Yes, you are trembling right now.’

Dave Cawley: Jan also noticed how Bill used the lightest touches of humor to help Joyce get through the tough spots.

Bill Holthaus (from April 4, 1985 police recording): When he had the light on, could you see his body?

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Mhmm.

Bill Holthaus (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Did you notice any scars, marks, tattoos, umm, missing fingers or toes? (Laughs)

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): No, I didn’t.

Bill Holthaus (from April 4, 1985 police recording): Okay.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police recording): And really, I honestly didn’t look that hard. I, I remember he had a hairy chest.

Dave Cawley: Jan had said only a handful of words herself by the time the interview had reached its conclusion.

Jan Schiller: She really had a voice that, during that interview though. Umm, it wasn’t really necessary to, to do to much coaxing because she had a voice.

Dave Cawley: There’s a point I want to address here before moving on to the next part of this story. It’s the concept of consent. In each of Joyce’s interactions with police that night, she expressed concern over how her story would be received. She worried about not being believed, of being humiliated. Jan told me this is very, very common for women who report cases of abuse and sexual assault.

Jan Schiller: We’re taught to be nice. We’re, y’know, we’re taught to not be forceful and when we are forceful, there’s all sorts of words for that that aren’t complimentary. (Laughs)

Dave Cawley: A large degree of Joyce’s trepidation rose from the fact she had capitulated. She’d decided to cooperate after receiving a physical beating in her own car. You’ve already heard her — in her own voice — say she believed putting up a fight would have meant the end of her life. But that, she also said, could be mistaken for consent.

I put the question to Jan: did Joyce agreeing to have sex with this man under those conditions qualify as consent?

Jan Schiller: No, it does not qualify as consent. It qualifies as duress. (Laughs) If you’ve been violent with a woman and threatening with a woman and then she says yes, that’s not consent.

Dave Cawley: South Ogden police headquarters sat less than half a mile to the west of Joyce’s apartment on 40th Street. With the interview complete, Bill drove Joyce back home. He noticed a few things as soon as they arrived. First off, the driver door of Joyce’s car was still open. He poked his head inside.

Bill Holthaus: There was, uh, a partial fingernail in her vehicle which she had described to me. Umm, there was some keys, which she had described to me, in her, in her vehicle which uh, she had told me, umm, in the initial interview that uh, she had fought with him getting out of the vehicle. That was enough to convince me that something had happened.

Dave Cawley: He also spotted the buttons from Joyce’s dress, as well as one of her earrings sitting on the car’s front seat.

Bill Holthaus: What she told me on the initial interview, the evidence matched. It wasn’t a matter of me going and finding evidence and then asking her about it. She’d told me about that before I ever found the evidence. And that makes it much more solid than if you find something and ask somebody about it.

Dave Cawley: They went into the apartment. Bill pulled out a Polaroid camera and snapped photos of Joyce’s broken fingernails, as well as the bruises on her neck, arm and jaw. He took photos of her car as well, showing its position in the carport. The sun was breaking over the mountains to the east, lighting the scene.

Bill Holthaus: Now it’s daylight.

Dave Cawley: Bill decided it was time to go and see the house Joyce had pointed out in Clearfield, to knock on the door and ask some questions. And so he left. Joyce was exhausted. She hadn’t slept. In one of the photos Bill had taken of her that morning, her eyelids are drooping as if she might nod off at any moment but for the adrenaline and caffeine in her bloodstream. She was at last able to shower and to call her daughter, Kim Salazar…

Kim Salazar: She called and just told me that she’d been raped and of course I couldn’t get in my car fast enough.

Dave Cawley: …and repeat once again the story of what’d happened. Or at least a Cliffs Notes version of it.

Kim Salazar: Like she never told me everything that happened that night.

Dave Cawley: Kim’s husband Randy remembered hearing the news as well.

Randy Salazar: I remember Kim saying ‘What? Why didn’t you call me last night?’

Kim Salazar: I don’t suppose it was an easy thing for her to tell me in the first place and the fact she had to do it on the phone.

Dave Cawley: Kim rushed over to her mother’s apartment, finding Joyce midway through the job of repairing her broken fingernails.

Kim Salazar: She was putting herself back together. What was broken was being fixed.

Dave Cawley: At least, on the outside.

Kim Salazar: I mean, it’s just so devastating. You don’t, you don’t know what to do, you don’t know what to do. You’re just helpless. I mean, I didn’t know what to do for her.

Dave Cawley: Bill had by that time arrived back in Clearfield.

Bill Holthaus: And as I pulled off of 650 North exit, a deep red Mazda with black louvers pulled on going southbound on I-15. So I just came back behind that car and uh, followed that car until I could get ahold of a trooper to back me up and uh, when the trooper got in behind me, I pulled it over.

Dave Cawley: This was very lucky timing.

Bill Holthaus: And sometimes lucky is better than good.

Dave Cawley: The driver of the red Mazda was a slim, younger-looking guy with feathery brown hair and a large mustache. He wore a plaid shirt with the top button undone, revealing a tuft of chest hair.

Bill Holthaus: And that was in fact Doug Lovell.

Dave Cawley: Bill looked Doug in the face and noticed a cut just to the side of his nose. It appeared fresh, with a single drop of coagulated blood still at the bottom.

Bill Holthaus: There was things in the car that immediately told me he was the right person.

Dave Cawley: Looking into the car through the driver window, Bill could see something sitting on the floorboard of the passenger side: the matching earring to the one he’d already observed in Joyce’s car.

Bill Holthaus: We would have got him anyway but it was just funny the way we did get him with the earring laying on the, he might have gotten rid of the earring later in the day. I don’t even know if he knew it was there.

Dave Cawley: Bill figured this was more than enough probable cause, the legal standard he needed to clear in order to make an arrest, and so he did. He took Doug out of the Mazda and read him his Miranda rights. Then, he placed Doug in the back of his unmarked police car. Bill didn’t have a warrant to search the Mazda right then, so he instead locked it up and left it on the side of the freeway.

Bill then drove Doug to Clearfield police headquarters for an interview. He started out by once again reading Doug his rights. He asked Doug if he understood them and, for a moment, Doug hesitated. He wondered if he ought to have an attorney present. Bill said that was up to Doug, who thought it over and then agreed to talk.

Bill Holthaus: He actually admitted being with her, but his, his, his uh, story was quite a bit different than hers.

Dave Cawley: Unfortunately, this interview was not recorded so I can’t play you actual audio. But I have reviewed Bill’s handwritten notes, which he took down that very day. Here’s what they say.

Bill wrote Doug claimed both he and Joyce had been sitting in their cars outside the Pier 3 the prior evening. Joyce had motioned him over. Doug said Joyce had asked if he’d like to follow her home, and so he had. Doug had said it was Joyce who suggested they go for a drink as he stood next to her car in the carport. Bill asked if Doug had assaulted Joyce in her own car.

Bill Holthaus: When I did ask him about the car, he didn’t answer anything on that. At all. He just said that he picked her up, followed her from the club, picker her up, took her home, had sex with her, brought her back.

Dave Cawley: During the interview, Doug called Joyce by name, saying he remembered her last name — Yost — because a ghost town near where he liked to go deer hunting shared the same name. Doug insisted his time with Joyce had been 100-percent consensual.

Bill Holthaus: Yeah, he just said that, y’know, that they agreed to have sex.

Dave Cawley: Doug Denied having given Joyce one of his shirts. Bill asked Doug about the cut on his face. Doug said it’d resulted from an accident at work the day before. Bill told Doug he knew he was lying. While they’d been speaking, another officer had impounded the Mazda. Bill explained about the matching earrings in the two cars. Bill told Doug he was going to book him on suspicion of rape and sodomy.

Bill Holthaus: Took him down to jail, booked him in, came back, wrote the reports.

Dave Cawley: Fewer than 12 hours had elapsed from the time of Joyce’s first confrontation with the man in her carport to his arrest. Bill credited that quick turnaround to Joyce herself.

Bill Holthaus: You can put that whole case on her. I was just peripheral on that. I was just picking up the pieces is what it amounted to and making them all go together.

Dave Cawley: The following day, Doug Lovell went before a judge. The Davis County Attorney’s Office, after reviewing the evidence, had filed much more serious charges. They included aggravated kidnapping, two counts of rape, aggravated sexual assault and forcible sodomy. In spite of this, the judge set Doug’s bail at just $25,000. That should’ve been the end of it.

Randy Salazar: After they pulled him over and, and took him to, and took him to jail and booked him, I think he was, I think he already had his mind made up what he was going to do.

Dave Cawley: Joyce’s son-in-law Randy Salazar told me it was only the beginning.

Randy Salazar: That’s where it all started it. That’s where uh, (pause) I think that’s where this nightmare begins.

Dave Cawley: Doug Lovell was not going to remain in jail for long. But Bill Holthaus would soon make a discovery about the little red Mazda that could put Doug right back in a cell.

Ep 2: A Case of Rape

Content note: This article includes discussion of rape and sexual assault. Free resources are available for survivors of sexual abuse and violence through the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network hotline at (800) 656-HOPE (4673).

A fresh pot of coffee gave its invigorating odor to the otherwise somber air at police headquarters in South Ogden, Utah.

Bill Holthaus, a detective for the police department in the nearby suburb of Clearfield, arrived there well before sunrise on the morning of April 4, 1985 to investigate a case of rape involving a woman named Joyce Yost.

“I got a call from South Ogden PD telling me that they believed they had a rape, or a woman reporting a rape that occurred in our city,” Holthaus said. “Would I come in and interview her?”

Joyce Yost rape dispatch report log document
The South Ogden police dispatch log from the morning of April 4, 1985. Highlights added by the Cold team. Photo: South Ogden, Utah police

Joyce wore a green velour jogging suit. The dress she’d been in at the time of the alleged rape was already gathered in a brown paper bag, taken as evidence by a South Ogden patrol officer at the time of her initial report.

Joyce Yost and Bill Holthaus

“She was not the typical young rape victim that you see on television,” Holthaus told me of Joyce years later, during a conversation in May of 2020.

Joyce was, at the time in 1985, 39 years old. She was a mother of two adult children, as well as a proud grandmother. For years she’d been a fixture of the Ogden, Utah retail scene, selling Estée Lauder and other cosmetics at the ZCMI department store. She lived alone, having been twice divorced.

“She’d had a traumatic experience but probably not the first one in her life,” Holthaus said.

Clearfield police detective William "Bill" Holthaus
Bill Holthaus, seen here in an undated photograph, began his second career as a police officer in Clearfield, Utah after serving 20 years in the U.S. Air Force. Photo: Bill Holthaus

Bill Holthaus was in many ways Joyce’s contemporary. Both were transplants to Utah: Joyce from Minnesota and Bill from Michigan. Both had been raised as Lutherans and were not part of the predominant religious culture in Mormon-centric Utah. Bill was, at age 38, just two years into his police career.

He’d spent the prior 20 years serving in the U.S. Air Force, where he’d at times been required to interview subordinates about instances of sexual misconduct. He knew such interviews were often delicate.

“I did feel an empathy for her,” Holthaus said. “I thought that she was wronged. I did. But there’s certain questions you have to ask.”

Joyce Yost audio tape

Holthaus pressed the record button on a small audio cassette tape deck as he and Joyce sat down to talk. A young volunteer rape victim advocate from the YWCA named Jan Schiller joined them, sitting by Joyce’s side.

The detective started out by asking Joyce to walk him through what had happened to her the prior evening.

“I met a gentleman friend at the Pier 3 at approximately 7 o’clock for dinner,” Joyce can be heard saying on the tape recording.

The audio tape of Joyce Yost’s interview has never been shared publicly prior to its inclusion in Cold season 2.

“We had a couple of drinks and we had dinner and we danced a couple of times,” Joyce said.

Joyce Yost spent the evening of April 3, 1985 at the Pier 3, a now-defunct supper club in Clearfield, Utah. The Pier 3 sat in the building that is painted yellow in the right image from 2021.

The Pier 3 was a supper club located in a strip mall in the city of Clearfield, just west of Hill Air Force Base. Joyce described leaving the Pier 3 at approximately 10:15 p.m. with her friend. They said goodnight to one another in the parking lot and went their separate ways.

“Then I went on home, not realizing anybody was following me, not really paying attention to see if anybody was following me,” Joyce said.

Confrontation in the carport

Joyce told Holthaus that when she arrived at her apartment on 40th Street in South Ogden at around 11 p.m. she pulled her Oldsmobile convertible into her stall in the carport adjacent to the four-plex. At the same time, a small, red Mazda coupe pulled in just beside and slightly behind her.

“I wasn’t just with somebody that was being a little bit forceful that I was going to be able to get rid of.”

Joyce Yost

The driver of the Mazda exited his car and approached her, opening the door of her car before she even had a chance to do so herself. He wedged his body between Joyce and the open car door, preventing her from closing it.

“He says ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this,’ but he said ‘I noticed you at the Pier 3 and I was attracted to you and decided to follow you,’” Joyce said.

The man told Joyce he wanted to get a drink with her. She rebuffed the advance, suggesting they might instead get coffee another time. The man, who’d told Joyce his name was “Dave,” responded negatively.

Joyce Yost apartment carport evidence court exhibit
This police photo from 1985 shows the carport outside Joyce Yost’s apartment in South Ogden, Utah. Joyce’s parking stall sat between the two cars pictured here. Photo: Weber County Attorney’s Office

“He grabbed me by the throat and he was forceful and told me if I screamed or said anything that he would tear my throat open,” Joyce said.

The man then proceeded to sexually assault Joyce. She fought back, breaking some of her acrylic fingernails in the process. She lost one of her earrings. The buttons down the front of her dress were also torn from the garment.

“I realized I was in a rape situation,” Joyce said. “I wasn’t just with somebody that was being a little bit forceful that I was going to be able to get rid of.”

Joyce Yost’s voice

Jan Schiller, the rape victim advocate, did not say much during this interview. She hadn’t needed to, as Joyce had been composed, thoughtful and articulate.

“I was just so impressed with her,” Schiller told me decades later. “She really had a voice during that interview.”

Joyce went on in the tape recording to describe how the man had sexually assaulted her in her car, then dragged her to his car and shoved her head down into the passenger footwell. Joyce said he’d claimed to have a gun and threatened to shoot her if she put up any further struggle.

The sexual assault of Joyce Yost and its immediate aftermath played out at a variety of venues across southern Weber County, Utah and northern Davis County, Utah.

The man then drove to his house in Clearfield. On the way, Joyce’s other earring fell, unnoticed, onto the floor of the Mazda.

Once at the house, the man blindfolded Joyce, took her inside and repeatedly assaulted her again.

Over the space of the next hour or so, Joyce engaged the man in conversation. She succeeded in gaining his trust and in convincing him to let her go. Joyce promised the man she would not report what he had done if he would just return her home. He eventually agreed, giving her a blue men’s shirt to wear in place of her ruined dress.

A Case of Rape

On the drive back to her apartment, Joyce said the man told her he was normally a nice guy, the type who sends roses.

Joyce had called her sister Dorothy Dial upon arriving home at around 2 a.m. She’d expressed fear, not only that the man might return to harm her also but that police might not believe her account.

“Even now 35 years later, most women still don’t report the rape,” Schiller said.

Joyce Yost and sister Dorothy Dial
Joyce Yost (left) and her sister Dorothy “Dot” Dial (right) remained close throughout Joyce’s life. Joyce called Dorothy after being kidnapped and sexually assaulted on the morning of April 4, 1985. Photo: Joyce Yost family

A 1974 made-for-TV-movie called A Case of Rape had left a strong impression on Joyce. The fictional film starred actress Elizabeth Montgomery as a woman who is twice raped by an acquaintance and then suffers public humiliation during the resulting criminal trial.

Joyce told her sister she did not want to go through a similar experience. Dial said if Joyce didn’t call police, she would. With this encouragement, Joyce agreed to file a report with South Ogden police.

The supporting evidence

At the conclusion of the interview, Bill Holthaus went to Joyce’s apartment. He saw her car sitting in the carport with the driver door still open. He looked inside and noted the fragments of her broken fingernails, as well as a single earring and Joyce’s keys.

Former Clearfield, Utah police detective Bill Holthaus discusses what he saw when he examined Joyce Yost’s car on April 4, 1985, after taking Yost’s report of a rape and kidnapping at the hands of Douglas Anderson Lovell.

Joyce had attempted to stab her attacker in the eye with her keys during the initial assault in her car. She had missed and had instead struck the man on the side of the nose, causing a laceration. He had responded by pummeling her.

Holthaus photographed Joyce’s injuries, which included contusions on her neck and chin, with a Polaroid camera.

The detective then left Joyce and returned to Clearfield, intending to knock on the door of the home where Joyce had said the man had taken her.

Arrest of Doug Lovell

Holthaus was about to exit I-15 when he spotted a red Mazda RX-7 matching the one Joyce had described getting on the freeway headed southbound. He radioed for backup and then pulled the Mazda over.

The man at the wheel of the Mazda had a cut along the side of his nose. Holthaus could also see a single earring in the passenger footwell of the car as he looked in through the open window. It was the match to the other earring he’d previously seen in Joyce’s car.

Doug Lovell rape mugshot April 4, 1985
Detective Bill Holthaus arrested Douglas Anderson Lovell on suspicion of rape just hours following Joyce Yost’s initial report. Photo: Davis County Sheriff’s Office via Utah State Archives

“So we took him into custody right there,” Holthaus said.

The man, soon identified as Douglas Anderson Lovell, had a different story to tell about what happened on the night he met Joyce Yost.

Hear how Joyce Yost’s family responded to her sexual assault in Cold episode 2: A Case of Rape

Episode credits
Research, writing and hosting: Dave Cawley
Audio production: Dave Cawley
Audio mixing: Dave Cawley
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:
KSL companion story:
Talking Cold companion episode:

Cold season 2, episode 1: The Type that Sends Roses – Full episode transcript

Dave Cawley: Susan Yerage did not expect what greeted her when she walked through the doors of the America First Credit Union branch where she worked: a dozen, long-stem yellow roses in a bud vase sitting on her desk.

Susan Yerage (from 1992 police interview): They just had a little note on them, to a friend, and it says that you for being a friend or something like that.

Dave Cawley: What friend would have sent her a dozen roses without so much as signing a name? Susan moved the flowers to her credenza, thinking it must be a mistake. Except, it happened again. Another dozen yellow roses arrived a couple of days later, again bearing a card that read “thank you for being a friend.’ She again set the flowers aside.

Susan Yerage (from 1992 police interview): I mean, they were beautiful flowers, but when you’re getting, getting them from somebody that they don’t even write their name on the card? It makes you a little nervous.

Dave Cawley: That feeling only intensified at the end of the week, when a third batch of roses arrived. They’d come from a place called Gibby Floral. Susan phoned the company and asked who’d sent them.

Susan Yerage (from 1992 police interview): They told me that it was a young kid that came in, paid cash for them and said, ‘Send the flowers.’

Dave Cawley: This “secret admirer” game was not endearing. Some stranger who refused to identify himself was harassing Susan. Her unease soured into outright fear.

Susan Yerage (from 1992 police interview): ‘Cause every day I’d walk out looking around the credit union thinking, y’know, what’s gonna happen.

Dave Cawley: She told the florist not to accept any more deliveries in her name. But, Susan once again received a dozen yellow long-stem roses at the start of the next week. They’d come from a different florist, a place called Candlelight, in the nearby city of Layton.

Susan Yerage (from 1992 police interview): And I called them and they said the same thing happened. A young kid came in, paid cash for them and they sent them out. And I told them I wouldn’t accept them.

Dave Cawley: This flood of flowers had to have cost the sender hundreds of dollars. While yellow roses are meant to symbolize friendship, Susan couldn’t shake the sense of dread the blooms had brought with them. She wondered if someone might be trying to manipulate her. She did have access to sensitive financial information. She didn’t dare think what other intentions the man who sent the flowers might have.

Susan Yerage (from 1992 police interview): You know, if you know who it is, if you know the person and you know a reason, but for any normal person, roses every other day, like that, is ridiculous. I mean, to me, it is. What kind of guy would blast a woman he didn’t know with a barrage of bouquets?

Susan Yerage (from 1992 police interview): Scared me to death. … Because I couldn’t figure out why.

Dave Cawley: This is Cold, season 2, episode 1: The Type That Sends Roses. From KSL Podcasts, I’m Dave Cawley. We’ll be right back.

[Ad break]

Dave Cawley: If you draw a line on a map between the cities of Minneapolis, Minnesota and Winnipeg, Manitoba, then stick your finger in the middle of that line, you’ll find yourself pointing at a small college town called Bemidji.

George and Hulda Figel, residents of Bemidji, welcomed their third daughter Joyce Lynn Figel on January 3, 1946. Joyce had two sisters. The oldest, Dorothy, was 19 years Joyce’s senior. Edna, the middle child, was also significantly older, graduating from high school the same year as Joyce’s birth.

The Figel family lived on a farm on the outskirts of town. The older girls helped their mother raise little Joyce, nicknaming their baby sister “Binky,” a reference to the popular brand of pacifier.

George Figel worked as a greenskeeper at the Bemidji Town and Country Club, a post he’d held for decades. But by the time Joyce was old enough to enroll in school, George was nowhere to be found. He and Hulda had divorced, leaving Joyce to be raised by her mother and sisters. As a teen, Joyce met a boy named Mel Roberts.

Mel Roberts: Well, she was a very attractive girl, for openers.

Dave Cawley: Mel was a few years older — he was a senior in high school when Joyce was a freshman — and found himself smitten.

Mel Roberts: She just had a real outgoing personality. Friendly, bubbly, happy-go-lucky.

Dave Cawley: They dated for the better part of a year.

Mel Roberts: We’d go to football games and basketball games. We’d follow the, like tournaments and whatnot we’d go watch the high school teams play.

Dave Cawley: Their relationship took a turn though when, at age 15, Joyce learned she was pregnant. Hulda Figel took news of her unmarried teenage daughter’s pregnancy hard.

Mel Roberts: I went out to her house on a Saturday morning and walked in the yard, pulled in the yard and she was in the kitchen making a cake … and she spun around and left. Wouldn’t even speak to me.

Dave Cawley: The Figel family tree traced its roots back to Germany and Scandinavia. They’d been Lutherans long as anyone could remember.

Mel Roberts: They went to church religiously. Every Sunday and she went through her, y’know, the Lutheran confirmation, which is two years.

Dave Cawley: Hulda told Joyce she shouldn’t raise her baby.

Mel Roberts: She was gonna put her in a Lutheran home and, y’know, give the baby up for adoption.

Dave Cawley: Mel had a different idea: keep the baby and get married.

Mel Roberts: Joyce and I sat there and talked for a few hours and then she finally came in and we, we hashed it out.

Dave Cawley: Mel had by that point started classes at Bemidji State College.

Mel Roberts: When I found out she was pregnant I dropped out of college and went and found a job. (Laughs)

Dave Cawley: Lacking experience or references, Mel went from business to business, knocking on doors, until he ended up at a metal stamping company. The manager invited Mel into his office.

Mel Roberts: He said, ‘Do you have a girl pregnant?’ And I looked at him like he was on Mars. Come to find out, his son was in the same circumstances. Similar age to me. And honest to God, I think that’s probably why he hired me.

Dave Cawley: The job interview took place at about 3 in the afternoon. The manager told Mel his shift started at 6.

Mel Roberts: And I ended up working in that business the rest of my life.

Dave Cawley: Mel and Joyce married in January of 1962. Joyce gave birth to a daughter, whom they named Kim, about four months later. Joyce became a full-time mother at the age of 16. She dropped out of school and moved with her new husband to Minneapolis. A year later, they welcomed a second child, a son named Greg. The Roberts family scraped to get by.

Mel Roberts: You look back on how you survived and it was pretty amazing. Kids today couldn’t do that.

Dave Cawley: They made friends with their neighbors but didn’t have much time for socializing. Mel worked nonstop. Joyce’s favorite pastime seemed to be sunbathing.

Mel Roberts: She was a sun goddess. Always, she’d lay in the sun when it was 40 degrees out.

Dave Cawley: She would even drag the laundry into the yard so she could to the ironing in the sun. Each summer Joyce would take the kids and spend a week or two visiting her sister Edna in Duluth, on the western tip of Lake Superior.

Mel Roberts: Edna spent a tremendous amount of time with Kim and Greg when they were little.

Dave Cawley: Dorothy, Joyce’s oldest sibling, had by then moved away to Utah. She and Joyce struggled to stay in touch during this period, relying mostly on letters.

Mel Roberts: Back then it wasn’t like you had cell phones. We, we didn’t come from wealthy families so long distance calls back then were expensive.

Dave Cawley: Long distance calls weren’t the only luxury they had to forgo. Mel and Joyce were in over their heads.

Mel Roberts: The odds of that succeeding are pretty remote.

Dave Cawley: Joyce took jobs waitressing in the evenings. She couldn’t find better paying gigs, in part because she’d never finished high school. The stress of her situation began to feel like a vice. She wanted out. Joyce filed for divorce from Mel after just a handful of years.

Mel Roberts: Had we not been so young, I’m pretty sure the relationship would have been far more successful.

Dave Cawley: The separation didn’t solve Joyce’s problems. Instead, it brought on a different set of challenges. Money grew even more tight, forcing her to work two or three jobs at a time.

Mel Roberts: She had to work a lot so the kids spent some time alone and whatnot but, she didn’t have any choice.

Dave Cawley: Dating in her early 20s with two young children also proved difficult. She had a few bad experiences with boyfriends that left her, in Mel’s words, “screwed up.”

Mel Roberts: Struggling financially and, and I think she was struggling emotionally as well.

Dave Cawley: Mel had remained close to Joyce, their children and even Joyce’s mother Hulda in spite of the divorce. But forces beyond his control soon swept him away. The government drafted Mel into the U.S. Army in 1968.

Mel Roberts: I spent 15 months in Korea.

Dave Cawley: Joyce needed a fresh start. She decided to leave Minnesota, to take her kids Kim and Greg and head west, following her sister Dorothy’s trail to Utah.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: Monan Lovell had three sons. The oldest, 19-year-old Russell, was playing a game with 17-year-old Royce at the family’s home in the city of Uintah, Utah. The baby of the family, 14-year-old Doug, watched from the sidelines. Monan interrupted, telling the boys he and their mother had news to share. Doug could tell it wasn’t good.

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): I remember thinking to myself that they were going to tell us someone in the family died.

Dave Cawley: That is not Doug’s actual voice, but they are his words, taken from a letter written many years later. Tears welled in Monan’s eyes. He told his sons he his wife Shirley were divorcing after nearly 20 years of marriage. Monan saw expressions of shock on his son’s faces.

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): I never seen my mom or dad fight, and neither had my two older brothers. We were the perfect family so I thought.

Dave Cawley: Except they weren’t. Royce was beginning to dabble with drugs. Doug had been getting into trouble himself. He’d gone to juvenile court a year prior, when he was just 13, for theft.

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): I can still clearly hear my father’s voice saying you kids need to decide who you want to live with. It was more than I could handle … How dare they make me pick between them.

Dave Cawley: Monan told his boys he would be moving out of the home that very day. Doug bolted to his feet and ran out of the room.

It was September of 1972. Russell would soon turn 20 and could live on his own. Royce, it was decided, would follow his father to his new apartment. Doug would remain with his mother, Shirley.

Doug Lovell had spent his earliest years on a farm on the fringe of Utah’s vast West Desert.

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): We had all the animals that belonged on a farm and then some. Animals were the love of my life, and I had lots of them.

Dave Cawley: The farm life was not to last. Monan had taken a job with the U.S. Air Force and, when Doug was 10, moved his family north to the suburbs of Ogden, near Hill Air Force Base. Doug started finding trouble not long after. He got into schoolyard fights…

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): I remember back in school when two boys had a problem with each other, they would meet after school and fight. The worse that might happen is a bloody nose or black eye.

Dave Cawley: …and developed a habit for swiping property that didn’t belong to him. Doug turned 15 in January of ’73, days before the courts finalized his parents’ divorce. He landed back in juvenile court the following November on criminal counts of theft and burglary. Soon after, at age 16, the courts decided he could answer the same question his brothers had before: which parent would he choose to live with?

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): I never could pick. I stayed with mom and then I felt guilty for not being with my dad. I always felt who ever I was living with the other one was thinking that I loved them less.

Dave Cawley: Monan remarried two years after the split from Shirley, to a woman named Dorothy. She brought seven children of her own to their blended family.

Doug bounced back and forth between his parents until, in the summer of ’75, he lost the ability to choose. He’d dropped out of school and once again run afoul of the law. The juvenile court sent him to the Utah State Industrial School for a 90-day “observation and assessment.”

The industrial school wasn’t a prison, but life there was not like home. Doug could not come and go as he pleased. He lived in a dorm with other kids whom the state had also deemed juvenile delinquents.

