Bodies Found near Southern Utah Tied to Case of Missing Couple

Two bodies found buried near southern Utah have been tied to a case of couple missing since January.

Human remains

Photo by: Tom Britt

Two sets of human remains were found in the desert just south of the Utah/Arizona border recently and one of the bodies has been officially identified as 63 year old Susan McFalls. The other set has yet to be identified, yet family members expect the DNA results will match that of Susan McFalls’ husband, 63 year old Jerry McFalls. The two bodies were found buried on the side of a dirt road within view of Interstate 15 and investigators have determined the cause of death to be homicide.

Missing persons

The retired couple who has two homes- one in Littlefield, Arizona just south of the Utah border and another home in West Jordan, Utah have been missing since January 11th, 2018 while at their Arizona home. That afternoon, the couple had texted their family members in northern Utah to let them know they were going to be traveling to their Utah home that weekend. No one ever heard from them again. 10 days later, family members contacted law enforcement to do a welfare check at the couple’s Littlefield, Arizona home. Officers were not able to find Susan and Jerry McFalls, but they did locate their pets as well as personal effects and packed vehicles still at the home. With the front door ajar, TV blaring, and dinner mid-preparation, Jerry and Susan McFalls appeared to have vanished. It wasn’t until over ten months later that the human remains were discovered mere miles from the couple’s home.

Foul Play in the desert

Photo by: Don Graham

Law enforcement determined that due to the way the bodies were found, foul play was suspected. There is suspicion surrounding a disgruntled neighbor who was set to go to court regarding assaulting Jerry McFalls with a pellet gun, however no one has been officially charged and the missing persons case is now an active homicide investigation. Those found responsible for the deaths of the couple will end up facing multiple charges including homicide and desecration of a human body.

Utah Man Driving Wrong Way on Freeway Arrested for Homicide

A Utah man was arrested for homicide after causing a fatal accident while driving the wrong way down a freeway in Arizona.

Wrong way driver

Photo by: Bradley Gordon

49 year old Dana Michael Cavanaugh of Washington, Utah was headed east down the westbound lanes of Interstate 10 near Quartzsite, Arizona when he collided head on with another vehicle. All three passengers in the westbound vehicle were killed. The accident occurred in close proximity to the off ramp for exit 31, and it is reported that Cavanaugh had just entered the freeway from that off ramp when the accident occurred. It still isn’t known if Cavanaugh was under the influence of drugs or alcohol or whether he mistakenly entered the freeway on what he possibly thought was an on ramp. Cavanaugh was booked into La Paz County Jail on homicide and endangerment charges awaiting results from toxicology reports.

Homicide with a vehicle

Cavanaugh will be facing his charges in Arizona courts however had the accident occurred in Utah, the charges would depend on the results of the wrong way driver’s toxicology report as well as proof of negligence or distraction. If a driver responsible for the death of another person was under the influence of drugs or alcohol and found to be criminally negligent, he could be charged with automobile homicide, a second degree felony according to Utah Code 76-5-207. If the cause of the fatal accident was due to using a handheld device, the charges could be the same under a different section (76-5-207.5). If the driver was not impaired but was determined to have been driving recklessly, the resulting charges could be manslaughter, also a second degree felony (76-5-205).

No impairment

Not all accidents are due to a serious impairment or intentional or reckless mistake by the driver. Some accidents are sadly just accidents. If the driver responsible for a fatal accident was not found to be impaired or distracted and caused the accident maybe due to unfamiliarity with the roads or inability or confusion with understanding the signs, they could then face lesser charges of negligent homicide, a class A misdemeanor as stated by section 76-5-206. For legal assistance in ensuring fair charges related to vehicular homicide, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Shot by Police – Unnecessary Use of Deadly Force on the Rise

A quick search of the phrase “ shot by police ” results in a rising number of both state and nationwide cases where the unnecessary use of deadly force by law enforcement is questionable to say the least.

Shot by Police

Photo by: Joanna

Photo by: Joanna

According to the public Facebook page “Killed by Police”, 84 people lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement in the month of April. So Far, seven individuals have been shot by police in May and it is only the third day of the month. Some of the officer involved shootings resulted from police returning fire while others ensued from police opening fire on armed suspects after feeling threatened. Then there are the instances where unarmed individuals are shot by police and no one really understands why.

Birds of a feather

On April 20, 2017 a fugitive task force team in Arizona comprising of six different local and federal agencies was assembled to locate and arrest 25 year old Brandon Pequeno after he was involved in an altercation with an ex-girlfriend and presumably fled in her car. Police reports state Pequeno had multiple warrants and was “considered” armed and dangerous while they also “believed” he was driving a stolen vehicle. For these reasons, a barrage of reinforcements was called in. Police later revealed Pequeno was not armed and that not a single weapon was found in the vehicle.

“Fearing for their lives”

Shot by Police

Photo by: Matthrono

Police located the car Pequeno was driving which also contained two passengers in a small parking lot of an apartment building and ordered him to surrender. Pequeno refused and in an attempt to flee police, hit several cars within that parking lot. Officers then used their undercover vehicles to pin Pequeno in, making it impossible for him to continue doing damage to the parked cars in the lot. Then for reasons still unknown to many, officers opened fire on the car – the spray of bullets hurtling through the windows of the car, striking Pequeno and a 17 year old female passenger. The third passenger in the car was miraculously unharmed.

 

17 year old St. George native

Pequeno suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the chest that proved fatal and shortly after he arrived at a local hospital he was pronounced dead. The 17 year old female who was shot by police suffered at least one gunshot wound to the head, leaving her brain-dead. After unselfishly saving multiple lives through organ donation, the teen was taken off life support and died shortly after. The teenager, whose name is being withheld out of respect for her family, was a native to St. George, Utah. Numerous family members of the teen still live in the St. George area where they continue to await information as to why police would display an unnecessary use of deadly force that would take the lives of two individuals, one of which was an innocent child.

333 shot by police

Photo by: Martin Fisch

Photo by: Martin Fisch

Unfortunately, unnecessary use of deadly force by police appears to be on the rise. The 17 year old St. George native and Pequeno were not the only unarmed citizens shot by police this year. 397 people total have been killed by police in 2017 so far; most of them, including 3 Utah residents, suffering fatal gunshot wounds at the hands of police. A thorough and regularly updated article by the Washington Post states that 44 of those victims shot by police in 2017 were either unarmed, unknown, or in possession of a toy weapon. Only 173 were reported to be in possession of an actual firearm; the remaining were armed with knives, a vehicle, or other item that reportedly left police feeling fearful.

Last resort only

With the uptick in violent offenses against police, it is understandable that law enforcement officers may be on edge and fearful of their own injury or death. For this reason, police should be properly trained to handle situations coolly, without letting fear cause them to become trigger happy. We expect our men and women in blue to remain calm and collected in times of trouble and to be the ones we trust to keep us safe when dangerous situations arise. We hope their choice to use deadly force would be a last resort only.