SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Abel Aragon went from being a war hero to accused killer in 1961.
But what would cause the change will never be known. He took his own life as authorities stopped him on an isolated highway near Moab.
Aragon pretended to be a tour guide, telling them the history of Utah’s badlands.
After leaving them, Aragon pulled his car over and gave the appearance he was having car trouble.
Boothroyd saw the car and offered to help Aragon. It was a ruse. He robbed them.
“My mother was mad, threw the money down, rolled it up in a rubber band,” said Jeannie Nabozny, Sullivan’s daughter. “It was $200 and she threw it on the ground. When she turned to walk away he shot her and he shot Charles twice.”
The 15-year old took off in Boothroyd’s car and Aragon pursued her. She was never heard or seen again.
“They found Denise’s tennis shoes side by side by the Colorado river,” said Dr. Steve Lacy, a local historian who also wrote a book about the incident. “It was like he was letting somebody know where she was.”
The shooting made headlines back east where the Sullivan’s and Boothroyd’s were from. Little did the public know about the compassion shown by Sullivan’s mother.
Nabozny recalled her grandmother taking a call from authorities announcing the death.
“She said ‘that poor, poor woman,'” Nabozny said. “She was not talking about my mother or my sister. She was actually talking about Abel Aragon’s wife.”
Back in Utah, authorities searched the area and found the Volkswagen. There was no sign of Denise. It had dents and scratches later matched with the paint from Aragon’s car.
Three days after the shootings, two FBI agents spotted his car, stopped him, but Aragon took his own life.
In a cemetery back east, there is a headstone that bears the name of Denise Sullivan. Missing are her remains.
“You know she’s not there,” said Nabozny. “She’s somewhere. I’m not religious but I have faith in God and I know in my heart she’s not there either. She’s with (God).”
Her mother was buried in Rhode Island. Sullivan’s male friend, Charles Boothroyd survived and lived to be 83 years old. He never remarried.
As for Aragon, he was buried in Price leaving behind many many questions.
“Abel was an unemployed former miner,” said Lacy. “He was a World War II hero.”
In 1945, Aragon was awarded the Navy Cross as a marine for helping to save the lives of fellow marines.
Lacy said when he returned to Price, argon got married, raised a family, and got a job in the coal mines.
But in the late 1950’s, Aragon was laid off and couldn’t find work.
He searched for jobs in the uranium industry near Moab, but nothing panned out.
It was on the Fourth of July, 1961, when Aragon made his way to Dead Horse Point. He was all alone on the nation’s holiday. But then he came across the Sullivans and Boothroyd.
But taking a cue from her grandmother, Nabozny has no hatred toward Aragon.
“Mr. Angel Aragon had never done anything horrible like this in his whole life,” Nabozny said. “And something happened. Charles said when he came out of the car with a gun his demeanor, his face was different.”
Nabozny wondered of Aragon was suffering from a mental illness or PTSD.
“People just don’t do this because they’re hateful; they do it because there’s something wrong,” she said. “And we have to have compassion for their families too.”
It took a long time for Nabozny to find happiness after losing her mother and sister. She said it wasn’t until her daughter once told her that she deserved to be happy and to embrace what she has. Nabozny is a mother and grandmother.