The school’s stated aim was rectifying behavioral issues underlying criminal activity in wayward kids, helping them correct their courses before they became adults.

That time was fast approaching for Doug. He finished his time at the school and turned 18 in January of ’76. He moved in with his brother Russell, who was then living in a mobile home in the city of Clearfield. Doug worked menial jobs to pay his way and spent his free time hunting, playing in the mountains and riding his dirt bike.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: Joyce arrived in Utah with her school-aged kids Kim and Greg and no safety net. She moved her little family in with her sister Dorothy, who lived in the suburb of Clearfield just west of Hill Air Force Base. Kim remembered her mother and Aunt Dot, as Dorothy was known, being very close.

Kim Salazar: They would laugh and laugh and laugh.

Dave Cawley: Joyce soon found work in the nearby city of Ogden. ZCMI, a now-defunct department store chain majority owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had a few years earlier opened a sprawling branch store at the corner of Ogden’s 24th Street and Washington Boulevard. Joyce took a sales position at the ZCMI cosmetics counter. Greg told me his mother did well at this, no doubt because she looked the part.

Greg Roberts: She would dress to the nines. And she had a lot of clothes and working at ZCMI and Bon Marché, she’d, she’d put things on hold and they’d go sale and further sale and further sale and she’d end up with these outfits for next to nothing.

Dave Cawley: Joyce had developed this sense of frugal fashion very young, inheriting it from her mother. She used it, paired with her gregarious personality, to great effect.

Greg Roberts: I still have ladies that will come up to me that ‘I knew your mother’ … happens all the time.

Dave Cawley: Securing steady work allowed Joyce to move out of her sister Dorothy’s home before long. She found a place not too far away, in the neighboring community of Sunset.

Kim Salazar: The landlord lived in the basement, him and his son and we lived upstairs.

Dave Cawley: She also met a man by the name of George Yost. George drove a Buick Electra 225, a car of Titanic proportions.

Greg Roberts: We could swim around the back of there. They’d take us to get ice cream and just always take a Sunday drive and go look at nice homes and things like that and go get ice cream at Farrs and nobody had seatbelts on.

Dave Cawley: Joyce and George married. This caught Mel Roberts, Joyce’s first husband, by surprise.

Mel Roberts: I don’t know what that whole deal was about. Maybe security, I don’t know.

Dave Cawley: The last 10 or so years of Joyce’s life had been turbulent but she seemed to be putting down new roots.

Greg Roberts: Her and George bought a home together, George Yost bought a home together.

Dave Cawley: This did not last.

Mel Roberts: She wasn’t married to him very long.

Greg Roberts: She was married to George Yost for about three years, umm, just while we were in kind of elementary school and junior high.

Dave Cawley: Joyce and George divorced after just a few short years, leaving her to once again provide as a single mother.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: Monan Lovell and his second wife, Dorothy rose early on the morning of January 6, 1977. They had plans down south in Salt Lake City. They were just on their way out the door when, at about 8:30 a.m., their phone rang.

Dorothy answered. A man on the other end of the line identified himself as officer Parks from the Ogden Police Department. Parks said he needed to speak with Dorothy’s then 21-year-old stepson, Royce. Dorothy said Royce was asleep, but given it was the police calling, she decided to wake him. She handed off the phone to Royce. Then, she and Monan left.

They returned about four hours later, around noon. When they came through the door of their home they saw Royce on the floor in a corner of the living room, between the couch and stereo. A small prescription pill bottle containing the psychotropic anti-anxiety medication Librium sat on a nearby table.

In a panic, Monan grabbed his son and pulled him into the center of the room, thinking he’d just passed out. Royce had not passed out. He was dead.

Royce’s brothers, Russell and Doug, were working together at the time. Monan called Russell and told him to grab Doug and get home, quick. They came through the door and saw Royce’s body.

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): My legs gave out and I found myself crawling to him. As I held my brother’s lifeless body in my arms, I remember pleading to him to wake up!

Dave Cawley: Again, those are Doug’s words, taken from a letter he wrote years later. Monan and Russell had to drag Doug, then just weeks shy of his 19th birthday, off Royce’s body. This demonstration of emotion was notable. Royce and Doug had been at one another’s throats constantly as children, but their relationship had deepened as teenagers.

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): I always seen my brother as being bigger than life. Just being with him I always felt safe and secure.

Dave Cawley: Yet, just the day before Royce’s death, he and Doug had had a furious fight. It didn’t quite come to blows, but it was close.

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): I remember us standing face-to-face shouting at each other. We were so close, I could feel the tiny splashes of spit and the warmth from his mouth.

Dave Cawley: Doug had expected to take a punch but Royce had instead walked away. After the fight, neither brother would reveal to the rest of the family just what it had been about.

Richie Steadman (as Doug Lovell): There was no doubt that I loved him! In fact, my love for Royce was so strong, I would have traded my life for his.

Dave Cawley: The police came. Monan and Dorothy told an officer what’d happened, how they’d found Royce in a bizarre position in a corner of the room. They mentioned the morning phone call from a man calling himself Parks with the Ogden police. The officer called Ogden PD and asked to speak with Parks, only to be told there was no such person employed with the department.

The officer noticed something else: a scrap of paper sitting on the floor near the front door. It appeared to be a page out of paperback book. Printed text on the page read “sugar and spice and everything nice, acid and smack no way back.”

This was the tagline from a best selling novel titled “Go Ask Alice” written by a woman named Beatrice Sparks. The book was originally marketed as a true account, taken from an anonymous teenage girl’s diary, of her slide into addiction and death. Sparks is dead now but her claim that the manuscript was a true account became a matter of some dispute later in her writing career.

Suffice it to say, the book carried a strong anti-drug message and was widely popular in the ‘70s. How a page of it came to be the same room as the body of Royce Lovell was not clear.

An autopsy would later reveal the presence of IV needle tracks on Royce’s arms and legs. Toxicology testing showed the presence of not only Librium, but also Valium and amphetamines in his system. The coroner listed the cause of death as an accidental overdose.

Monan had his doubts. He told investigators there were other circumstances surrounding the death that made him believe it was not an accident. Royce’s death just days before he was scheduled to act as a state’s witness in a robbery case.

At the mortuary, Monan noticed what he thought were bruises on Royce’s hands, neck and across the bridge of his nose. A small ceramic dog that typically sat on the fireplace mantle in the same room where Royce had died appeared to have been moved as well, suggesting to Monan someone might have used it as a bludgeon.

Police were never able to verify these suspicions and they closed the case.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: Joyce had not been divorced from her second husband George Yost for long before she became close with another man.

Greg Roberts: His name was … Floren B. Nelson … he was a big part of her life.

Dave Cawley: “Nails,” as he was better known, was an Air Force man. He’d been born in 1921 and played football for the University of Utah before joining the U.S. Army Air Corps six months after Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Nails ended up piloting the revered P-51 Mustang fighter during the Second World War’s waning months, flying combat missions over Europe. All of this before Joyce had even been born.

Nails owned a boat. On summer weekends he and Joyce would take it out on Willard Bay, a freshwater reservoir adjacent to the Great Salt Lake, where they’d fish for walleye.

Greg Roberts: She loved to sunbathe and she loved to go boating with Nails. It was a big, big part of her life.

Dave Cawley: Greg was in the 9th grade when he told his mom he’d decided what he wanted to be when he grew up.

Greg Roberts: Told her and her sister I wanted to be a dentist and they just thought that was so neat. And, y’know, we didn’t really have any dentists in the family and I wasn’t sure why I exactly chose that but they made quite a big deal of it and it kind of maybe made it a bigger goal of mine. To have their support.

Dave Cawley: Mel felt a little more skeptical of his son’s plan…

Mel Roberts: Yeah, I don’t know where he, where he ever came up with that. It was nothing I promoted, it was nothing Joyce promoted.

Dave Cawley: …but Greg had his mind set.

Mel Roberts: It was just something he wanted to do.”

Dave Cawley: Monan Lovell tried to counsel his wayward son, asking why Doug kept breaking the law. It seemed to Monan that Doug had the mind of a 13-year-old, even though he was approaching 20. His single piece of advice: stop committing crimes.

Doug didn’t listen. He was picked up for possession of a controlled substance in late ’77 and sent to jail for three months.

Doug went out and stole some lumber around this same time and was charged and convicted of felony theft. In fact, he had two separate theft cases going simultaneously in two different counties. They each qualified for prison sentences. But the two judges, after comparing notes, opted for probation. This was rather remarkable, considering Doug’s rap sheet.

There was a hitch, though. Doug had to serve out part of that probation period at the Lakehills Community Corrections Center, a halfway house in Salt Lake City. There, Doug was to receive training and treatment to help him reform his pattern of bad behavior.

Doug had to live at Lakehills during the week, but was free to hold a daytime job and to spend Saturdays and Sundays offsite. A far less restrictive punishment than prison.

He attended a party with a girlfriend in the city of Roy while away from Lakehills on one such weekend. The party was well underway by the time he arrived. A young woman he knew — not the girl he was there with — spotted him coming through the door. She stood up.

“Lovell, what are you doing,” she asked. “It’s been so long.”

Her name was Rhonda Buttars. Doug and Rhonda had first met as kids, when they’d shared the same 6th grade class at Club Heights Elementary School. They’d never been close, but were acquainted through junior high and high school. That is, right up until Doug’d dropped out.

Doug and Rhonda started chatting, much to the annoyance of Doug’s date. He eventually took that young lady home, then returned to the party to continue flirting with Rhonda. They ended up leaving the party together later that night in Rhonda’s Camero.

They bumped into one another again a short time later, while attending a funeral for a mutual friend. From this sprang the seed of a relationship. They started dating. Rhonda would drive down to Lakehills on Friday nights and pick up her new boyfriend. They’d go to dinner or the movies before Rhonda would drop Doug off at his dad’s or brother’s place. Then, on Sunday nights, she’d return him to the halfway house.

This continued until April of ’78 when Doug completed his time at Lakehills and once again became a free man.

[Ad break]

Dave Cawley: Closing time was fast approaching at the U-Save Market. The grocery store at the corner of Ogden’s 7th Street and Monroe Boulevard typically locked its doors for the day at 8 p.m.

Bill Workman, the manager at the store’s front end, was in the process of counting the day’s receipts when, at 7:52 p.m., two men came through the door. One of them, pot-bellied and wearing a plaid flannel shirt unbuttoned down the front, carried a hand gun. A nylon stocking obscured his face. The second man, who was thinner, followed a step behind.

The lead man pointed the gun at Bill and told him to take him to the safe the safe and open it, which Bill did. The second man then grabbed a pair of cash drawers which held the bulk of the day’s sales.

As this was happening, another U-Save employee named Kellie Sherrod was closing up her station at the back corner of the building. She wasn’t able to hear the commotion up front.

Kellie Farr (née Sherrod): The store was really quite a large store.

Dave Cawley: Kellie was 18, fresh out of high school and working at the U-Save Market six nights a week.

Kellie Farr (née Sherrod): That particular day in August I was working the drive-in window and doing the gas pumps.

Dave Cawley: The drive-up window allowed customers to pull up in their car, ask the clerk there for a few items and then pay without having to step foot inside.

Kellie Farr (née Sherrod): People line up in their car to get their last, I dunno, gallon of milk or soda or cottage cheese. ‘Can you run across the store and get me some cottage cheese?’

Dave Cawley: Come closing time, it was Kellie’s job to shut down her station. That meant going outside to lock a metal grate over the window, to disconnect an air compressor hose and to record readings on a set of gas pumps located in the parking lot.

Kellie Farr (née Sherrod): I would have to subtract the digits from the day before and that way they could measure how much gas had been used.

Dave Cawley: Kellie carried a pen and notebook for this task. She stepped out into an alley behind the store and was startled to see a car parked there…

Kellie Farr (née Sherrod): It was a four-door Oldsmobile. I think it was a Cutlass Supreme.

Dave Cawley: …along with a man crouched down near the back bumper. The car was parked near the air compressor hose. Kellie thought maybe he was filling a flat tire. Except…

Kellie Farr (née Sherrod): He wasn’t using the air hose. I popped it off of the building and I rolled it up and set it just on the ground. I didn’t take it back in.

Dave Cawley: Many cars built in the ‘60s had their fuel caps tucked away behind the rear license plate. Kellie next thought the man might be stuffing a rag down the tank’s filler pipe.

Kellie Farr (née Sherrod): ‘Cause I thought he had lost his cap.

Dave Cawley: She had to walk past the car — and the man — in order to perform her other tasks.

Kellie Farr (née Sherrod): So I said hello to him. He jumped up.

Dave Cawley: Kellie told me the man acknowledged her with a hello of his own.

Kellie Farr (née Sherrod): I knew he was close to my age just by, he had long hair, a very distinct mustache which I noted, and I noted he had the same color of blue eyes as I did. That’s how close I was to him.

Dave Cawley: She continued past him, rounding the northeast corner of the building. She walked out to the gas pumps, then turned around to face back toward the building.

Kellie Farr (née Sherrod): And I was standing at the gas pump and I noted that that car had kind of pulled out.

Dave Cawley: Just then, two men came running around the front side of the store off to Kellie’s left. They were sprinting. She saw one of them had a handgun.

Kellie Farr (née Sherrod): And these two individuals running down the side of the store took nylon stockings off their heads.

Dave Cawley: The front-end manager, Bill Workman, wasn’t far behind.

Kellie Farr (née Sherrod): He didn’t chase them, just to the edge and he yelled ‘We’re being robbed.’ And that just changed my whole thing. Y’know, I’m thinking ‘Okay, I’m gonna write down a license plate.’

Dave Cawley: The two men dove into the car before she could do anything of the sort. The heavier guy — with the gun — landed in the back seat. He noticed her standing at the gas pumps, staring.

Kellie Farr (née Sherrod): The guy in the back seat told me ‘If you know what’s good, you’ll stand.’ So I stood.

Dave Cawley: Tires squealed in a burnout as the young man with the mustache stomped on the accelerator.

Kellie Farr (née Sherrod): And I actually saw the license plate when they pulled out, I had a notebook and I thought ‘I’ll just write down the license plate.’ It was covered. So he was not putting a rag in the gas tank for a missing cap. He was covering the license plate.

Dave Cawley: The car roared into traffic and disappeared. Kellie scribbled down a few notes about what she’d seen. They proved useful when Ogden police showed up minutes later.

Kellie Farr (née Sherrod): Went out and talked to me about where were you standing and what did you do? Kind of re-enactment. Wrote a verbal report. Probably spent at least an hour, hour and a half with them, talking to us.

