7 of the most infamous criminals in Utah history

7 of the most infamous criminals in Utah history

(Mugshot of Mark Hofmann)


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Utah is widely known for its safe communities. In fact, in 2015, The Huffington Post named Utah the ninth-safest state after taking into consideration the state's high percentage of educated adults, low poverty rate and low rate of murders and other violent crimes.

Despite these facts, Utah does have a fair share of criminals who have made their mark, even in the nation's history.

KSL.com has teamed up with Robert J. DeBry to bring you seven of the most famous — or should we say infamous — criminals who came out of the Beehive State.

1. Butch Cassidy

One of Utah's first criminals is a man known as Butch Cassidy, a notorious bank robber who traveled the West in the late 1800s, stealing upward of $70,000 at a time.

What many don't know is he was born Robert Leroy Parker and was the oldest of 13 children in a poor Mormon family in Beaver, Utah. It was his lack of money that many speculate was the reason he turned to a life of theft.

However, despite his criminal activity, Cassidy was not known to be violent and was actually well-liked by the American public who enjoyed reading about his exploits in the newspaper.

His life was immortalized in the 1969 film, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

2\. Mark Hofmann ===============

This next Utah criminal is a man named Mark Hofmann, who became known to the public after some documents he released that he said to have come from the early history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The most notable documents were the "Joseph Smith III Blessing" and the "Salamander Letter," which were damning to the doctrines of the church.

Hofmann got thousands of dollars from the sale of these documents that were later proven as forgeries. When he found officials were on to him, he made two bombs, killing two people in a desperate effort to buy himself time to forge more documents.

Hofmann was eventually captured, convicted of forgery and murder, and he has been serving a life sentence at the Utah State Prison in Draper since 1988.

3. Ronnie Lee Gardner

Ronnie Lee Gardner's life of crime began at a young age. Gardner spoke about growing up in a troubled home, often living on the streets and moving from one unstable foster home to the next. At the age of 10, Gardner said he was addicted to drugs and alcohol, which were readily available to him.

In 1984, at the age of 23, Gardner killed Melvyn John Otterstrom during a robbery in Salt Lake City. And while being moved to a court hearing for the homicide in April 1985, he tried to escape and ended up fatally shooting attorney Michael Burdell. Gardner was sentenced to life imprisonment for the first count and the death penalty for the second.

Gardner's execution on June 18, 2010, and gained national attention because he chose to be executed by firing squad — something that had not been done in the United States in 14 years.

4\. Gary Gilmore ===============

Gary Gilmore made his way to Provo in 1976 to live with a distant cousin after being convicted of armed robbery in Oregon, then being conditionally paroled.

That same year, within the space of two days, Gilmore robbed and murdered a gas station employee and hotel manager. After trying to dispose of his .22 caliber gun used in both killings, Gilmore accidentally shot himself in his right hand, leaving behind a trail that went to the service garage where he went to pay for his truck that was being repaired.

Gilmore's cousin turned him in, and he was later charged with both murders, but convicted of only the second one because there were no eyewitnesses. He was sentenced to the death penalty and was executed by firing squad at the Utah State Prison in 1977, ending a 1967 moratorium on capital punishment.

5\. Warren Jeffs ===============

One of the most recent Utah criminals is former president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Warren Jeffs.

In May of 2006, Jeffs gained national and even international attention when he was placed on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List when he unlawfully fled while trying to avoid being prosecuted in Utah for child sex abuse charges. These charges stemmed from multiple accounts alleging that there were illegally arranged marriages between his adult male followers and underage girls. Jeffs was also accused of having such marriages.

Jeffs was arrested in August 2006 in Nevada, and he was moved to Utah to stand trial.

Since being arrested, Jeffs has been charged with incest and sexual conduct with minors, counts of rape as an accomplice, and he was found guilty of sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault of children.

In 2008, Jeffs was extradited to Texas where after less that 30 minutes of deliberation, the jury had sentenced him to life in prison plus 20 years to be served consecutively, and a $10,000 fine for the sexual assaults of two young girls.

6\. Barton Kay Kirkham =====================

Barton Kay Kirkham was the oldest of five children and was raised in Salt Lake City. He left school in 11th grade to join the Air Force.

In 1955, after just 18 months of service, Kirkham went AWOL in Colorado and was given a dishonorable discharge when he committed a robbery. In July 1956, after spending the next nine months in reformatory, he was paroled.

Just one month later, on the night of August 12, 1956, Kirkham entered the Nibley Park Market grocery store in Salt Lake City to commit another robbery. Believing the storekeeper David Avon Frame was not giving him all the money, he took him to the back of the store, where he found mother of four, Ruth Holmes Webster, and shot them fatally in the head.

Kirkham showed no remorse for his actions and was sentenced to death. When asked to choose between execution by firing squad and hanging, he responded: "What costs most?" Kirkham said he chose to be hanged "because of the publicity... the novelty... to put the state to more inconvenience." It would be the first hanging in Utah since 1912 and no one has been executed that way since his death in 1958.

7\. Ted Bundy ============

In 1974, one of the nation's most notorious serial killers, Ted Bundy, made his way to Utah as a law student at the University of Utah. Using his preppy looks and often luring women with the excuse of injury and other reasons of helplessness, he raped and murdered three Utah women and possibly more.

There were those who escaped, living to tell about their encounters with Bundy.

Bundy was sentenced to 15 years in the Utah State Prison in 1976, but was extradited to Colorado to face other murder charges. In 1989, he was executed in Florida but not before confessing to three murders in Utah and perhaps hundreds more across the country.

Read more for "7 more of the most infamous criminals in Utah."

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