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'Cold': Was man convicted of killing Joyce Yost connected to unsolved murder?

(Dave Cawley, KSL Podcasts)


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SALT LAKE CITY — A former South Ogden police detective who for years led the investigation into the August 1985 disappearance of Joyce Yost said he believes Douglas Lovell, the man ultimately charged with and convicted of capital murder for killing Yost, might also have played a role in the unsolved disappearance of another Weber County woman.

During plea negotiations in 1993, Lovell promised to take police to the place where he claimed to have killed Yost and left her body. Several weeks of intensive searching at that spot near the Snowbasin ski resort during the summer of '93 failed to turn up any trace of Yost's remains.

"In my mind, that's why he didn't ever take us to where Joyce was," former South Ogden police detective Terry Carpenter said in an interview for the second season of KSL's investigative podcast series "Cold." "She is someplace else and honestly to this day, I believe Sheree Warren's with her."

Sheree Warren

Sheree Warren was last been seen leaving the headquarters of the Utah State Employees Credit Union in Salt Lake City on Oct. 2, 1985. She'd told a coworker at that time she intended to meet her estranged husband, Charles Warren, at a nearby car dealership.

This building in Salt Lake City housed the offices of the Utah State Employees Credit Union in 1985. Sheree Warren was attending a weeklong management training program here when she disappeared on Oct. 2, 1985.
This building in Salt Lake City housed the offices of the Utah State Employees Credit Union in 1985. Sheree Warren was attending a weeklong management training program here when she disappeared on Oct. 2, 1985. (Photo: Dave Cawley, KSL Podcasts)

Charles and Sheree Warren were separated at the time and were splitting custody of their 3-year-old son. Sheree Warren was living with her parents in Roy at the time of her disappearance. Roy police believe she was murdered, but have made no arrests in the case. Sheree Warren's body has never been located.

Police records obtained by "Cold" reveal Charles Warren told a detective he'd called Sheree Warren at work that afternoon and told her his plans had changed and he no longer intended to meet her as previously arranged.

When Sheree Warren left work around 6:30 p.m., she reportedly told a coworker she was headed to the dealership to meet her estranged husband, contradicting the information provided by Charles Warren that he'd canceled their planned rendezvous. Sheree Warren did not return to her parents' home that evening and has not been seen since.

Las Vegas Metro Police in Nevada found Sheree Warren's car abandoned behind the Aladdin hotel and casino a little over a month later. Police documents show Charles Warren authorized a search of the vehicle, which failed to turn up any definitive evidence as to Sheree Warren's whereabouts.

Las Vegas Metro Police located Sheree Warren’s 1984 Toyota Corolla abandoned behind the Aladdin hotel in November of 1985, more than a month after Warren disappeared from Salt Lake City.
Las Vegas Metro Police located Sheree Warren’s 1984 Toyota Corolla abandoned behind the Aladdin hotel in November of 1985, more than a month after Warren disappeared from Salt Lake City. (Photo: KSL TV)

The police records also show investigators initially considered Charles Warren a suspect, in part because he refused to submit to a polygraph examination.

Cary Hartmann

Police suspicion also fell on a man named Cary Hartmann, whom Sheree Warren had been dating prior to her disappearance.

The focus on Hartmann intensified in the spring of 1987 after an anonymous caller phoned Roy police and reported finding a woman's body near Causey Dam. A witness told police he'd seen Hartmann hunting in the mountains south of Causey the weekend following Sheree Warren's disappearance. The remains reported by the anonymous caller have never been recovered.

Hartmann has repeatedly denied knowledge of Warren's fate in various interviews with police conducted over the last three decades. Hartmann was for much of that time serving a prison sentence tied to his convictions for a series of rapes committed during 1986.

The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole released Hartmann from custody in 2020. Roy police have confirmed to "Cold" that both Hartmann and Charles Warren remain persons of interest in their ongoing cold case investigation.

Potential contacts between Lovell and Warren

Douglas Lovell is not currently a key figure in the Roy police investigation of Sheree Warren's case but "Cold's" review of records from both the Joyce Yost and Sheree Warren cases has uncovered tangential links between Lovell and Warren.