Dave Cawley: Meantime, other officers were tracking down the car. They found it parked outside an apartment two miles to the north. Cash and change littered the floorboard, along with a box of .22-caliber ammunition.

The officers knocked on the apartment door with their own guns drawn. A man wearing a blue flowered shirt answered and handed over his ID, which bore the name Ray Dodge. Ray was the guy who’d grabbed the cash drawers from the U-Save Market’s safe.

Ray had spent much of his adult life in prison. He was also smart — a judge would later peg his IQ at 126 — and he’d earned a reputation while incarcerated as a crafty litigator. In the late ‘60s he’d mounted a legal challenge on behalf of some fellow state prison inmates, resulting in 29 of them going free.

There were two other people in the apartment with Ray, but neither matched the descriptions of the gunman or getaway driver. The officers interviewed them and determined the driver, the guy with the bushy mustache, was a 20-year-old man named Doug Lovell.

Doug had swapped into another car, a ’73 Pontiac Grand Am, as soon as he’d arrived at the apartment with Ray and the other robber. The officers put an APB out on the Pontiac and a Utah Highway Patrol trooper found it abandoned behind a carwash a couple hours later. Police wasted no time securing an arrest warrant for Doug. He surrendered the following day.

Ogden police soon identified the other robber as Sherrill Chestnut. Like Ray Dodge, Sherrill was a career criminal. He’d first gone to prison in the ‘50s for burglary. Soon after his release in ’65, Sherrill had taken a pair of Utah Highway Patrol troopers captive at gunpoint during a traffic stop.

How had a young man like Doug Lovell fallen in with these kinds of hardened felons, both of whom were at least 20 years his senior?

Kellie Farr (née Sherrod): He to me was a young kid that was doing the wrong thing, y’know at that point.

Dave Cawley: Kellie picked Sherrill, Ray and Doug from a line-up. And she realized it wasn’t the first time she’d seen their faces.

Kellie Farr (née Sherrod): I knew when I picked those guys out of the lineup I had seen them in the store.

Dave Cawley: They’d cased the store and planned the heist. They’d known what time to arrive and where to park the getaway car to avoid being seen. They’d made sure to obscure their faces and had accounted for contingencies.

Kellie Farr (née Sherrod): Other than I don’t believe they knew what the back window cashier did, coming out and that.

Dave Cawley: Doug could have rolled over on his accomplices, but didn’t. It made little difference, as Sherrill and Ray were quickly convicted and sent back to prison. Although Doug had only acted as the getaway driver, under the law he was just as culpable. Prosecutors filed a first-degree felony charge of armed robbery against him. He went to trial in November of ’78.

Kellie Farr (née Sherrod): I did get called as a witness to go to court on Doug Lovell.

Dave Cawley: Kellie felt a little nervous, but also confident about what she’d seen. That confidence only grew on the day of her testimony.

Kellie Farr (née Sherrod): He’s cleaned up, he’s in a business suit, y’know what I mean? But I knew it was him. There was no question.

Dave Cawley: He had supporters in the courtroom, his new girlfriend Rhonda Buttars among them. The judge had assigned Doug a public defender by the name of John Caine. John was a young, up-and-coming lawyer who’d been admitted to the bar in the fall of ’73 and almost immediately gone to work on a major death penalty case: the Ogden Hi-Fi Shop murders. I’ll have more to say about that in a later episode.

Caine’s defense proved insufficient. Kellie — the only witness who could place Doug at the scene of the robbery — shared her account with the jury.

Kellie Farr (née Sherrod): I do know that his role was to drive that car.

Dave Cawley: The eight jurors found Doug guilty. Utah law set the penalty for the crime of aggravated robbery at no less than five years in prison and possibly up to life. But when Doug went back to court for sentencing a couple of weeks later, Judge Ronald Hyde said he would not be sending Doug to prison.

He instead enrolled Doug in a course known as the “public offenders program” at the Utah State Hospital. This was a treatment-focused inpatient program for “emotionally disturbed” individuals.

The state hospital, an asylum, operated under the direction of the Utah Division of Mental Health. Doug would have to meet guidelines set by an agency called Adult Probation and Parole but if he kept out of trouble he could serve a much-abbreviated term at the hospital while retaining many of his personal freedoms.

Just as he’d done at the halfway house and the state institutional school. It didn’t work. A parole officer wrote Doug up for failing to abide by the treatment program the following June. Judge Hyde ordered Doug back to court and imposed the original sentence. So on August 8, 1979, almost one year since the robbery, Doug found himself reunited with his accomplices Ray Dodge and Sherrill Chestnut as an inmate at the Utah State Prison.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: Joyce Yost’s daughter, Kim Roberts, met a young man through some mutual friends not long after starting classes at Roy High School. His name was Randy Salazar. Randy would at times drop by to visit Kim at her mom’s place. That’s how he was first introduced to Joyce…

Randy Salazar: She was a good lady. She was a hard worker. I’ll tell you what.

Dave Cawley: …as well as Kim’s younger brother, Greg…

Greg Roberts: I remember we then lived in like the Hertfordshire Apartments in Roy.

Dave Cawley: …and even Joyce’s boyfriend Nails and her sister, Dorothy.

Randy Salazar: Whenever there was a barbecue they, when we all got together, old Dot would be out there with her little drink and her cigarette and Joyce would be out there too and we’d just, yeah we used to have some pretty good times with them people.

Dave Cawley: Randy was a few years older than Kim. He graduated ahead of her. They stayed in touch and even started dating. That progressed to marriage in 1979. Randy was 20 and Kim was 17.

Greg Roberts: She loved Randy. Just loved Randy.

Kim Salazar: (Laughs)

Greg Roberts: He’s a character.

Dave Cawley: Kim had married young, just like her mother. Randy, for his part, got along very well with his new mother-in-law.

Randy Salazar: I mean, there’s some times she gave me some advice, y’know, some stern advice. Y’know, which is good.

Dave Cawley: Joyce was herself only 33 years old at that point, but she’d been through two marriages and knew a bit about relationships. She was still dating Nails, who’d been married before and had children of his own. Neither Joyce nor Nails seemed in any kind of rush to get married themselves. They’d moved in together though, sharing a condo just west of Weber State University. Greg, who was still in high school, lived with them. Randy sometimes joked to his young bride if she looked as good as her mother did in her 30s, he’d be a lucky man.

Randy Salazar: She was a very, very — and I’ll say — beautiful lady. She was, I mean she was always dressed to the max. Her lips were always just red with another tint on the of, of lipstick. Her hair was always fixed up nice. Her makeup, I mean she was just, she was very, very beautiful lady. She was.

Dave Cawley: It wasn’t just Joyce’s physical appearance that impressed Randy.

Randy Salazar: She was a hard-working, darn good provider.

Dave Cawley: Not only did Joyce work full-time at ZCMI…

Randy Salazar: She used to sell Estée Lauder, Estée Lauder and uh, and she was pretty darn good at it, too.

Dave Cawley: …she also supplemented her income cocktail waitressing at night.

Greg Roberts: Elks Club, Blue Monaco was in Roy. What’s the name of that one in Riverdale?

Kim Salazar: Lamplight?

Greg Roberts: The Lamplight.

Dave Cawley: Joyce would come home from her shift at the club after 1 a.m., knowing she had to rise early the next morning to be back at the cosmetics counter.

Kim Salazar: She did it so we had everything that we ever wanted or needed. She made sure of that. But we didn’t have a lot of time with her.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: Doug Lovell was two days shy of the one-year anniversary of his arrival at the Utah State Prison when he received his chance to go before the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole on August 6, 1980.

The Board of Pardons had, and still has today, broad authority under the Utah Constitution. It’s the Board of Pardons, not any judge, that decides how much time someone who is sent to prison by the state courts really serves. Impress the board and you can shorten your stay.

Board hearings are audio recorded. Those recordings should be retained in the state archives. But when I asked the board for a copy of Doug’s 1980 parole hearing I was told it no longer existed. It was just too old.

What I can tell you, based on other paper records, is Doug presented as a model inmate at his hearing. He succeeded in winning over the board members.

No one had bothered to ask Kellie, the grocery store clerk whose testimony had helped convict Doug…

Kellie Farr (née Sherrod): No, I was never notified.

Dave Cawley: …and maybe it wouldn’t have mattered.

Kellie Farr (née Sherrod): I didn’t see him as a threat that particular day, other than y’know being scared of what was going on.

Dave Cawley: He’d only been the wheelman. At his trial, Doug had presented as an impressionable kid pushed into the crime by two notorious older felons.

Doug had entered a program upon arrival at the prison called “First Offenders.” It was designed for inmates who were young and in on their first felonies. The program operated out of the prison’s special services dormitory, or SSD, a minimum-security section where inmates were afforded more luxuries than in most other housing units. Doug had quickly discovered good behavior was advantageous. It allowed him to remain in SSD.

The judge had sentenced Doug to a term of five years to life. The parole board decided because of his model behavior he should serve just half of the minimum: two-and-a-half years. They scheduled his parole date for February 9, 1982.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: Kim and Randy Salazar were still establishing themselves when, about a year into their marriage, Kim learned she was pregnant.

Randy Salazar: I remember Joyce saying ‘Now, this baby’s not going to call me grandma.’ … She said ‘This baby’s going to call me Joyce.’ And as time went on and it got closer, I remember she couldn’t wait to be called grandma.

Dave Cawley: Kim gave birth to a daughter, Melisa, in December of 1980. Joyce met her first granddaughter.

Greg Roberts: So she was a rockin’ 34-year-old grandma. She loved it.

Kim Salazar: Yep. She did.

Greg Roberts: She soaked up every minute of it.

Dave Cawley: Joyce had always gone all out on Christmas.

Kim Salazar: Oh my gosh. That’s an understatement.

Randy Salazar: There’d be the Christmas tree and there wouldn’t be much carpet left. Because she would, I mean she would shop and shop and man, she tried to give you any gift, any gift she thought of you during the year, it was underneath that tree.

Dave Cawley: Tradition dictated Joyce take her children over to her sister Dorothy’s house each Christmas Eve. The two sisters were known to gab for hours.

Kim Salazar: Y’know, when we were little we’d cry because it was time to go ‘cause we were going to miss Santa Claus and they’d be laughing and carrying on and we wouldn’t be going and we’d be mad.

Dave Cawley: As Kim and Greg had grown, they’d found themselves more and more a part of the family’s traditions.

Greg Roberts: We’d beg to open one gift. Just beg and beg and beg. And they’d, they had a little strategy you’d always get something kind of—

Kim Salazar: Kind of lame.

Greg Roberts: Baseball glove full of bad cologne or something.

Dave Cawley: Now that Kim had a baby of her own, born just two weeks before Christmas, Joyce shifted her focus to her little granddaughter.

Randy Salazar: And Joyce just, she bought her so many Christmas presents, by the time Christmas was there, it was crazy. And she just loved her, y’know, Melisa couldn’t open the gifts, so she would open the gifts a little bit and show her, like Melisa really didn’t care but Joyce got a lot of enjoyment out of it.

Dave Cawley: The early ‘80s brought some hard years, not just for Joyce but also for millions of people in United States. The nation went through back-to-back recessions in ’81 and ’82. At its worst, the unemployment rate climbed above 10%. Randy found a job in the shops of the Utah Transit Authority. It required that he work in Salt Lake City, so he and Kim moved south.

Randy Salazar: I think it was kind of hard on her because Kim wasn’t around a lot so we, so tried to come back every weekend.”

Greg had finished high school and enrolled at Utah State University.

Greg Roberts: I’d come home on the weekends and she’d do my laundry and pack me up with groceries, y’know.

Dave Cawley: Greg’s dream of becoming a dentist had dimmed. Mel Roberts told me he’d encouraged his son to pursue a different path.

Mel Roberts: His first quarter was in computer science. And he hated it.

Dave Cawley: Joyce split up with her longtime boyfriend, Nails, and moved out of their condo. She landed in a small apartment, the bottom left-hand unit of a four-plex on 40th Street in South Ogden.

Randy Salazar: And she used to lay out in her front yard all the time and after we had Melisa, she would be out on the lawn in the summertime with Melisa and just being a good grandma.

Dave Cawley:  Kim and Randy welcomed a second daughter, Melanie, at the beginning of 1982. Joyce and her sister Dorothy would often make the two-hour drive to West Wendover, Nevada on the weekends, where they would play the slots. Randy remembered once running into her there while he was visiting Wendover with his parents.

Randy Salazar: She told me ‘You ought to just play a dollar machine instead of those, instead of those dime and nickel machines.’ And I said ‘I don’t know.’ I said, ‘Man, I haven’t got the money.’ ‘Just try it.’ So I did it. And I hit a hundred dollars like, just right away and back then man, a hundred dollars to me was a lot of money. … Just right after that … I hit another hundred dollars. … And Joyce was kind of laughing at me and saying ‘See, see? You can do it.’

Dave Cawley: Joyce even slipped away to Wendover by herself on occasion. She didn’t always bother to tell Kim or Greg about those impromptu trips.

Randy Salazar: So she’d call her all weekend and then Kim would worry about her and I’d have to say ‘Kim, she’s alright. That’s, that’s your mom. You know your mom.’

Dave Cawley: Greg decided to switch schools after finishing his first year at Utah State. He transferred to Weber State College, which sat just east of Joyce’s apartment. She had a spare bedroom and invited her son to move in, which he did.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: Rhonda Buttars had not waited for Doug Lovell after he went to prison in 1979. In fact, she’d soon married another man named Richard Ryan Scullin. They’d had a baby in ’81, a little girl they’d named Alisha. Their relationship had proven rocky, though. Rhona felt unhappy and, by ’82, was considering divorce. This was a daunting proposition. Rhonda thought about separating from her husband moving back home with her parents. While visiting them one day, she received a phone call from Doug Lovell.

The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole had let Doug out even earlier than planned. He’d left prison in January of ’82 and rented an apartment at a place called Pepper Ridge in Clearfield. His finances were in shambles. Upon his release, Doug’s parents had connected him with an employee at their credit union: a woman named Susan Yerage.

Susan Yerage (from 1992 police interview): I first met Doug when I was collection, ah, officer, in the collection department and I was collecting on a loan that he’d had prior to going to prison.

Dave Cawley: Susan was 10 years older than Doug. He seemed like a child to her…

Susan Yerage (from 1992 police interview): Young kid. Sandy blond hair, bushy mustache, slight frame.

Dave Cawley: …and she did what she could to help him sort out the mess he’d made.

