1972: Murders and Carbon High dress code made news
Editor's Note: This is one of a series of articles about the history of the Sun Advocate and the county it covers as a newspaper. These articles are being prepared in commemoration of the 120th anniversary of the newspaper's birth in 1891.
In an almost blast from the past, Howard Smith Bennett was arrested at the first of the year and charged with assault with a deadly weapon. Smith, while at the Ellie Club in Dragerton, threatened Karl Hunt with a knife. Whether connected or not, Bennett had been convicted of second degree murder 10 years before when he shot and wounded Hunt's father, Lloyd, at another tavern in Dragerton, and then went on to kill Fermin "Shorty" Lopez with a gun.
Bennett eventually got 10 years for second degree murder in the killing of Lopez and had been released on parole from the Utah State Prison on May 14, 1968. His parole had just ended when he faced the latest charges. It was not reported in the paper what happened over the new charges, but in September Bennett was arrested for possession of stolen property and drunk driving. He was put in the drunk tank with Milt Huntington, a 62 year old man who had also been placed there because of intoxication.
At 11:30 p.m. that night a deputy went to the cell to release Huntington who had made bail and found him dead. Bennett was asleep on the other cot in the cell. A medical report said that Huntington had three fractures of the jaw, a ruptured liver, deep head cuts and a crushed chest. Bennett was the only person in the cell with him during the entire time. On Sept. 20 a first degree murder complaint was filed against Bennett and he was later bound over for trial.
Winter was not kind to some people from Vernal in January either. Driving a van to Mt. Pleasant the driver decided to use the unmaintained in the winter by pass road through Emma Park to get to the venue a little sooner. The van, which had he, his wife and five kids in it got stuck in some heavy snow. They had no way of getting help that Saturday night so they spent the night in the van. The battery went dead so there was no way to start it, and the temperature dropped to 12 below zero. The next morning members of the Carbon County Jeep Patrol found them, got them out and sent them on their way. Heavy coats and some extra blankets in the van had saved the day and maybe their lives.
While it was expected to be built by 1972, the by-pass road from Blue Cut to Cat Canyon had met many obstacles. The Utah Department of Highways had run into various problems but when it held a public hearing in Price on the project in February of 1972, it found even more opposition. Access roads to the by-pass and a rest area to replace the one that is now West Park was of concern to the residents, as well as how the road would affect businesses in the area.
In April the layoff of 240 miners from two mines hit the area hard. The year before North American Coal which operated the Castle Gate/Kenilworth mines that supplied coal to the Carbon Power Plant lost their agreement with Utah Power and Light. The temporary supply situation that was set up for UP&L ended and finally the company closed the mines. In addition at the same time 40 miners lost their jobs at the United States Fuel Company mines in Hiawatha.
In May thieves broke into the safe at the American Legion Club and stole $7,000. At the time police didn't have "very good leads" bus said they would continue looking for the culprits.
The revolutionary spirit of the 1960s and 70s set itself down with Carbon High students in August when a number of them left classes and met in Price City Park to protest the dress code that the Carbon Board of Education had passed the year before. On the first day of school 56 students had been turned away and sent home to change clothes because of the new dress code and many in the group that met said they wanted the code completely abolished.
Mid-September brought a school board meeting in which the dress code was basically debated. While advocates for changing or abolishing the code were present, a parents group presented a petition signed by 450 parents supporting the code. The board basically told those who opposed the code that it was a closed matter and they would not discuss it any further; the dress code would stand.
In October, an attorney representing a group called the Parent's Rights Committee told the board that a lawsuit could be pending if changes to the code were not made. He said the code concerning the length of a male's hair and allowing girls to wear slacks to school were the main concerns of the group. He did tell the board that clauses about safety were agreeable however.
A collision between two Rio Grande trains in Wellington on Sept. 2 hurt three people. One train headed west bound was turning onto a siding when an east bound train hit the last seven cars of the west bound freight. The impact derailed and smashed the east bound engine and derailed 13 cars between both trains. A resident of Wellington pulled the three injured men from the wreck and started to transport them to the Carbon County Hospital. They were later met by the Utah Highway Patrol and an ambulance. The three men's injuries were not life threatening.
Snow and extensive moisture flooded the area in October, and rather than giving the cities more water it actually caused the water to some of them to be cut off. That was because a slide on Highway 6 took out part of the road about 14 miles north of Helper and it also cut the water lines that supplied water to Price City and Helper. Back up supplies and temporary lines were used until the lines could be relocated.
In November, the Price River Water Improvement District also finally completed and dedicated the waste water treatment plant and collection system that began to serve all areas from Castle Gate to Wellington that fall. The construction of the project took three years and was at that time the single largest public works project ever in Carbon County.
A near end of the year killing in a cabin in Scofield with two well known residents involved was the final major story of 1972. Based on reports in the Dec. 21 issue of the Sun Advocate a family argument led to a gun fight between two men with one discharging his weapon three times and the other never firing a shot. Eugene Andreini of Helper was charged with first degree murder in the death of Anthony Perri on Dec. 17. According to the report Perri was in a cabin at Scofield when reportedly Andreini came in and the shooting ensued. At first the charges against the Helper man were going to be voluntary manslaughter, but later the county attorney raised the charges to first degree murder.