1978: Probe of county gambling widens
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. The article is being written from front page stories that appeared during each year in commemoration of the 120th anniversary of the newspaper's birth in 1891.
In late 1977 Gary Mitcheson pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges resulting from a shooting that took place on Feb. 7, 1976. Richard Herrera was killed by a rifle held by Mitcheson.
Originally the state had filed second degree murder charges against Mitcheson and the result of the trial was that a jury convicted him of that charge. He was sent to the Utah State Prison where he remained for nine months while his lawyer appealed the case up to the Utah Supreme Court.
In February of 1977 the Supreme Court tossed out the verdict and sent the case back to the Seventh District Court saying that "it is necessary that the judgment be reversed and that the case be remanded for a new trial." The reason the court gave for the reversal was that Judge Edward Sheya had not given the jury proper instructions on what their choices could be. The Supreme Court felt that the judge should have given the jury a chance to chose another verdict (using force in the protection of one's habitation would have been one of the choices as noted by the Supreme Court).
Sheya protested the ruling but the Supreme Court ordered Mitcheson back to the Carbon County Jail to stand trial again. Mitcheson spent the next six months in the county jail while his lawyer, the prosecution and a new judge on the case tried to work out the specifics. Finally the manslaughter charge was agreed to and Mitcheson was allowed to settle for time served, six months in a half way house in Salt Lake and then three years of probation.
The spring of 1978 brought disaster in the mining community as two miners were killed in a roof collapse at the Braztah No. 2 mine in Hardscrabble Canyon. The two miners, Charles Marchello of Spring Glen and John Davies of Carbonville, were working to shore up the roof in the mine (a continuous miner operation with coal pillars) when the roof fell in on them. Another man who was injured in the collapse was evacuated and related the tale of what happened in the mine.
In May a $3 million bond was passed by voters to allow Carbon School District to build a new elementary school and do other projects in the district. The vote total was low as citizens who went to the polls accepted the bond 665-253.
Heavy Memorial Day traffic in 1978 also brought out heavy fines for 483 drivers who were cited for speeding and other traffic offenses by the Utah Highway Patrol. The report came from Region 4, which encompassed most of southeastern Utah at the time. The Lake Powell area had the most citations with 180 issued, of which 147 were for speeding.
Early June brought the announcement that a number of Carbon residents were being called before a federal Grand Jury in Salt Lake to testify about "events" that had already been reported in the county's media. In late June witnesses filed into the Federal Court House in Salt Lake to testify. It was reported on June 24 by the Sun Advocate that "as many as 15 people in Carbon County are under investigation for allegations of gambling and income tax evasion." The paper also reported that as many as 50 residents had been subpoenaed to appear at the court.
The Price Railroad Depot that had stood by the tracks since 1911 was leveled in a matter of hours by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad in mid June. People were surprised it happened so quickly after the depot was finally closed in late May. The city was bewildered by the work because the railroad had not even requested a demolition permit. Many groups were upset by the destruction because they considered it a historic building and were thinking about ways to preserve it.
Later in the year another landmark, of a different kind, disappeared. Ever since phones were installed in the local area there had been local operators to help out on first local calls, and then later long distance calls. On Nov. 4 the last operator was replaced by automatic computer systems which required no direct oversight. "Number please" was replaced by direct dialing or at the least a computer asking for information.
In July the Carbon County Hospital got its first visit from a life flight helicopter. At the time the service was based out of LDS Hospital in the Avenues area of Salt Lake City. That service was and continues to be a valuable asset to the area, even as the new hospital with much more modern equipment opened only a few years later. During this same period of time talks were ongoing between Carbon County/Price City and the Hospital Corporation of America concerning the sale of the medical center to the national company. The reasons given for the sale had to do with upgrades the hospital facilities needed to bring them up to date.
Murder once again took part of the years spotlight as the body of Robert Simons was unearthed early in the year and by July an arraignment was held for Edward Thomas Marston, who was accused of killing Simon with accomplices Ervil Labaron and Mark Earl Chynoweth. The murder was said to have taken place on April 23, 1975, and it was related to the murder of polygamist Rulon Allred in Murray just a short time before. Because of the way the murder was tied to violent polygamous factions security at the hearing and others held later were some of the strongest that have ever been seen in Carbon County.
In late December Marston's lawyers filed five motions involving dismissal of the case and suppression of evidence. All were rejected by Seventh District Court Judge Boyd Bunnell who also set the trial back until the next year because of the holiday season and the introduction of new witnesses by the defense.
The Price River Water Improvement District, which had been formed nearly two decades before and had largely been charged with taking care of sewage systems and treatment in most of the county, got into the culinary water business in 1978. For a year systems were installed in much of the county for the new system and a water treatment plant was being built.
In the late summer the lines were finally flushed and the water to the public and businesses began to flow. Initially the district absorbed a number of small water companies in the western and northern part of the county. Over the years they would add many more and also supply water to Wellington and Helper, and act as an extra water supply for Price and Helper.
The tennis courts in Washington Park, that have stirred up so much controversy based on the fact the city wanted to do away with them in 2011, were brand new and opened to the public in August of 1978. A special tennis tournament was held on the courts in mid-September as an inaugural of their being open for use.
The October deer hunting break for students at local schools resulted too in some vandalism at the Reeves School (now the BTAC on south Carbon Avenue). The vandals, who initially were thought to be eight to nine years old by the size of the footprints found, apparently came in through an outside restroom door that had been unlocked. They tipped over desks, dumped over shelving and poured glue and paint all over the place. A television set was also broken. The two kids who caused the mess ended up being a seven and a 10 year old when they were apprehended a couple of weeks later and it was found that they had removed putty from an outside window and slid it out to gain access to the building.
The newspaper made some changes in 1978 too. First was the establishment of a new flag heading for the paper. The Sun Advocate flag became a block letter flag on July 1, the same as it appears today. Then near the end of the year a new editor came on staff for the Sun Advocate. Robert Kelly, was originally from Brooklyn, N.Y. and had been serving as a rewrite editor and photography at a paper in Arizona.