Part of Doug’s post-prison plan involved rekindling his romance with Rhonda. On this phone call in early ’82, Doug told Rhonda she should forget about moving back with her parents and instead move in with him at his new apartment. Rhonda vacillated. Her attorney had told her the divorce would go more smoothly if she wasn’t cohabiting with another man.

“You’re so wishy-washy,” Doug had said. “I wish you’d just make up your mind.”

Rhonda chose to move in with Doug at the Pepper Ridge Apartments. She brought her daughter Alisha with her but soon found this led to problems. Doug told Rhonda when he looked Alisha all he could see was her estranged husband.

Rhonda told her friends Doug scared her. They argued a lot. She would take Alisha and leave when their fights became heated. Sometimes for a day, sometimes for a week. But he always lured her back.

Late on the evening of January 14, 1983, Doug, Rhonda and Alisha were together in that little apartment watching TV when they heard a pounding at the door. Doug leapt up as the door jamb splintered around the deadbolt. A final thump sounded and the door swung inward, revealing a man standing on the threshold: Rhonda’s husband.

Doug and Rhonda’s extramarital relationship was not a secret to Ryan Scullin. But, according to police reports, he’d had a few drinks that night and decided to confront them about it. They grappled, rolling out of the apartment into parking lot.

Clearfield police, responding to reports of a domestic dispute, arrived minutes later to separate the two men. They arrested Ryan on suspicion of burglary, disturbing the peace and assault on a police officer. Official reports listed Doug Lovell as the victim.

Later that same year, Doug and Rhonda moved out of his little apartment. They upsized, renting a little house near the border of Clearfield and the neighboring city of Sunset. They’d been there a few months when, in October of ’83, Rhonda went in to Clearfield police headquarters. She told an officer Doug had told her he intended to kill her ex-husband. She took the threat seriously because of their fight back in January, as well as Doug’s criminal history.

According to a police report, Rhonda explained she’d moved out of Doug’s house and back in with her ex. The officer warned Rhonda it could prove difficult securing a restraining order, due to the different jurisdictions. They arranged to talk with the city attorney about that issue the next day.

That meeting never happened. The officer called Rhonda a little while later to find out why. She told him she’d changed her mind. She no longer believed Doug was a threat, or that he intended to kill her ex. Police closed the case as unfounded.

Rhonda’s reunion with Ryan Scullin didn’t last long. Doug Lovell lured her back. On January 22, 1984, Doug and Rhonda married in Elko, Nevada.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: Kim Salazar delivered her third child — a son named Michael — just days after Christmas in 1983. Joyce Yost now had three grandchildren.

Kim Salazar: Oh man, it just made her whole world. She was so excited.

Dave Cawley: Her first grandchild, Melisa, was growing old enough to accompany grandma Joyce on trips into downtown Ogden.

Kim Salazar: She had got her one of those little furry muff things for your hands ‘cause ladies didn’t put their hands in their pockets and, y’know, just always trying to make her be just, just right.

Dave Cawley: Joyce had become good friends over the years with a man named Gordon Kaufman and his wife, Terry.

Greg Roberts: They’d go to lunch at the Tiffen Room at ZCMI and they all just became real tight friends.

Dave Cawley: Gordon was a fixture of the downtown Ogden business community. He’d managed a Morgan Jewelers location near Joyce’s work for 20 years before opening his own store. Joyce sometimes took Melisa there to show her off.

Kim Salazar: She remembers the big chandelier when you’d walk into the jewelry store and she knew better than to touch anything in there.

Dave Cawley: The Kaufmans weren’t the only people to whom Joyce expressed pride over her grandkids.

Greg Roberts: One of my favorite photos is that picture of mom holding Melisa.”

Kim Salazar: At the parade.

Greg Roberts: Downtown Ogden—

Kim Salazar: She used to drive her convertible car.

Greg Roberts: The Ogden temple is in the background and she’s just glowing with holding, holding Melissa in her arms.

Dave Cawley: Joyce owned a 1976 Oldsmobile Delta 88 convertible.

Randy Salazar: And she used to drive around town with that, with that car that probably weighed, oh hell, I don’t know how much it weighed but it probably only got like five miles to the gallon.

Kim Salazar: Sometimes the top wouldn’t work and—

Greg Roberts: (Laughs)

Kim Salazar: She wasn’t going to be late for work. She would literally drive that car with the top down—

Greg Roberts: Holding onto it.

Kim Salazar: —in the rain holding an umbrella. She was crazy. She did some funny stuff.

Dave Cawley: These kinds of little setbacks were nothing compared to the blow that landed on Joyce when ZCMI informed her the company was terminating her employment after 12 years of faithful service.

Kim Salazar: She always thought that that was why they let her go was just because she, she was just about to be eligible for their retirement plan.

Dave Cawley: A more bittersweet heartbreak came in the summer of ’84. Her son Greg had completed his undergraduate studies and was accepted into dental school, out of state.

Randy Salazar: And I’ll tell you what, she was so proud of him.

Dave Cawley: Greg packed his things into a little U-Haul trailer, which he hitched to the back of his Honda Accord for the 2,100 mile drive to the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond.

Greg Roberts: I just remember pulling away from her, y’know? (Cries)

Dave Cawley: Joyce and Greg had always been close but they’d grown especially so during those two years he’d spent living with her while in college.

Randy Salazar: After he left, I think she was a little lonely, y’know? She, I mean those two were like buddy buddies.

Dave Cawley: She filled that void by deepening her social life. Joyce dated several men — none of them seriously — and found a new job working for the Weinstock’s department store in the Fashion Place mall, 40 miles south in the city of Murray.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: Doug Lovell went to the Ogden Main branch of America First Credit Union on Saturday, January 26, 1985 with his wife Rhonda and her then-three-year-old daughter, Alisha. He was there to secure financing on a car. And he knew just the person to see: Susan Yerage. Doug told Susan he wanted to buy the car from a dealership in town called Lincoln Auto.

Susan Yerage (from 1992 police interview): It was a red RX-7.

Dave Cawley: This audio, I should mention, as well as the earlier bits from Susan in this episode, came from a later police interview recording. Susan knew cars from Lincoln Auto were sometimes problematic. Lincoln dealt with a lot of wrecked and salvage vehicles.

Susan Yerage (from 1992 police interview): And I went out and looked the car car and inspected it to make sure that the car existed and the serial number matched.

Dave Cawley: Doug, Rhonda and Rhonda’s little daughter Alisha followed Susan into the parking lot. Susan could see the car was all there: a small, sporty Mazda coupe with flip-up headlights.

Susan Yerage (from 1992 police interview): And he just talked about how excited he was about having the car.

Dave Cawley: The car wasn’t the most practical choice for a family, but Doug didn’t mind. He could afford it, as well as the home he was renting, thanks to a job he’d secured with the help of his father. His dad had pulled strings to land Doug a gig driving a cement truck. Susan determined the Mazda was in good shape.

Susan Yerage (from 1992 police interview): I booked out the vehicle for 9,400 dollars and he only needed 7,000 dollars to purchase it.

Dave Cawley: The credit union cut Doug a check for $7,000. But his name wasn’t the only one on the “pay to the order of” line. Below it was the name Marvin Fluckiger.

I’ll get back to Marvin in a later episode. For now, just know the calendar turned from January to February. That month, Doug arrived at the credit union with his paycheck. He strolled into the lobby, made his deposit and applied some of the money toward the car loan. While there, he dropped by Susan’s desk and noted the huge array of yellow roses arranged on her credenza.

“Oh, I see you got the flowers,” Doug said.

Realization dawned on Susan just who her secret “friend” was.

Susan Yerage (from 1992 police interview): He told me he was the one that sent them. And I told him it was ridiculous, that he had a family. It was stupid for him to be spending his money like that.

Dave Cawley: A small thank you gift was one thing, but two straight weeks of roses every other day was over the top. It’d freaked her out. Susan told Doug she had a mind to call his parents and tell them what he’d done.

Susan Yerage (from 1992 police interview): Oh yeah. Oh, he knew about it. I mean, I could have wrung his neck for it.

Dave Cawley: Doug seemed crushed, as though he didn’t understand why Susan hadn’t seen the flowers as the nice gesture he’d intended.

Susan Yerage (from 1992 police interview): I let him have it from one end to the other and first place why are you spending money and that was stupid to be doing that and he scared the living bejesus out of me.

Dave Cawley: Little did she know, Doug was about to do something far worse.

[Scene transition]

Dave Cawley: Rays of sunlight scattered across the waters of the Great Salt Lake’s Farmington Bay. A little to the east, a big boat of a car pulled into a parking stall outside of a strip mall in the city of Clearfield. Joyce Yost stepped out of her convertible and headed for the door of a supper club called the Pier III. It was midweek, a Wednesday evening, and she was stopping off on her way home from work to meet a friend.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police interview): A gentleman friend at the Pier 3 at approximately 7 o’clock for dinner.

Dave Cawley: That’s Joyce’s own voice, from one of the only known recordings of her, describing what happened on this night of April 3, 1985. And let me say, this season will include a lot of rough audio like this from old analog tapes. Some were made under less-than-ideal circumstances. Others are second or third generation copies. I’ve done my best to clean them up. Alright, back to the story.

Joyce and her friend, a man named Lex Baer, spent the better part of three hours that April evening at the Pier.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police interview): We had a couple of drinks and we had dinner and we danced a couple of times.

Dave Cawley: Lex was 62 years old to Joyce’s 39. The age gap didn’t bother her. Many of her closest friends were older, including her sister Dorothy as well as Gordon and Terry Kaufman. And Joyce had dated older men before, like her ex-boyfriend Nails. As the evening waned, Joyce and Lex prepared to leave. They walked out of the Pier III together at about a quarter after 10.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police interview): And the gentleman I was with had his own vehicle and I had my mine own, my own vehicle and he walked me to my car, in fact he gave me a kiss at my car, said ‘Goodnight.’

Dave Cawley: She pulled out of the parking lot and headed for South Ogden. She went from stoplight to stoplight, her mind on the events of the day and on the social outing she’d just enjoyed.

Joyce Yost (from April 4, 1985 police interview): Not realizing anybody was following me. Not really paying any attention to see if anybody was following me.

Dave Cawley: Somebody was following her. A little red Mazda with flip-up headlights bobbed in the rearview.

Ep 1: The Type that Sends Roses

The only Joyce Yost picture most people have ever seen, if they’ve seen any at all, is an image captured on film shortly before her disappearance in August of 1985.

Joyce had sat for a series of professional portraits that summer at a photo studio in Ogden, Utah where she was then working with her daughter, Kim Salazar.

One of the last photos of Joyce Yost prior to her disappearance in August, 1985.
One of the last photos of Joyce Yost prior to her disappearance in August, 1985. Family members provided this Joyce Yost picture to police and the media. Photo: Joyce Yost family

This Joyce Yost picture was the one appeared in news paper stories and TV reports about her disappearance.

“They weren’t her favorite pictures of herself at all,” Joyce’s son Greg Roberts told me. “But there’s not a lot of other ones we have.”

“Binky” from Bemidji

Joyce was born on January 3, 1946 to George and Hulda Figel. She was the third of three children in the family, though her older sisters Dorothy and Edna were 19 and 18 years her senior, respectively.

Joyce Figel (right) with her sisters Edna (center) and Dorothy (left), date unknown. Photo: Joyce Yost family

Joyce earned the nickname “Binky” as a child, thanks to her fondness for that particular brand of pacifier.

The Figel family lived on a farm on the outskirts of Bemidji, Minn., a college town near the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Joyce was still a child when her parents divorced, leaving her to be raised by her mother and sisters.

When in junior high school, Joyce met a boy named Mel Roberts.

Mel, who was three years older than Joyce, remembered her as a “typical northern Minnesota country girl” who took great care to keep up her physical appearance.

“She was always dressed to the nines, hair was always impeccable.”

Mel Roberts

Mel graduated high school and enrolled at Bemidji State College while still dating Joyce. He hadn’t been there long before his younger girlfriend delivered some life-changing news: she was pregnant.

The announcement came as a shock to Joyce’s mother, Hulda Figel.

“We were all raised Lutherans and she was gonna put her in a Lutheran home and give the baby up for adoption,” Roberts said of Figel’s reaction.

Mel proposed a different solution. He would drop out of college, find a steady job and marry Joyce.

Family album of Joyce Yost pictures

Mel Roberts and Joyce Figel wed in January of 1962.

Joyce Yost and Mel Roberts at their wedding
Mel Roberts and Joyce Figel at the church on their wedding day in 1962. Photo: Joyce Yost family

Mel began knocking doors at businesses in the hopes of finding work. He ended up in the office of a manager at a metal stamping company.

“He said ‘do you have a girl pregnant?’ And I looked at him like he was on Mars,” Mel said. “Come to find out his son was in the same circumstances. Similar age to me. And honest to God, I think that’s probably why he hired me.”

Their first child, a daughter they named Kim, arrived that May. Joyce was, by that time, 16 years old. Mel was 19. He, his young bride and their baby girl relocated to an apartment in Minneapolis.

Mel Roberts, Joyce Yost, Kim Salazar and Greg Roberts
Mel and Joyce Roberts holding their children, Kim and Greg, likely on the day of Greg’s baptism in 1963. Photo: Joyce Yost family

Joyce soon became pregnant again and in June of 1963, she and her husband welcomed their second child: a son whom they named Greg.

Sun goddess

Mel and Joyce Roberts led busy lives, even at such young ages. He worked full time during the days while she watched the children. They made friends with their neighbors in Minneapolis, but found their responsibilities left them little time for socializing.

“We didn’t even know what day it was back then,” Roberts said. “You look back on how you survived and it was pretty amazing.”

Joyce Yost ironing board sunbathing
Joyce enjoyed spending time sunbathing or, as in this undated photo, doing her laundry in the sun. Photo: Joyce Yost family

Mel remembered Joyce as a dedicated mother. He said she would sometimes drag the ironing board out onto the lawn so she could press the laundry in the sun.

“She was a sun goddess,” Roberts said. “She’d lay out in the sun when it was 40 degrees out.”

Joyce’s divorce

The strain of their situation began to mount.

“I would work during the day and then she had a job in the evenings,” Mel said.

Joyce mostly waited tables. She didn’t make much, finding her earning power limited due in part to her having dropped out of school. Yet she was diligent in her efforts to help provide.

“Had we not been so young, I’m pretty sure the relationship would have been far more successful,” Mel said.

“He loved her then and he loves her now. He’s always loved her. If they hadn’t been so young, they would have had a great life together.”

Kim Salazar, née Roberts

Mel and Joyce divorced after only a few years. They remained cordial, however. Mel had grown close not only with Joyce but also with her sisters. Yet Joyce’s sisters had each relocated away from Minnesota, leaving her with little support in her home state.

