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Mother testifies about bear mauling that killed her son

By Emiley Morgan | Posted - Feb. 9, 2011 at 5:56 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- After her son Samuel died, Rebecca Ives lost her will to live.

"I felt there was nothing left good for me in this world without him," she said. "I just kind of didn't want to be here. I wanted to be with him."

But the mother said she took the stand in U.S. District Court Wednesday so that she, and all of those who love the boy, can focus on how he lived during his short life.

Rebecca Ives, mother of 2007 bear attack victim Sam Ives, speaks outside federal court in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011.
Rebecca Ives, mother of 2007 bear attack victim Sam Ives, speaks outside federal court in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011.

"That's something I really hope getting this trial out of the way will do," she said. "Stop talking about how he died - and be able to remember what a bright, inquisitive, funny young man he was."

Samuel Ives was killed June 17, 2007, after a black bear ripped him from the tent he was sharing with his family in American Fork Canyon. His family is now suing the U.S. Forest Service for negligence, claiming that they are to blame for not warning the family of a bear attack at the same campsite earlier the same day.

Ives first testified about her son, who she said was popular, creative and eager to learn.

"Sam got along with everybody he met," she said. "I never heard him say he hated anybody. He was very outgoing, a very likable person because he embraced everybody."

She said he would put together elaborate costumes and was interested in everything from Legos to musical instruments. He always opted to watch the History Channel and National Geographic instead of cartoons, though he was good about changing the channel for his younger brother.


I didn't know who I was anymore without Sam. My best friend was gone and he was never coming back. I couldn't deal with the reality that my son was gone.

–Mother Rebecca Ives


"He loved his little brother more than anything. He was very proud of being a big brother. He wanted to teach Jack everything he had learned."

Ives testified that the camping trip was her son's idea. He had succeeded in persuading her to buy a new tent for her then-husband, Tim Mulvey, and even packed the car himself to ensure the trip took place.

Her last conversation with her son was about how he was going to get up before everyone else to make breakfast. He told his family to go to sleep and "we minded him," she said.

The first warning she had that something was wrong was the rustling of the tent. She heard Sam talking in his sleep, presumably to a neighbor boy who would pester him during sleepovers.

Then she heard him scream.

She and Mulvey leapt from the tent, but didn't see anything. And then it occurred to them that Sam could be gone. Returning to their tent, she said their fears were confirmed.

"At first we thought somebody had abducted him, because the nature of the cut was so exact," she testified. "You hear stories about people taking children in the night and doing horrible things to them. We started running up the trail, screaming."

Samuel Ives poses in a school portrait taken in March 2007. The 11-year-old was dragged from his family's tent and killed by a black bear on a camping trip in June 17, 2007.
Samuel Ives poses in a school portrait taken in March 2007. The 11-year-old was dragged from his family's tent and killed by a black bear on a camping trip in June 17, 2007.

She felt her fears were being confirmed as she came upon a discarded sock, and then the boy's pants. Mulvey left to get a flashlight and call for help while she waited, hoping the boy would come back.

The woman recounted the "excruciating" experience of sitting there, clinging to her other son and screaming for Sam.

"This is the scene that is stuck in my head all the time," Ives said. "That's what I see when I wake up in the morning and when I go to bed at night. It was a horror film that was my life that night."

She didn't learn the details about what happened, specifically that there had been a bear incident earlier in the day, until she heard them on the news, a fact that "appalled" her.

The next time Ives saw her son, he was laying on a cold exam table in a mortuary, covered in a sheet. She said she then plummeted into a world of heavy drinking to try and forget what happened.

"At that point my world was shattered," Ives said. "I didn't know who I was anymore without Sam. � I didn't want to feel anything. ... My best friend was gone and he was never coming back. � I couldn't deal with the reality that my son was gone."

It wasn't until she realized she would be chastised by Sam for "eternity" if she wasn't a better mother to Jack that she decided to seek help. She entered treatment and has been sober since July 2008.

Ives also testified that her family camped "quite frequently" and knew what precautions to take against bears -- though she had never seen one. She said she had told both Sam and Jack that they were to keep all trash and food in the car.

A Coke Zero and granola bar were later found in the tent where Sam was sleeping. She testified that she had no idea either item was in the tent at the time.

The trial is expected to continue through Friday. Attorneys for the U.S. Forest Service are expected to present their case Thursday.

E-mail: emorgan@desnews.com

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Emiley Morgan

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