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.

Raid on Spanish Fork Home Results in Drug and Weapons Charges

A raid on a Spanish Fork home Monday has resulted in several drug and weapons charges for two individuals living at that residence including one who is a restricted person.

The drug house

Photo by: Kelly Parker McPherson

A home in a quiet neighborhood in Spanish Fork, Utah was raided days after one of the home’s residents was picked up on drug charges. During the raid, law enforcement officers located drugs, guns, ammo, and cash from what appears to be a drug distribution business run out of that home. Found were distributable amounts of heroin, meth, marijuana dab, and cocaine on the premises. Additionally, several weapons along with thousands of rounds of ammo were also located as well as over three grand in cash.

Drug possession and distribution

24 year old Jennifer Lynn Coplen was arrested with possession and producing a controlled substance as well as intent to distribute. Coplen is not facing any charges for the weapons found at the home. The other individual living at the home was 28 year old Rolf Michael Pawelek. Like Coplen, Pawelek was also charged with possession and intent to distribute. Pawelek however, was also listed as a Category II restricted person and as such will be facing charges for the weapons found at the residence.

Possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person

Photo by: Lisa Zins

Utah Code 76-10-503 explains that certain individuals are prohibited from possessing a dangerous weapon. Someone listed as a “Category I restricted person is a person who:

(i) Has been convicted of any violent felony . . . ;
(ii) Is on probation or parole for any felony;
(iii) Is on parole from a secure facility . . . ;
(iv) Within the last 10 years [was charges as a minor with something that would be a violent felony as an adult] . . . ;
(v) Is an alien who is illegally or unlawfully in the United States; or
(vi) Is on probation for a conviction of possessing [controlled substances or synthetic equivalents]”.

A Category II restricted person includes those “who:

(i) Has been convicted of any felony;
(ii) Within the last seven years [was charges as a minor for something that would have been a felony as an adult];
(iii) Is an unlawful user of a controlled substance . . . ;
(iv) Is in possession of a dangerous weapon and is knowingly and intentionally in unlawful possession of a Schedule I or II controlled substance;
(v) Has been found not guilty by reason of insanity . . .;
(vi) Has been adjudicated as mentally defective . . . ;
(vii) Has been dishonorably discharged from the armed forces;
(viii) Has renounced the individual’s citizenship after having been a citizen . . . ;
(ix) Is a respondent or defendant to a protective order . . . ;
(x) Has been convicted of the commission or attempted commission of [domestic violence] assault. . .”

Sole owner of weapons or previous criminal history

The reason for the restricted person status for Pawelek was not listed, however based on the arrest information, it could be simply having guns and schedule I or II drugs at the same time (as listed in subsection IV). If that were the case, it is not clear why Coplen would not also be facing the same restricted person charges unless the weapons were found in a room personally used by Pawelek only. Both residents of the home are facing multiple felony charges for the drug charges and Pawelek is also facing a third degree felony for each weapon found in the home. For more information on what constitutes a violation by a restricted person or for legal help regarding criminal charges, contact an experienced defense attorney.

Utah Traveler Arrested For Assault on a Police Officer

A Utah traveler was pepper-sprayed and arrested for assault on a police officer after he drunkenly started a confrontation at the Orlando, Florida airport.

Drinking and flying

Photo by: John Murphy

45 year old Brandon Strong was traveling with his 8 year old son when he was arrested at a Florida airport prior to boarding his plane back home to Salt Lake City, Utah. A JetBlue airport employee observed Strong starting an argument with a fellow passenger and told Strong he would not be allowed on the flight. Strong, who appeared to have been heavily intoxicated, engaged the airline employee, wrestling and cursing until police were called. When police arrived, Strong continued to behave aggressively towards the attending officers. Strong was videoed by multiple sources getting into a physical struggle with officers until he was finally pepper-sprayed and handcuffed. He was arrested on multiple charges including assault on a police officer.

Assault on a police officer in Utah

Utah Code 76-5-102.4 defines assault on a police officer as when a person:

(a) “Commits an assault or threat of violence against a [police] officer, with knowledge that the person is a [police] officer, and when the [police] officer is acting within the scope of authority as a [police]officer;”

Assault on a police officer in Utah is a class A misdemeanor unless the person has a previous history and/or causes substantial bodily injury, or if they use a dangerous weapon. In those cases, the charges would be increased to a third degree or second degree felony respectively.

Battery on a police officer in Florida

Unfortunately for Strong, he was arrested outside his home state of Utah and will face Florida charges for his conduct at the airport. In Florida, the charges for physical assault on a police officer carry stiffer penalties than they do in Utah. Florida law defines assault as being a threat of violence wherein cases where any physical contact ensues, the charges would then be increased to battery. According to Florida Statute 784.07 , battery of a police officer is a third degree felony which is punishable by up to 5 years in prison or probation and a $5,000 fine. For more information on criminal charges inside or outside the state of Utah, speak with an experienced attorney who can help you find the appropriate legal counsel to handle your case.