Mel remembered Joyce struggling during the years following their split.

“Struggling financially and I think she was struggling emotionally as well,” Mel said.

The Vietnam War was underway and the U.S. Army drafted Mel. By 1968 he was deployed to Korea, leaving Joyce without a reason to remain in Minnesota.

Joyce’s move to Utah

Joyce’s oldest sister, Dorothy “Dot” Dial, had by that point in the late 1960s moved to Utah and settled in the city of Clearfield, just west of Hill Air Force Base. Joyce decided to make a fresh start by following Dorothy to Utah.

“We were just barely school age,” Joyce’s son Greg Roberts said. 

They lived for a time with Dorothy before Joyce found a place of her own in the neighboring community of Sunset.

Joyce Yost, Kim Salazar and Greg Roberts in Utah
Joyce and her children, Kim and Greg, lived in Sunset, Clearfield and Roy, Utah during the 1970s. Photo: Joyce Yost family

Joyce had not been in Utah long before she met and married her second husband, a man named George Yost.

“Her and George bought a home together,” Greg Roberts said. “George had a big Buick Electra 225. We could swim around the back of there.”

George Yost, Joyce Yost and a Buick Electra 225
George and Joyce Yost pose in front of their Buick Electra 225, date and location unknown. Photo: Joyce Yost family

Joyce’s marriage to George Yost lasted only a few years. She and her children, Kim and Greg, found themselves on the move again after the divorce. They lived for a time in the city of Roy, where Kim and Greg attended school.

Joyce worked constantly to support herself. She secured a position selling cosmetics at the ZCMI department store in downtown Ogden during the day and supplemented her income working as a cocktail waitress at night.

“All the time we were growing up, she worked two and three jobs at a time,” Joyce’s daughter Kim Salazar told me. “We never wanted for anything except maybe her.”

That want would only intensify after Joyce Yost disappeared.

Hear how a mysterious barrage of roses relates to Joyce Yost’s disappearance in Cold episode 1: The Type that Sends Roses.

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:
KSL companion story:
Talking Cold companion episode:

Corpus Delicti

One of the most enduring questions to linger long after the disappearance of Susan Powell was this: why had prosecutors not charged Susan’s husband Josh Powell with her murder?

Introducing the second season of the Cold podcast: Justice for Joyce. Hear it for free on Amazon Music starting April 7.

The filing of formal charges against Josh would have allowed West Valley City, Utah police to arrest and detain him, potentially preventing the subsequent events that culminated with the Feb. 5, 2012 murder-suicide in which Josh killed his sons, Charlie and Braden Powell, while also ending his own life.

I heard this question often in the months following the conclusion of Cold’s first season. It came from listeners on social media, from people attending conferences where I was speaking about domestic abuse and even from members of law enforcement unaffiliated with the Powell case.

Former West Valley City, Utah police detective Ellis Maxwell, the lead investigator on the Susan Powell case, told me during our interviews for Cold’s first season that he understood why people still raise questions like this.

“There’s a lot of people in the country, in the world that wanted answers,” Ellis said, “from the media all the way down to the Cox family because believe it or not, they didn’t know a whole lot more than anybody else.”

A circumstantial case

The problem that police faced in the Powell investigation was a lack of definitive evidence.

Josh Powell’s actions in the hours and days following the discovery of his wife’s unexplained absence on Dec. 7, 2009 — including his evasive statements in interviews, his possession of Susan’s cell phone, his destruction of probable evidence and his still-unexplained 18-hour vanishing act in a rental car — made him the prime suspect in her presumed murder.

“You can’t say that Josh is responsible for her disappearance based off of any of that because we don’t have any witnesses, we have no confession and we have no body.”

Ellis Maxwell

Without the recovery of Susan Powell’s body, however, and the facts it might reveal about when, where and how she died, detectives were unable to present prosecutors at the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office with a conclusive story about how Josh might have carried out the crime.

Body of evidence

“When you have a physical body that is the subject of a homicide, it’s placed in time and space,” District Attorney Sim Gill told me. “That body creates a narrative tale of logical possibilities.”

If there are too many logical possibilities, it becomes unlikely that a prosecutor will be able to secure unanimous agreement among a jury that any one person is guilty of a murder.

Susan Powell, her sons Charlie and Braden, and her husband Josh Powell pose in this July 24, 2008 photo at the International Peace Gardens in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo: Josh Powell personal files

“When you don’t have that physical body, when that forensic piece is missing, there is a whole host of logical possibilities and if I have more than one logical possibility in any realistic sense, I have reasonable doubt,” Gill said.

That’s not to say a body is an absolute necessity in every single homicide prosecution.

Had prosecutors charged Josh Powell with the murder of his wife, they would have likely done so in Utah’s Third District Court.  It’s useful then to look at the existing body of case law in Utah’s state court system involving no-body homicides.

The case of Rudy Rebeterano

There is no definitive list of no-body murder prosecutions in the state of Utah but a review of archived news reports and court decisions has revealed at least three such cases which resulted in convictions prior to Susan Powell’s disappearance in 2009. The earliest of those was State v. Rebeterano.

The Rebeterano case involved the disappearance of a man named Mike Johnston. He had been at a bar in the city of Brigham City on the night of July 21, 1981 when he met a woman named Debbie Griffiths. They’d spent time socializing together, both at the bar and at another person’s home.

Johnston escorted Griffiths back to the motel where she was staying with her ex-husband, Rudy Rebeterano, at about 5:30 a.m. on the morning of July 22. Rebeterano was waiting for them there.

A fight erupted between Johnston and Rebeterano, during which Griffiths fled and contacted police. Griffiths would later say she saw Rebeterano carrying a large bundle out of the apartment, which he placed into the trunk of Johnston’s car before driving away in that vehicle.

This August 16, 1981 story by former KSL reporter Lynn Packer details the investigation into the suspected death of Michael Johnston at the hands of Rudy Rebeterano in Brigham City, Utah. Video courtesy the KSL TV archives.

Police arrived a short time later and entered the apartment. They located fresh blood, which was of the same type as Johnston’s. Officers found a white bedsheet missing from one of the beds. A kitchen knife, which Griffiths had seen Rebeterano using to peel potatoes the prior evening, was also unaccounted for.

Johnston’s car turned up later that same day a few blocks away from the motel. Blood stains were present on the rear bumper and in the trunk. A little over two weeks later, a maintenance worker found a blood-stained knife on the roof of the motel.

Rudy Rebeterano submitted to a polygraph examination. The examiner asked Rebeterano “did you stab Mike” and “did you cut Mike with a knife.” Rebeterano answered “no” to each question. The polygraph results suggested those answers were not truthful.

Rebeterano was then arrested, charged and convicted of second-degree murder.

Corpus delicti

Rebeterano appealed his conviction, challenging both the admissibility of the polygraph as well as the very notion that Mike Johnston was dead. Police had not then, and have still not today, located Johnston’s body. This, Rebeterano’s lawyer argued, meant the prosecution had not met the burden of proof. Corpus delicti had not been established.

Corpus delicti is a Latin phrase which translates to “body of the crime.” In legal circles, it’s understood to mean the facts must establish a crime has occurred before a person can be tried for that crime.

Entrance to the historical Utah Supreme Court chamber at the Utah Capitol
The entrance to the historical Utah Supreme Court chambers at the Utah Capitol on Dec. 16, 2020. Oral arguments in cases before the high court were heard here, prior to 1998. Photo: Dave Cawley, KSL/Cold

The Utah Supreme Court in its review of Rudy Rebeterano’s appeal said “apparently no case in Utah has decided whether production of a corpse is necessary in a homicide case to prove the corpus delicti.” The high court justices examined the law, both in Utah and across the United States, before finding that production of a body was not mandatory for establishing corpus delicti in a murder case.

“The mere disappearance of a victim would not ordinarily be sufficient to support a conviction,” Justice I. Daniel Stewart wrote, before going on add “…even though the evidence was circumstantial, it was sufficient to establish that Mike Johnston was intentionally killed by criminal means.”

In other words, the Rebeterano decision established that under Utah law murder can be proved without a body, so long as the totality of the circumstances surrounding the person’s disappearance shows the crime has occurred.

Cold season 2

The Rebeterano case is not the focus of Cold season 2. But that April, 1984 decision from the Utah Supreme Court did set precedent. It established the framework for what would come a little over a year later when a woman named Joyce Yost disappeared from her apartment in South Ogden, Utah.

A young Joyce Yost, née Figel, holds a cat in this undated image. Photo: Joyce Yost family

Season 2 of the Cold podcast will take you inside the no-body homicide investigation triggered by Joyce Yost’s disappearance. Audio tapes never before made public will allow you to hear Joyce, in her own voice, describe the events which preceded her death.

You will learn why police suspected one man, Douglas Lovell, yet were unable to arrest him at the time. You will see how some individuals and institutions gave, and continue to give, Lovell every opportunity to evade the ultimate penalty.

And together we will explore the most critical question: is there such a thing after all this time as justice for Joyce Yost?

Hear Joyce Yost’s voice for the first time in the Cold podcast season 2, exclusively on Amazon Music.

Episode credits
Research, writing and hosting: Dave Cawley
Audio production: Dave Cawley
Audio mixing: Dave Cawley
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

Bonus Ep: Justice Delayed

NOTE: This page includes details about phone calls of Josh Powell wiretapped by police. The wiretap notes include instances of strong language, which have been blurred by Cold.

West Valley City, Utah police needed a break. They were running out of leads after searching for Susan Powell for more than a year and a half. Her husband, Josh Powell, remained the sole suspect in his wife’s disappearance but had avoided being arrested or charged with any crime related to the disappearance.

So, in the summer of 2011, police crafted a plan. They secured court authorization for a wiretap on three phone lines: Josh Powell’s cell phone, his father Steve Powell’s home line (where Josh was then living with this two sons, Charlie and Braden) and Steve Powell’s mobile.

Cold previously detailed how several significant events during August and September of that year were coordinated by police as “catalysts” for the wiretap. The entire effort was known by the secret codename “Operation Tsunami.” However, details of the actual captured phone calls have never been publicly disclosed.

What follows are selected excerpts from the secret Powell wiretap records, obtained and accessed exclusively by Cold.

Powell wiretap: Friday, Aug. 19, 2011​

West Valley City police have staged a public search of abandoned mines in the vicinity of Ely, Nev. Media coverage of the event has prompted reporters, such as KSL NewsRadio’s Paul Nelson, to interview Josh Powell.

After conducting a round of media interviews, Josh told his father Steve Powell that the search in Ely was going to come up empty.

Powell wiretap: Saturday, Aug. 20, 2011​

Susan Powell’s father, Chuck Cox attended a honk-and-wave event outside a grocery store in Steve Powell’s South Hill, Wash. neighborhood. Steve crashed the event and engaged Chuck in a shouting match in front of TV news cameras. Afterward, Josh’s brother Michael urged Josh to call 911. He believed they could get Chuck arrested for violating a temporary restraining order Josh had obtained earlier in the month.

The temporary restraining order was due to expire the following week. Josh intended to ask the judge to replace it with a permanent domestic violence protective order and had asked his family members to write declarations supporting him. Following the honk-and-wave, Josh talked to Michael about the declarations.

The brothers were also monitoring a private Facebook group called “Where is Susan Powell” using a phony account under the name Molly Hunt. Members of the group were reacting to news of what had happened at the honk-and-wave.

Powell wiretap: Sunday, Aug. 21, 2011​

Josh and his family spent hours on the Sunday following the honk-and-wave continuing to work on their declarations. As they talked, Josh provided evasive or misleading comments to his father, brother and sister about his actions in the days immediately following Susan’s disappearance.

One of the primary points Josh planned to make during the scheduled hearing on the protective order was that his father-in-law, Chuck Cox, had once threatened to kill him during an encounter at a playground near Steve Powell’s home.

The supposed threat had occurred on Feb. 27, 2010, less than three months following Susan’s disappearance. Whether it had actually happened was a matter in dispute.

Powell wiretap: Monday, Aug. 22, 2011​

Steve and Alina Powell both spoke with reporters early in the day. Both made comments that angered Josh. Steve, for one, revealed to the press that he had recorded an album of songs about and for Susan.

Later in the day, Josh and Michael spent time collecting screenshots of posts in two Facebook groups, “Friends and Family of Susan Powell” and “Where is Susan Powell,” using the phony Molly Hunt profile.

Powell wiretap: Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011​

Susan’s friend and neighbor Kiirsi Hellewell published a blog post detailing Steve Powell’s “immorality and depravity.” The blog caught the attention of reporters in Utah, who called Steve for  comment.

Kiirsi’s blog specifically claimed Steve had once sent Susan pornographic photos in the mail. When confronted with this claim by the reporter, Steve said a sexual energy had existed between himself and Susan.

Meanwhile, Josh was behind schedule for the 3 p.m. court hearing on his request for a permanent domestic violence protective order against Chuck Cox.

The hearing did not go in Josh’s favor. Chuck Cox denied having threatened his son-in-law and, in the absence of any physical violence, the judge instead handed down mutual anti-harassment orders to both Josh and Chuck. In a phone call following the hearing, Josh told Michael that he’d “lost.”

But Michael soon convinced his brother winning or losing was irrelevant. Josh simply needed to portray himself as a winner, regardless of the facts.

Powell wiretap: Thursday, Aug. 25, 2011​

Steve Powell awoke early and departed home en route to Kennewick, where he was scheduled to attend a business meeting. He spoke to his daughter Alina on the phone driving. Alina expressed concern for her father’s safety, fearing the meeting could be a police trap.

That afternoon, while Steve was still in Kennewick, West Valley City police and Pierce County sheriff’s deputies arrived to serve a search warrant at Steve’s home. Alina met them at the door and was ushered outside, along with Josh, Charlie, Braden and another of Steve’s children, John Powell.

Alina narrated the search for her father as he raced back toward home. Josh, after a time, left the house with Charlie and Braden to rendezvous with a producer for NBC Dateline.

Michael, who was at the time living in Minneapolis, left his condo for fear police could be coming to serve a search warrant there as well.

Michael advised his family to avoid speaking to the media, urging them to keep quiet until they had an opportunity to seek legal counsel.

Hear more of the secret wiretap calls in a bonus episode of Cold: Justice Delayed.

Bonus Ep: Project Sunlight

Cold has uncovered new clues regarding the likely contents of an encrypted hard drive seized from the West Valley City, Utah home of Josh and Susan Powell on Dec. 8, 2009, one day after Susan disappeared.

