SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – After four years, families of missing boys finally had answers.
Their sons who had vanished beginning in 1979 were murdered.
And the man behind those killings was Arthur Gary Bishop.
“Here you have four years, terrorizing the community trying to figure out if there’s a monster or a series of people that are monsters kidnapping or killing our kids,” said former deputy Salt Lake district attorney Creighton Horton. “And a lot of people who were interacting with him thought he was a great guy.”
But little did anyone know, Bishop was actually the devil in Salt Lake City.
Bishop had at least two aliases; Roger Downs and Lynn Jones.
Beginning with the 1979 murder of Alonzo Daniels, Bishop lived near all of his victims.
He lived across the street from the grocery store where Danny Davis disappeared. He took up residence near the bowling alley where Kim Peterson disappeared in 1980, and lived in the same neighborhood where Troy Ward and Graeme Cunningham vanished in 1983.
In fact it was Cunningham’s disappearance that Bishop became a suspect. The teen was a friend of Bishop and his so-called stepson named Jeff. All three were headed to Disneyland in July 1983.
But the night before they were leaving, Cunningham got a phone call, left his house, and was never seen again.
At the time, Bishop was known as Roger Downs. He and Jeff were brought in for routine questioning in hopes of finding Cunningham.
But according to Horton, the detective thought something was odd when he started to question Jeff.
“He asked Jeff how long has Roger been abusing you?” Horton said. “And basically said ‘my whole life.’”
Bishop was then questioned about their relationship, and in a startling development, he confessed. But it wasn’t about his relationship with Jeff; it was for the murder of Cunningham. Horton said the detective noticed Bishop was using the word “they” and asked him about that. Bishop said he killed all five boys. Bishop was charged with five-counts each of aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, and a single count of sex abuse.
In an infamous statement played during Bishop’s sentencing trial, he was relieved it was over.
“I’m glad you caught me, ’cause I couldn’t stop and I would do it again if I had the chance,” said Bishop.
The statement was Bishop’s confession to the detective and was never played before the public until that moment at sentencing, according to Horton, who was co-counsel along with Robert Stott, the lead prosecutor.
“And to have all those cases having been committed by the same person and to have all of those cases solved at one time was truly remarkable,” said Horton.
Bishop dumped the bodies of Troy Ward and Graeme Cunningham in Big Cottonwood Creek. Their bodies were found in a logjam. Each of the boys were given a proper burial.
As for Bishop, he was a former eagle scout and belonged to the Big Brother organization.
But he was also a pedophile.
In a 1984 exclusive interview with Phil Riesen, anchor at ABC4, Bishop knew he had problems.
“I tried all my life to reach (my parents) and I couldn’t,” Bishop said. “I don’t know what to do about this.”
In 1984, he was convicted of aggravated kidnapping and murder and sex abuse, and was sentenced to die.
Troy Ward’s mother recalled seeing Bishop in the courtroom.
“I was sitting right behind him and it took a lot of holding back,” Cheryl Sorensen recalled.
Four years later, Bishop suddenly stopped his appeals. Through his attorneys, he did this to spare the victim’s families from further pain.
But back then, Cunningham’s mother told ABC4 his show of mercy was shallow.
“He has not given up his life to make our lives easier,” said Shona Cunningham. “I am sick and tired that he is (considered) this martyr.”
In June 1988 Arthur Gary Bishop’s reign of terror in Utah ended by lethal injection.
For Danny Davis’ family, Bishop’s execution was fitting.
“The devil incarnate,” said his cousin Brenda Davis Fellows. “He was cruel and pure evil.”
More than 41-years has passed since Troy Ward died. His mother now understands that voice she kept hearing when he first disappeared; that he’s no longer in pain and that he’s okay.
Still, she sometimes lives in a world of “what ifs.”
“I felt that he’d be like a good father, live life to the fullest,” his mother said.
In 1979, Bishop was questioned by police when Alonzo Daniels disappeared. He lived in the same apartment complex. His apartment was across the hall from the Daniels.
According to Horton, Salt Lake police questioned him at the time and thought of him as odd. But he was never questioned again until 1983.