SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Sixty-years ago, the kidnapping and disappearance of Denise Sullivan captivated Utahns and the rest of the nation.
Not only did the 15-year old vanish, but her mother was brutally shot to death. Jeannette Sullivan’s male companion Charles Boothroyd was shot in the face, but survived.
It happened on the Fourth of July in 1961. The Sullivan’s and Boothroyd had left their home in Connecticut and headed west for a vacation.
“She was excited about it,” said Denise Sullivan’s younger sister, Jeannie Nabozny. It was an educational trip and to go across country.”
They crossed the country in a yellow Volkswagen. Along the way, they made stops in Iowa, Nebraska, and Colorado before making their way into the four corners region.
Jeannie Nabozny was 4-years old at the time and was left behind with her grandparents.
“The only real reason I didn’t go was because I get terrible car sickness,” said Nabozny. “So, I was left behind.”
Back then, Jeanette Sullivan was a single parent who raised her two daughters on a shoe string budget and pieced together a life for the girls.
“I remember we didn’t much money,” said Nabozny. “She was a wonderful seamstress. She made a lot of our clothes.”
And when she met Charles Boothroyd, the two clicked. For the couple, the trip out west was more than just a vacation.
“The information I got from him was they were going to be married when they got out west,” recalled Nabozny. “But they never made it that far.”
Dr. Steven Lacy of Murray has a fascination with Utah history. He wrote a book on the disappearance of Denise Sullivan.
“The day before they came to Dead Horse Point, they were in Monument Valley,” said Lacy. “All along, they took home movies. And when they got to Dead Horse Point, Abel Aragon was there and he acted like a guide. He told them about the local history.”
But Abel Aragon was no guide. He was from Price, and at one time was considered a war hero. He worked in the mines and, according to Lacy, saved lives during a mine collapse.
But on that day in 1961, Aragon was a drifter and out of work.
Lacy said Aragon even took the 8 mm camera and was filming the Sullivans and Boothroyd during their excursion at Dead Horse Point.
“After two hours, he excused himself and went down the road,” Lacy said. Then Denise, her mother, and boyfriend came along and saw Abel in front of his car.
The hood was open, and they asked Abel what was wrong. Boothroyd and Aragon tinkered with the vehicle as Jeanette looked on. Denise waited inside the Volkswagen.
“Abel did something under the hood and went into the car and started to come out and came out with a gun,” said Nabozny. “It just all went wrong from there.”
Wednesday as Missing In Utah continues with the Sullivan disappearance, shots are fired and lives are changed forever.