The hard drive was encrypted and has never been accessed, in spite of extensive efforts by law enforcement and ongoing work involving private digital forensics experts.

Police seized this Western Digital MyBook World Edition external hard drive from Josh Powell’s basement office while serving a search warrant at his home on Dec. 8, 2009. Photo: West Valley City, Utah police

It is not clear whether or not the device might hold clues pointing to Susan’s whereabouts. However, breaking the encryption could reveal new information about Josh’s activities in the weeks prior to the disappearance.

MyBook World Edition

Detectives seized the device in question while serving their first search warrant at the Powell family’s home on Sarah Circle in West Valley. They located it in the downstairs bedroom that Josh used as his home office. The Western Digital-brand MyBook World Edition was connected by way of an ethernet cable to Josh’s home network.

The MyBook World drive had been in that same position for at least a year and a half. Susan pointed it out while recording a video documenting the family’s assets in July of 2008.

In this series of clips from Susan Powell’s July 2008 video documenting her family’s assets, she shows computers and digital devices present in the Powell house. Those include a Western Digital MyBook World Edition external hard drive. Video: Dave Cawley, KSL

“This is some type of backup device,” Susan said in the video. “It says WD on the side. I don’t know, it like shares the information somehow.”

West Valley police investigating Susan’s disappearance discovered the MyBook World drive was inaccessible after delivering it to the FBI’s Intermountain West Regional Computer Forensic Laboratory or RCFL in Salt Lake City. Based on the FBI’s analysis, it appeared the whole drive had been encrypted using a freeware tool known as True Crypt.

ViceVersa Pro

Not all of Josh’s computer drives were similarly encrypted. While reviewing data from Josh’s other computers and digital storage devices, investigators flagged several files referencing encryption, hoping to discover possible passwords or other insights that might help them gain access to the MyBook World drive.

One of those files resided on an array of hard drives in Josh’s desktop computer tower. It had the file name vvdb1NetworkEncrypted.tdb.

Josh Powell set up his desktop computer with a RAID array. He took this photo documenting the configuration process on Feb. 27, 2007. Photo: Josh Powell

Cold obtained a copy of that file and discovered it is a tracking database created by a file backup app called ViceVersa Pro. The database contained a log of files ViceVersa Pro had transferred to a disk named “mybookworld.” While the database did not hold copies of the files themselves, it did record their names and the locations to which they were saved on the MyBook World drive.

This screenshot of the vvdb1NetworkEncrypted.tdb file from Josh Powell’s desktop computer shows file paths for a device called “mybookworld.” The encrypted hard drive police recovered from Josh and Susan Powell’s home with a search warrant on Dec. 8, 2009 was a Western Digital MyBook World Edition model. Image: Dave Cawley, KSL

Based on this evidence, Cold believes the ViceVersa Pro database is likely an at least partial log of the files saved to the encrypted drive.

Forgotten Password

Josh made an effort to determine whether or not police had gained access to the MyBook World drive in the months immediately following Susan’s disappearance.

His defense attorney, Scott Williams, contacted police by email in March of 2010, requesting the return of his client’s digital devices. West Valley police Sgt. Robert Bobrowski refused, but offered to have detectives seek out any individual files Josh might need.

“If it is in the encrypted section then your client will need to provide the password to help the process move along,” Bobrowski wrote to Williams.

Josh had previously told police he could not remember the password to the encrypted MyBook World drive.

“If possible, pleas send all photos, audio, and video files you can find. There will be some hundreds of gigabytes in total.”​

Josh Powell

On April 5, 2010, Josh provided police with a list of files he wanted them to retrieve for him. At the top of the list were his photos and videos, which he described as “basically unreplaceable [sic].”

“Everything that can be released from the white Western Digital drive would be greatly appreciated,” Josh wrote.

West Valley police were unable to accommodate Josh’s request.

In truth, Josh already had copies of many of those files safely in Washington. This became clear after police served a search warrant at the home of Josh’s father, Steve Powell, in South Hill, Wash. on Aug. 25, 2011. At that time, they once again seized Josh’s computers and digital devices.

Josh Powell and his sons, Charlie and Braden Powell, play with computer parts at the home of Josh Powell’s father, Steve Powell, on April 9, 2010. Photo: Josh Powell personal files

An RCFL examination of those devices revealed some of them contained copies of Josh’s photo and video library, the very files he had claimed were not replaceable.


On Feb. 5, 2012, Josh killed himself and his sons, Charlie and Braden. The murder-suicide forever deprived police of the possibility that Josh might voluntarily provide the password for the MyBook World drive. The subsequent release of West Valley’s redacted case files in May 2013 publicly revealed for the first time the existence of still-encrypted evidence.

Richard Hickman, who was then a partner in a Utah-based digital forensics firm called Decipher Forensics, saw media reports about the encrypted drive. He contacted Susan’s father, Chuck Cox, and offered to attempt to crack the encryption.

“I reached out and said, ‘Hey, we’d be willing to take a look at it at no charge,’” Hickman said.

Mike Johnson with the digital forensics Decipher Forensics firm built this machine and another like it to mine cryptocurrency. In 2013, Decipher Forensics repurposed the machines to attempt crack encryption on one of Josh Powell’s hard drives. Both machines eventually failed after running for years. Photo: Trent Leavitt

Another partner at Decipher, Mike Johnson, had built a pair of powerful computers to mine cryptocurrency. Hickman told Cox those machines could also be used for password cracking. Cox convinced West Valley police to meet with Decipher.

Police case records showed Detective Ellis Maxwell, the now-retired lead investigator on the Powell case, provided Decipher with a copy of the MyBook World drive in December of 2013.

Box Within A Box​

Trent Leavitt, a third partner at Decipher, said they put their computers to work on what’s known as a dictionary attack in an effort to guess the password. The dictionary was built off of lists of common passwords collected from past data breaches. Special software used that dictionary, along with variations, to attempt to unlock the encryption.

After a period of time, the software reported success. It had discovered that the encryption on the MyBook World drive accepted the password “ap1124.”

“It’s six characters,” Trent said. “It’s really simple.”

Josh Powell used variations of the password “ap1124” as shown by this Oct. 1, 2007 photo. Powell was sending his Avertec 3700 series laptop in for repair and listed his Windows password as “ap1124tec” on the paperwork. Photo: Josh Powell

However, when Decipher attempted to access the drive, they discovered it was blank. This led them to believe that Josh had utilized a feature of True Crypt that allowed for the creation of invisible encrypted partitions nested within encrypted volumes.

In essence, a box within a box.

“There might not even be a second layer,” Hickman said. “It could just be, we cracked that top code and it was an empty hard drive.”


The Decipher team put their machines back to work in an effort to crack the suspected second layer of encryption. The software ran through billions of possible passwords.

“That thing would run around the clock, 24/7, for months, if not, you know, close to two years before those things burned up,” Trent said. “And still didn’t break it.”

In October of 2017, word leaked that the Decipher team had succeeded in cracking a password for Josh’s MyBook World hard drive. However, West Valley police had Decipher under a non-disclosure agreement. They were legally prohibited from discussing their work.

“We didn’t talk about the fact that we were even doing it with anybody.”​

Richard Hickman

A short time later, the firm Eide Bailly purchased Decipher Forensics. Richard Hickman and Mike Johnson left the company, but Trent Leavitt brought their copy of the MyBook World drive to Eide Bailly’s new state-of-the-art digital forensics lab in Lehi, Utah.

His work on the Powell case has continued there, when time and resources have permitted.

“Most of its done after hours,” Trent said. “We’ll get together as a group and meet and pull our computers out and start working on it. We’ll collaborate on whiteboards.”


The public revelation of Decipher’s work in late 2017 drew the attention of cybersecurity analyst Rob Burton. He worked for a large corporate employer in West Valley City as a digital forensics specialist and had a keen interest in the Susan Powell case.

“The Susan Powell case had a big impact on me personally,” Rob said. “I was aware of it 10 years ago when the news first broke of Susan’s disappearance and the involvement of Josh Powell.”

Rob decided to approach West Valley police. Like the team from Decipher Forensics and Eide Bailly, he offered to volunteer his time and expertise to the password cracking effort. Police accepted his offer and provided him with a copy of the MyBook World drive. They also required that he sign a non-disclosure agreement.

Rob Burton speaks with Cold host Dave Cawley about his efforts to crack Josh Powell’s encrypted hard drive. West Valley City granted Burton a release from a non-disclosure agreement to speak with Cold. Picture: Winston Armani, KSL TV

“I knew I just couldn’t just create a folder on my computer called ‘Susan Powell project’ because I was under NDA and kind of had to keep it hidden,” Rob said.

He decided to give that folder the codename “Project Sunlight.”

“There’s a lot of dark things related to this case. And especially after listening to the Cold podcast. Josh, Steven and some of their activities and efforts and a lot of dark subject material. But there’s hope and there’s light,” Rob said. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant, I think.”

Hear the surprising discovery we made in Josh Powell’s digital data in a bonus episode of Cold: Project Sunlight.​

Bonus Ep: 10 Years

The last time anyone saw Susan Powell alive, at least the last time that can be proven, was Dec. 6, 2009. Ten years have now passed since that date.

This photo is one of the last known pictures of Susan Powell. In it, she poses with her husband Josh, their children, Charlie and Braden, as well as neighborhood friends John and Kiirsi Hellewell and their children at a church Christmas party on Dec. 5, 2009. Photo: Unknown

In that time, Susan’s story has spread across the globe. Network and cable news shows have aired hours-long specials about the investigation into her disappearance, as well as the criminal probe that focused on her husband, Josh Powell.

An Unwelcome Anniversary

For Susan’s friends and family members, the anniversary marks a milestone they’d hoped to never reach. Susan, who Josh is widely believed to have murdered, has never been found. The manner of her death has not been determined. Questions persist about the circumstances of that snowy night a decade past.

Susan’s parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, sat down for a special interview with Cold, marking 10 years since their daughter vanished.

Judy and Chuck Cox hold a picture of their missing daughter, Susan Powell, at their home in South Hill, Wash. on Feb. 1, 2010. Susan’s coworker Amber Hardman had taken the picture of Susan a few months before her disappearance on Dec. 7, 2009. The picture of Susan is © Hardman Photography/Polaris. Photo: Pat Reavy, Deseret News

“Nothing’s really changed from our point of view because our daughter’s still missing, our children are still dead, our grandchildren are still dead,” Chuck Cox said. “Evil has been exposed, but our response to it is the same. It’s beyond our control.”

The interview was also the first time Susan’s mother, Judy Cox, shared her perspective with Cold on the record.

“It took me a long time to be willing to get in front of cameras or answer questions, because it hurts,” Judy said.

Susan Powell’s parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, speak with Cold host Dave Cawley about how their lives have changed in the 10 years since their daughter disappeared. Video: Josh Syzmanik, KSL

“Every time there’s a body found, every time there’s a you know cadaver found somewhere, we wait here,” Chuck said. “You kind of start wondering, ‘Well is this the one? Is our wait going to be over? Will we be able to put whatever’s left to her to rest with her children?’”

Family Annihilation

The Coxes also reflected on the legacy of abuse in the Powell family, passed down by Josh’s father, Steve Powell.

“Steve taught [Josh] to be who he was. And Steve’s parents affected him,” Chuck said. “It’s just a sad waste of a life, a waste of time, and the tragedy that his time in life, Steve ruined his family. But is he a victim? And who’s going to judge that? I’m not going to judge that.”

Steve Powell, who recorded music under the pseudonym Steve Chantrey, wrote more than 50 love songs about his daughter-in-law, Susan. After Susan disappeared in December 2009, her husband Josh Powell recorded lyrics for one of his dad’s songs. Video: Dave Cawley, KSL

Judy described visiting Steve’s home one time when Josh and Susan were vacationing in Washington. Susan had left their sons, Charlie and Braden, with Josh at Steve’s home while she went to spend time with her family. However, Susan had forgotten something and returned to the Powell house to retrieve it.

“We’re going up the stairs to the second floor,” Judy said. “As soon as I got to the top of the stairs, she looked at me, she goes, ‘Do you feel it?’ I go ‘What? I feel uncomfortable. I am not exactly happy to be here.’ She goes ‘You feel the evil?’”

When police served a search warrant at Steve Powell’s home on Aug. 25, 2011 in search of Susan’s childhood journals, one detective described the scene as a “house of horrors.” Investigators uncovered Steve’s collection of voyeur videos, many focused on Susan, as well as more than 2,000 pages of journal entries about his daughter-in-law. Most of them were explicit.

“I want people to know this story so it doesn’t happen to them.”​

Judy Cox

Susan had spent years during her marriage to Josh attempting to counter the negative influence of his father.

“The only reason she stuck around as long as she did is because she was trying to follow every everything that [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] taught, and she was not giving up on him,” Chuck said. “She kept investing time and energy and love and stuff to try and bring him back and save him and all that when he was a lost case from the beginning.”

Josh lost custody of his sons as a result of Steve’s arrest, due to the fact they had all been living under the same roof since December of 2009. However, during a court-authorized visit with the boys on Feb. 5, 2012, Josh bludgeoned Charlie and Braden and set fire to a home he had rented. All three died in the fire.

Chalk outlines of Susan, Charlie and Braden Powell’s feet adorn the concrete sidewalk outside the Powell family’s home in West Valley City, Utah on July 29, 2008. Photo: Josh Powell personal files

In the mean time, the Coxes find comfort in their faith, as well as in the knowledge that sharing their daughter’s story can help highlight the dangers of domestic abuse.

“[Susan] wanted to help [Josh]. She wanted to be a mom and have children and have a happy life and all that. And I think everybody still wants that, and everybody still looking for that,” Chuck said. “By sharing those experiences, talking about this and doing this, we’re helping a lot of people who are in different situations that may be similar but are different. 

Bonus Ep: Cold Live

It’s a daunting thing to stand alone on a stage in front of a crowd.

On May 16, 2019, I stepped out from the wings on the stage of the Eccles Theater on Main Street in Salt Lake City, Utah to face just such a situation. It was a packed house. Looking out through the glare of the stage lights, I could see Susan Powell’s parents and close friends sitting in the first few rows.

Don’t screw this up, Dave, I thought.

Cold host Dave Cawley (right) speaks with KSL Podcasts Director of Audience Development Sheryl Worsley at the Eccles Theater on May 16, 2019. Retired detective Ellis Maxwell and Utah Domestic Violence Coalition Executive Director Jennifer Oxborrow engage in a separate conversation (left). Photo: Josh Tilton, KSL

Many of the rest of the more than 2,000 people in attendance for the special event, Cold Live, had come to hear the behind-the-scenes story of how the podcast had come to be. They had come to ask questions of myself, retired West Valley City police detective Ellis Maxwell and Utah Domestic Violence Coalition Executive Director Jennifer Oxborrow.