Doug Lovell's wife at the time in 1985, Rhonda Buttars, was working for the Utah Department of Social Services when both Joyce Yost and Sheree Warren disappeared. During a court hearing in 1993, she testified that she and Lovell did their banking "up past" Joyce Yost's apartment on 40th Street in South Ogden.

Sheree Warren worked for the Utah State Employees Credit Union in this building during the summer of 1985. Douglas Lovell was also known to visit this branch during the same time period.
Sheree Warren worked for the Utah State Employees Credit Union in this building during the summer of 1985. Douglas Lovell was also known to visit this branch during the same time period. (Photo: Dave Cawley, KSL Podcasts)

The Utah State Employees Credit Union in 1985 operated a branch at the corner of Harrison Boulevard and 42nd Street in Ogden, just south of Weber State University; 40th Street becomes 42nd Street as it approaches Harrison Boulevard a short distance east of Yost's apartment.

Sheree Warren had worked as a teller at that credit union branch in the months prior to her disappearance.

At the same 1993 court hearing at which Rhonda Buttars testified, a man named Tom Peters who Lovell had attempted to hire as a hitman described meeting with Lovell during the summer of 1985 near the same credit union branch where Warren was then working. Peters said Lovell was at that time attempting to cash a workers' compensation check in order to pay him for the hit. Lovell eventually paid Peters $800, but Peters said he used the money to buy heroin and to gamble. He did not attempt to kill Yost, as Lovell had requested.

Joyce Yost stands next to a Piper PA-44 Seminole in this undated snapshot.
Joyce Yost stands next to a Piper PA-44 Seminole in this undated snapshot. (Photo: Joyce Yost family)

Lovell received a death sentence in 1993 after admitting to killing Yost himself to prevent her from testifying against him in a sexual assault case. He spoke to a reporter in the weeks following the sentencing hearing. An Associated Press story published following that interview stated police at the time were interested in questioning Lovell about Sheree Warren. The AP reported Lovell denied having ever met Warren.

"I wish they'd talk to me before they started throwing my name around," the AP story quoted Lovell as saying.

Lovell declined or ignored multiple requests for an interview for "Cold."

William Babbel

Another significant but previously unreported clue potentially linking Lovell and Warren has emerged from "Cold's" review of case records. It involves a tip provided to South Ogden police months before prosecutors charged Lovell with Joyce Yost's murder.

The tip came from an informant named William Babbel, who was in 1991 housed with Lovell at the Utah State Prison's special services dormitory. Babbel and Lovell were also coworkers at Utah Correctional Industries, in the UCI sign shop. Lovell had enlisted Babbel's help in drafting documents for an appeal of his conviction in the Joyce Yost sexual assault case.

Babbel would later tell police Lovell had described a surprise encounter he'd had with South Ogden police Sgt. Terry Carpenter months earlier, on May 20, 1991. Carpenter had gone to the prison to confront Lovell with incriminating information he'd recently received from Rhonda Buttars, who'd divorced Lovell a year earlier.

Following that meeting, Babbel claimed, Lovell had returned to the UCI sign shop and said "I thought they were here to question me about Sheree Warren."

Babbel described Lovell's alleged Sheree Warren comment in a Dec. 19, 1991, interview with Terry Carpenter, which was audio recorded. "Cold" obtained a copy of that recording through an open records request.

"I think (Lovell) knows about it," Babbel said in the recording. "And he says 'Well, they'll never stick me with that because Cary Hartmann is the one that's gonna end up eating that one."

Babbel died in 2008. Cary Hartmann declined a request for an interview, referring questions to his attorney. Hartmann's attorney did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Listen to the full episode

Season 2 of the "Cold" podcast will take you inside the no-body homicide investigation triggered by Yost's disappearance. Audio tapes never before made public will allow you to hear Yost, in her own voice, describe the events which preceded her death.

You will learn why police suspected one man, Douglas Lovell, yet were unable to arrest him at the time. And you will see how some individuals and institutions gave — and continue to give — Lovell every opportunity to evade the ultimate penalty.

Hear Joyce Yost's voice for the first time in the COLD podcast season 2, available to listen free on Amazon Music.

Free resources and help with sexual abuse are available 24/7 at RAINN.org. You can also call 800-856-HOPE (4673).

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