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After 4 years, murder charges filed in case of 3 missing Salt Lake men

By Pat Reavy, KSL | Updated - Jan 18th, 2019 @ 3:21pm | Posted - Jan 18th, 2019 @ 12:21pm

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UPDATE: Richard Christopher was located and taken into custody Friday morning, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said at a Friday afternoon press conference.

SALT LAKE CITY — More than four years after three Salt Lake men disappeared and were presumably killed, a longtime suspect was formally charged on Friday with murdering them.

Richard Christopher, 53, of Salt Lake City, is charged in 3rd District Court with three counts of aggravated murder, a first-degree felony.

He is accused of killing Levi Collins, 34, Danny "Kiko" Gallegos, 35, and Braden Emerson, 23. The bodies of the three men have never been found.

The three men were last seen on Nov. 1, 2014. The three were going out for an afternoon of ATV riding. On Nov. 3, a business owner called Salt Lake Animal Control to report that a barking dog was inside an abandoned Chevy Tahoe near the Jordan River surplus canal at 1740 W. 1500 South. The dog belonged to Collins.

Inside the vehicle, detectives found a "large" amount of blood — so much that the person who suffered the injury likely would not have survived. DNA testing indicated the blood was from Collins and Emerson. Police believe both were murdered inside the Tahoe.

For years, rumors continued to focus on Christopher and his son, Justin Christopher.

The Christophers were the owners of JC Custom Jewelry, 230 W. 200 South. Justin Christopher also helped Gallegos — a drug trafficker and FBI informant — launder money, according to numerous search warrant affidavits.

Gallegos went to the Christophers' jewelry store on Nov. 1, 2014 — the day he and his two friends disappeared — with $200,000 cash for the purpose of buying a house, according to charging documents and police search warrants. Investigators believe the three men stopped by on their way to Bountiful where they had told family members they were going to ride ATVs that day.

The jewelry store closed its doors three days after the three men went missing.

On Nov. 21, 2014, Salt Lake police, with the assistance of a SWAT team, served a search warrant on the Christophers' motor home. Numerous guns were found inside.

Richard Christopher pleaded guilty in June of 2016 to being a restricted person in possession of a firearm and was sentenced to 44 months in federal prison.

During sentencing for Justin Christopher in federal court for his part in the crimes, his attorney, Loni DeLand, made reference to that day, stating his client no longer wanted to help his father.

"My client had decided that he no longer wanted a part of that. He wanted to withdraw. He didn't want to do any more money laundering," Deland said, according to the transcript of the hearing.

"As the argument went on and Kiko began to insist and threaten that my client go through with this and purchase this house, my client's father walked up, with no foreknowledge by my client, and put a bullet in the top of this man's head. Then he went out and made arrangements to kill the other two people that were sitting out in the car."

Justin Christopher was indicted in federal court with conspiracy to launder money and a second count of money laundering. He was accused of using his jewelry business to launder money for Gallegos, including the cash purchase of a Lamborghini worth an estimated $145,000. He was sentenced to time served and was placed on 36 months of probation.

In addition to three counts of aggravated murder, Richard Christopher was also charged Friday with aggravated robbery, a first-degree felony; obstruction of justice and three counts of desecration of a dead body, second-degree felonies; and possession of a firearms by a restricted person, a third-degree felony.

The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office is scheduled to hold a news conference Friday afternoon to discuss the case.

Watch the livestream of the press conference below:


Pat Reavy

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