In spite of those nerves, I aimed to do my best in Susan’s honor.

Cold Live at the Eccles Theater, May 16, 2019. This video is an edited version of the event, comprising elements of both the 4 p.m. dress rehearsal and 8 p.m. performance. Video: KSL TV

Question and Answer

Both the dress rehearsal and the main event included question and answer sessions. Audience members submitted their questions online and using printed cards during the pre-show and intermission periods.

Cold Live at the Eccles Theater, May 16, 2009. This video includes the question and answer sessions from both the 4 p.m. dress rehearsal and 8 p.m. performance. Video: KSL TV

Ellis, the former lead detective on the Powell case, discussed his frustration in dealing with Josh during the first two weeks of the investigation.

“If we went and took this in front of a judge or court or a jury and we had her last will and testament, we had blood on the tile and we had a theory… I guarantee you that a defense attorney could take this case a thousand different directions to sway the jury or the judge,” Ellis said. “There is absolutely no way that he would have been convicted.”

Ellis said that changed by the spring of 2012, after police eliminated many of the other possible explanations for Susan’s disappearance. However, Josh killed himself and his sons before detectives could secure criminal charges against him.

“I had spectacular investigators on this case that really, really poured everything they had into it.”​

Ellis Maxwell

Many of the questions aimed at Jennifer Oxborrow dealt with how to help loved ones who find themselves trapped in situations similar to Susan’s.

“It’s a difficult conversation to have. It’s very embarrassing to people sometimes. People just usually want the abuse to stop,” Jennifer said. “Avoid that question ‘Why do you stay? Why did you get yourself into this?’”

Instead, Jennifer said society needs to shift the focus onto the abusers, asking why they choose to mistreat their partners. She added that the most important actions people can take when confronted with situations of domestic abuse are to express support for the victims and direct them to resources.

Jennifer pointed out the availability of help through the Utah 24-hour domestic violence hotline, 1-800-897-LINK, or for people in other parts of the country.

How Cold Live Came to Be

KSL, my employer and the company behind Cold, had partnered with MagicSpace Entertainment to craft a program focused on Susan and her sons, Charlie and Braden. Together, we hoped to provide an enlightening look at how Susan’s life and loss have impacted not only her immediate friends and family, but also an entire community.

Susan Powell buckles her son Braden into his car seat on Dec. 20, 2008 while her other son, Charlie, waits. Photo: Josh Powell

The director of Cold Live, Jim Millan, and I had spent hours discussing the proper approach.

“Conversations and questions coming at this from the personal and journalism angle created all the ideas for the stage presentation,” Jim said later.

We did not want Cold Live to turn into a funeral in absentia, or to glorify the more ghastly aspects of what occurred in the Powell family. Keeping Susan central was our goal.

Retired detective Ellis Maxwell (left), Utah Domestic Violence Coalition Executive Director Jennifer Oxborrow, Cold Live director Jim Millan and Cold podcast host Dave Cawley (right) pose for a photo backstage at the Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City, Utah on May 16, 2019. Photo: Sheryl Worsley, KSL Podcasts

“Working with Dave to help him write the story of his journey with Cold was fascinating,” Jim said. “He was open and curious about how it might share something new for an audience and determined to make it worth people’s time.”

A conversation was then playing out among the Cold audience about how Susan had become a victim of domestic abuse. By shining a light on the mistreatment she’d endured, we hoped to help others recognize the warning signs.

Glimpse Behind the Scenes

For me, Cold Live also provided an opportunity to share the backstory to how a news story that I had covered off-and-on throughout the years morphed into an idea for a podcast, then blossomed into an outright obsession. The quest for answers extended beyond the KSL newsroom, filling the dark and quiet hours at home as I reviewed hours upon hours of Josh Powell’s audio journals.

No such undertaking can occur without the help of many talented people. So, during Cold Live, the voice actors who took on the difficult task of portraying Susan, Josh and Steve Powell in Cold told of their experiences filling those roles.

Far too many others went without credit, like composer Michael Bahnmiller. I had to cut part from the program in the interest of time.

A behind-the-scenes look at the music in the Cold podcast. Composer Michael Bahnmiller discusses how he crafted themes to match the moods and tones of the Susan Powell story. Video: Josh Tilton, KSL

Many in the audience had never met or even seen the people who are portrayed in the podcast. Through several video clips, they were introduced with Josh’s ex-girlfriend Catherine Everett, his sister Jennifer Graves and the Powell’s daycare provider Debbie Caldwell, among others.

Susan’s oldest sister, Mary Douglass, even shared her perspective, something that was not present in the podcast itself.

After Cold Live​

I walked off stage at the conclusion of Cold Live feeling a little hoarse. A sense of uncertainty and self-doubt pervaded. What would Susan have thought, I asked myself, had she been in the audience?

Susan’s parents and several of her close friends were in the lobby afterward. We shook hands and stood together for pictures.

Susan Powell’s friends and parents stand in the lobby of the Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City, Utah on May 16, 2019. From left to right: Catherine Everett, Debbie Caldwell, Ken Caldwell, Judy Cox, Chuck Cox, Dave Cawley, John Hellewell, Kiirsi Hellewell. Photo: Sheryl Worsley, KSL Podcasts

In a conversation the next day, Susan’s mom, Judy Cox, told me how it felt sitting in the audience and listening to Ellis Maxwell describe his part in the investigation.

“You always learn from your mistakes,” Judy said. “I knew they were working hard and doing their best. We also felt frustrated about things because [Chuck Cox, Susan’s dad] wanted to try to be more involved.”

Chuck, for his part, shared a pragmatic perspective.

“Police aren’t miracle workers, they’re just police. They’re people doing their job,” Chuck said. “I do know their heart was in the right place.”

And, as a parting note, he offered words of thanks for the role that Cold has had in drawing new attention to his daughter’s story.

“I’m so thankful that you took the time to go through it,” Chuck said. “You’re getting the story out and teaching people some stuff. So thank you for the effort.”

Bonus Ep: Car Crash Con

Josh and Susan Powell moved from their home state of Washington to Utah at the beginning of 2004. Neither had a job lined up, nor did they have a place to live planned.

Prior to the move, the Powells had worked as live-in managers at a pair of senior living communities. They’d run afoul of management at the first, Orchard Park in Yakima, Wash., due in part to excessive absenteeism related to medical treatment.

In this photo from early 2003, Susan Powell is seen working at the Orchard Park retirement center in Yakima, Wash. Photo: Josh Powell

That treatment, comprising several months of chiropractic and massage therapy care, had followed a minor car crash on May 12, 2003 in the community of Union Gap, Wash.

Records now recovered exclusively by Cold raise questions about the necessity of the treatment and suggest fraudulent behavior on the part of Josh Powell.

Unexplained Stop

The Union Gap crash occurred as Josh and Susan were driving northbound on an I-82 frontage road called Rudkin Road.

Another motorist who was behind the Powells had glanced away from the road for a brief moment. Bob Powers told Cold he recalled looking back to see the minivan stopped in front of him, for no apparent reason.

Bob Powers recalls his May 12, 2003 car crash with Josh and Susan Powell from near where it occurred on Rudkin Road in Union Gap, Wash. Video: Dave Cawley, KSL

“There’s clear roadway ahead, no stop lights, no stop signs, no right or left turn opportunities,” Powers said. “There was no reason for him to be stopped dead center in the middle of the road.”

Powers’ Lexus ES240 sedan collided with the Powell’s minivan at a low speed. The crash caused minor damage to a headlight on the car.

Repair records from Greenway Auto Body in Yakima showed the crash also left a small dent in the rear bumper of the minivan. The shop billed $1275 to Powers’ insurance to repair the damage.

Photos taken by appraiser Kelly Lawson and included with the body shop paperwork showed the damage was mostly cosmetic.

The rear bumper of Josh and Susan Powell’s minivan sustained minor damage from a low-speed car crash on May 12, 2003. A body shop charged $1275 to replace the bumper cover and trailer hitch, as well as to repair a dent in the bumper bar. Photo: Kelly Lawson

A Union Gap police officer responded to Powers’ phone call reporting the crash. A report authored by the officer described Josh as having claimed he had slowed to make a left-hand turn. The officer’s report also noted that “no injuries were reported.”


Following the crash, Josh had Susan drive him to Memorial Hospital in Yakima. Josh sought an evaluation in the emergency department for symptoms of whiplash.

The entrance to the emergency department at Virginia Mason Memorial Hospital in Yakima, Wash. Photo: Dave Cawley, KSL

Records retained by Josh and recovered from his digital archive by Cold, with the assistance of digital forensic experts at the firm Eide Bailly, showed he received a prescription for Vicodin. Josh was also advised to avoid strenuous activity at work “for 3-4 days.”

Josh Powell received this doctor’s note following a minor car crash on May 12, 2003. Powell used the “no serving coffee” instruction as justification for missing work. Image: Josh Powell

Susan did not complain of any pain the evening of the crash. She did not request an evaluation at the hospital. However, the morning after the crash, she went to a clinic with general body aches. Susan received a prescription for Celebrex, which she did not end up taking, and similar advice regarding light duty.

On the second day after the crash, Josh convinced Susan they both needed to see a chiropractor. Josh had found one he liked in the Yellow Pages. Josh and Susan spent the next two months seeing the chiropractor two or three times per week. They also made multiple visits to a massage therapist.

Billing paperwork related to one portion of Josh and Susan Powell’s care following a May 12, 2003 car crash showed auto insurance covered the majority of treatment expenses. Image: Josh Powell

All of those visits were billed to auto insurance.

Evidence Against Injury​

In mid-July, 2003, Josh decided that his recovery had plateaued. On July 16, 2003, he transferred his and Susan’s care to a different chiropractor.

However, only three days earlier, Josh and Susan had visited a trucking business in Kent, Wash. Josh at the time was considering obtaining a commercial driver license. In video recorded that day by Josh’s father, Steve Powell, Josh can be seen using his arms and upper body to steer a tractor-trailer.

Josh Powell uses his arms and upper body to drive a big-rig truck on July 13, 2003, the same period of time he was receiving treatment for a neck and back injury from a car crash two months prior. Video: Steve Powell

By coincidence, that day was also when Steve confessed his infatuation with Susan to her in a conversation he accidentally captured on tape.

Josh’s personal notes indicate the second chiropractor advised the Powells they should hire a personal injury attorney in an attempt to extract a settlement from Bob Powers’ insurance company. Josh resisted this idea, opting to instead negotiate with the insurance company directly.

“I actually had no idea that this guy had made any claim whatsoever with my insurance company until you guys had come up with that information.”

Bob Powers

By August, both insurance companies involved in the claim had become suspicious about the necessity of the ongoing chircopractic and massage therapy treatments. Josh’s insurance provider, Pemco, ordered the Powells to undergo independent medical evaluations.


Records show both Josh and Susan took part in those evaluations on Aug. 19, 2003.

The evaluator noted that Josh complained of  “aching, stabbing, or burning pain” in his neck, as well as headaches. Josh also described having hit his head at the time of the crash and blacking out “for about two seconds following the accident.”

On an intake form, Josh checked boxes indicating he was experiencing severe or frequent headaches,  shaking or twitching in limbs, loss of motion in joints, spine abnormality and excessive worry or anxiety.

Susan did not check any boxes indicating current symptoms.

The IME paperwork also revealed both Josh and Susan had each missed eight days of work following the crash.

Paperwork from Josh Powell’s independent medical examination on Aug. 19, 2003 showed he missed eight days of work following a low-speed car crash on May 12, 2003. Image: Josh Powell

Josh also told the evaluator that he had no “previous problems involving his neck or mid back prior to the motor vehicle accident of May 12, 2003.” In fact, Josh had received similar treatment for neck and back pain following a similar car crash in June of 2000.

In the end, Pemco agreed to cover the lion’s share of the medical costs. It refused to pay for specific treatments provided by the second chiropractor, finding them to be “not reasonable.” Pemco, in turn, received reimbursement from Bob Powers’ insurance provider, State Farm.

State Farm sent Josh and Susan Powell $6,160 as part of a settlement agreement following a low-speed car crash on May 12, 2003. The payment was in addition to reimbursements made for medical bills and property damage. Image: Josh Powell

Josh’s own negotiations with the other insurance provider proved lucrative. He ended up receiving a check for more than $6,000, above and beyond the covered medical expenses.


A dispute over Josh and Susan’s missed work time as a result of the May 2003 car crash contributed to a worsening of their standing with their employer, Holiday Retirement. In a probationary move, they transferred to a different senior living center in Olympia, Wash. toward the end of 2003.

Josh and Susan Powell appear in this undated photo from late 2003. The couple worked together as co-managers of two separate retirement communities at different points during that year. Photo: Unknown

However, that move brought Josh and Susan physically closer to Steve Powell, who Susan had gone to great lengths to avoid in the months following her rejection of his love confession. So, in the waning months of the year, Josh and Susan decided to move to Utah.

The couple spent the first few months of 2004 living with Josh’s older sister, Jennifer Graves, and her family in West Jordan, Utah.

They obtained jobs with Fidelity through a temp agency. Josh lost his within a matter of days. By February, he was receiving unemployment insurance benefits from the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

Health Insurance​

On Feb. 8, 2004, Josh filled out paperwork applying for private health insurance coverage from IHC Health Plans. On the form, he listed his occupation as “manager.” He did not disclose that he was unemployed.

Elsewhere on the form, Josh wrote that he and Susan were both in “great health.” On a section of the form dealing with past prescription medications, he omitted the pain medications both he and Susan had received after the May 12, 2003 car crash in Yakima.

Insurance application processing notes later recovered by West Valley City police through an investigative subpoena showed IHC Health Plans quoted Josh a 15% rate increase due to his and Susan’s recent neck and back pain.

Internal health insurance records captured the conversation between an agent, sales representative and underwriter involved in Josh Powell’s application for coverage in February 2004. Image: West Valley City, Utah police

Those processing notes included a history of contacts between the insurance agent, sales representative and underwriter. In one exchange, the agent described Josh as “quite difficult to work with” over a request for records related to the chiropractic treatment.

In the final exchange captured in the processing notes, the sales representative asked the agent what it was that Josh managed. The agent replied that she had learned Josh was actually “between jobs.”

Hear about Josh Powell’s two other suspicious car crashes in a bonus episode of Cold: Car Crash Con.​