SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – In 1961, Jeannette Sullivan invited her daughter to a vacation of a lifetime.
Jeannette and Denise Sullivan were from Connecticut and they left behind four-year old Jeannie who stayed behind with her grandparents.
Jeannette’s friend, Charles Boothroyd, also from Connecticut, was also with them. The two had more than a vacation in mind. That’s according to Jeannie Nabozny, the daughter left behind.
“The information I got from him was they were going to be married when they got out west,” Nabozny said. “But they never made it that far.”
On the Fourth of July, the Sullivan’s and Boothroyd made their way to the newly established Dead Horse Point state park near Moab.
There, they met a stranger who portrayed himself as a tour guide.
But he wasn’t.
Abel Aragon, was a former war hero and, more recently, a coal miner looking for work.
Aragon left the group after talking with them for a spell. Later, as Boothroyd began driving, he saw his car off to the side of the road. They helped restart the car, but it was a ruse.
A local historian, chronicled the story in a book he wrote about the incident.
“He proceeds to get out of the car with his rifle and says this is a stick up,” said Dr. Steve Lacy. “Jeannette is really upset and threw the money at him and he shot her.”
Boothroyd confronted the stranger but got shot twice in the head.
“Charles went down the first time and was kind of delirious and Abel shot him again,” said Nabozny. “My sister saw the whole thing and tried to get away.”
Denise Sulllivan was in the back seat of the Volkswagon and jumped into the driver’s seat. She had never driven before, but Boothroyd gave her a few lessons. She fled. It was the last time the 15-year old was seen or heard from.
Over the next few days, there was a massive manhunt underway in the four-corners area. The clues started trickling in.
This is from a 1976 documentary produced by students at Emery High School.
“They found a rifle and then found the clothes he had on,” Cliff Aldridge, a volunteer searcher told the student reporter. “So, we found a shovel and only reason they believe he would hide the shovel was the fact he used it to either kill her or hit her or use it to cover her body.”
Authorities learned it may be Abel Aragon after his wife contacted them about her missing husband. She was from Price and claimed her husband left to find work in the Uranium mines. But she hadn’t heard from him in days.
But three days after the shootings, two FBI agents stopped a car that resembled the description given to them.
As they approached the car, there was a brief conversation. Then, according to press accounts, Abel Aragon grabbed a gun from inside his vehicle and shot himself. Authorities later searched his car and trunk in hopes of finding Sullivan. But she was not there.
Aragon was taken to a hospital in Moab where he died two hours later.
Again, from the 1976 documentary produced by students at Emery High School, a reporter asked the Moab editor about seeing Aragon at the hospital.
“I think it was a pretty violent reaction,” said Tom Taylor of the Moab Times-Independent. “The man had been shot and was either dying or dead. For a person that is used to those things, it was pretty shocking.”
Charles Boothroyd survived. At the hospital, he gave authorities a description of the man whose name sounded like “Oregon.” He also offered them a partial Utah license plate that indicated it was from Carbon County.
He later told reporters “I heard a click click, then an explosion and (Jeanette) fell on the road. Then there was another click-click and he shot me.”
Regarding Denise, he said “she couldn’t possibly be alive.”
“He loved us very much,” said Nabozny. “But I don’t think he ever got over the feeling that it was his fault, that my mother died and it wasn’t his fault at all.”
In Thursday’s segment of Missing in Utah, life after the disappearance of Denise Sullivan.