When I was seven years old, my parents let an unemployed man named Abel Aragon, from Price Utah, camp out in our peach orchard. Mr. Aragon, a decorated WWII veteran was looking for work in Moab, Utah where we lived. According to Mama, he was somewhat disgruntled that he had sacrificed for his country, but was unable to find the employment necessary to support his family after he returned. Mama seemed under the impression that he had some mental problems which she attributed to his war experiences. I am not sure how my parents became acquainted with Mr. Aragon, but they felt sorry for him and did not feel he posed any danger to their family.
I do not know how long it was after he left our property, that Mr. Aragon held some tourists up at gunpoint near Dead Horse Point State Park and shot a woman and her companion. The woman, Jeanette Sullivan died at the scene. Her companion, Charles Boothroyd, was left for dead, but survived to tell the story. The woman’s 15 year old daughter Denise was in the car when her mother was shot and attempted to drive away. Denise had never driven a car before and Mr. Aragon was able to force the car she was driving off the road. He then forced her into his car, kidnapping her.
Three days later on July 7th, Able Aragon was stopped in a road block at Crescent Junction, Utah (about 40 miles north of Moab) where he fatally shot himself in the head. He was alone at the time. The whereabouts of Denise was not known. She is presumed to have been murdered by him. To this day, her body has not been recovered.
My parents did not talk much about this incident within my earshot, but I was aware of it. I began having nightmares and was noticeably more anxious than normal during the day. Mama began to question me in order to determine what my problems were. I confided to her that I was worried about being kidnapped. I remember her assuring me. “You don’t have to worry about being kidnapped; your parents are poor.”
“Hallelujah, we’re poor,” I remember thinking. I immediately felt more secure, wrapped in the protection of our poverty. Mama did not tie the reason for my fear to the kidnapping of Denise Sullivan, who was likely taken because she was a witness to the murder and attempted murder. It wasn’t until I was several years older that I realized I could be kidnapped for reasons other than ransom.
To read more about the incident, read the account of the Deseret News reporter who won a Pulitzer prize for his reporting of this story: