The Justice Files: Family of Jeffrey Nichols want case reopened


SALT LAKE CITY  (ABC4 News) – It wasn’t a thorough investigation. That’s what the family of Jeffrey Nichols is alleging.

Nichols disappeared in 2004 under “suspicious” circumstances according to Salt Lake City police.

Nichols’ bank accounts and credit cards have not shown any activity since he disappeared nearly 15 years ago.  To date, police said there are no new developments.

“It’s unreal because you don’t know what happened,” said Wanda Schmitt, Nichols’ sister.  “And as for our family, it affects all of us.”

In 2004, Nichols was on State Street driving to meet his ex-wife and their son.
They allegedly were waiting for him at a McDonald’s in Midvale.  But police said Nichols never arrived.

“His truck was found about a month after he disappeared and we really don’t know how long his truck had been sitting there,” said Julia Giddens with Zions Lost which focuses on missing people and cold cases. She also volunteers for the Utah Cold Case Coalition.

“Our family knew right away,” said Schmitt.  “My brother and my husband were in Salt Lake June 10 to find out what was going on because we knew something bad had happened. 

According to his sister, in 2003, Nichols and his wife Shelby Elizabeth Nichols had a troubled marriage which ended in divorce.

Schmitt claimed he had a bad feeling and told that to his girlfriend at the time.

“He said if something happens to me, make sure they look at Vernon Brown,” recalled Schmitt.

Brown happened to be Shelby Nichols’ father. About two weeks after his vehicle was found abandoned on State Street, his family claimed his ex-wife, who also goes by Shelby Brown, left town.

“Nobody has really investigated Shelby as far as I’ve been able to tell in regards to Jeff’s disappearance,” said Giddens. 

Schmitt said she too was disenchanted with the way police handled their concern in 2004.

“They weren’t taking it seriously,” said Schmitt.  “They didn’t believe us.  They thought we were being irrational and Jeff is a grown man. He can leave. Even though we told them he was at risk.”

According to his family, Shelby Nichols (Brown) left Utah and moved to Arizona but then moved again, this time to Ireland.

But she did return after there was a warrant for her arrest for bankruptcy fraud.  According to a federal indictment, she failed to report assets when she filed for bankruptcy. She served jail time in 2009.

Schmitt claimed detectives with Salt Lake city police never bothered to question her during her five months in the Weber County jail.

“We don’t even know where Shelby is today,” said Giddens. “I think all of the answers lie with Shelby.”

Schmitt said they’ve also lost an opportunity to visit with Jeff’s biological son who was 7 years old at the time.  She also claimed Jeff’s parents were also denied visitation rights.
“Life goes on and I know that Jeff wouldn’t want me wallowing and in grief, but it’s hard not to at times,” said Schmitt. “When you suspect it ended with violence, it keeps you constantly wondering what happened.  It doesn’t stop.”

A spokesman for Salt Lake City police could not answer whether there were ever any attempts or recent attempts to contact Shelby Nichols (Brown).

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