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Front Page » October 27, 2011 » Carbon County News » 1979: Polygamist murder suspect acquitted, first computer...
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1979: Polygamist murder suspect acquitted, first computer arrives at HJHS

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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.

Before Carbon County even had sold the old Carbon County Hospital to the Hospital Corporation of American the company had blue print plans and even architects drawings of the new hospital the company planned to build in west Price. The county felt at the time that the upgrades the old hospital needed would be impossible with public funds, and felt that HCA was on the right track to build a new facility.

The first degree murder trial of Edward Thomas Marston in connection with the death of Robert Simmons was begun Jan. 29. Ron Boutwell, who by that time was no longer the county attorney, was hired as special prosecutor in the case because he had done so much preparation and research into the case since Simmons' body was unearthed near Wellington in 1978.

The murder had taken place in 1975. The prosecution rested its case only a couple of days after the beginning of the trial after presenting a number of witnesses, but one missing witness was Lloyd Sullivan, who had died since the murder took place. His statements for the state's case before he had died became a key to the defense as Marston's lawyer objected time and time again for not being able to cross examine Sullivan.

It was proposed that Marston, Sullivan and Mark Chynoweth killed Simmons based on his non-belief in Ervil LaBaron's teachings. But in the next few days the defense parried with a number of witnesses. The main case of the defense rested on the fact that Marston was never present at a meeting in which the murder of Simmons was planned.

The defense also maintained that just because Marston was a member of LaBaron's church didn't mean he helped carry out the murder. Marston also took the stand in his own defense. When the jury went to deliberate, no one knew how they would vote, but in only two hours they acquitted Marston of the charge. He was, however, taken into custody right after the trial and was to be taken to Murray to be tried for a part in the murder of polygamist leader Rulon Allred.

A staple in the art community of eastern Utah also opened in 1978. In February Gallery East opened for the first time with and art show that featured the art of Jim Young, Brent Haddock, Nephi Watt and Susan Taylor. At the time, the museum was located in the old main Reeves Building on the College of Eastern Utah campus. Since then the gallery, which is now located in the SAC building on the USU Eastern campus, has held dozens of shows for both local and out of area artists.

While computers in almost every home and virtually every school room is common today, 1979 was just the beginning of having computers in schools. In May it was reported that the first educational computer in both Emery and Carbon county schools appeared in Kenneth Gilbert's classroom at Helper Junior High. The computer featured games for the students which were also tied to mathematical programs with which they could learn. Students immediately began to use the machine and it was in continual operation much of the school day, every day, including during lunch. At the time the school district was applying for a grant to buy another six computers for the schools.

Rail passenger service to the area was saved in June when the Interstate Commerce Commission ruled that the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad would have to continue to operate the California Zephyr for at least another year. The railroad had been wanting to shut down what they said was an unprofitable operation for years.

The ICC accused the railroad of trying to kill the line by not promoting it. It said a lack of "affirmative effort to encourage patronage." At the time a lawyer for the railroad said that no one should expect the railroad to "throw good money after bad" and said that the costs were so high in the operation that "Even if the trains were full we'd still be losing money."

Like the rest of the nation, Carbon County was not ready for a new dollar coin that was first issued in 1979. The Susan B. Anthony dollar coins were first sent out to banks in July and the headline in the Sun Advocate said it all: "Carbon receives Anthony Dollar like a lead penny." The new coin dollar, was about the same size as a quarter and many people became confused by them. About 500 million of the coins were minted that year in an attempt to save money on continually replacing paper money in the monetary system.

July also brought the confiscation of a number of explosive devices and dynamite after a number of explosions were let off around the East Carbon area. The paper reported on July 21 that "Enough explosives to destroy all homes within a 100 yard radius and cause extensive damage to those within 300 yards" were taken into police possession on July 18. The explosives had what was called a "Hanksville connection" because they were connected to a burglary of explosives from a uranium mine near that town. A few days later the cinder block building where the explosives were being stored until ATF agents could pick them up was blown up when the heat from a fire at a nearby building caused them to ignite. The fire was ruled as arson at the time, but officials felt it was illogical to light that building on fire to get to the explosives, so they thought it was set for another reason.

Four men died in a roof fall at the Plateau Mine in Wattis on Aug. 24. The men were working the day shift when the accident occurred that morning. Killed were Michael Guzman and William Gentry of Price, Kerry Grange of Huntington and Tim Nightingale of Carbondale, Colo. The section of the roof that fell was 15' by 15' and was from four to eighteen inches thick. One other miner was caught in the fall and injured. Later the company was cited by investigators for violation of roof control regulations.

In September three homes, two of them just being built, were burned down by an arsonist. Another nearby home, while not damaged, sported all the evidence that someone had tried to light that home on fire as well.

An airplane which suffered a drop in oil pressure landed on Highway 6 and was parked by the pilot in front of the Hilltop Tavern on Oct. 2. The plane had taken off from the Ogden Airport and was heading south when the pilot noticed the drop in pressure. He said he tried to make to the Price Airport, but knew from the oil on the wings that he wasn't going to make it so he landed without any mishap.

The by-pass road which took three years to build and many more years of planning finally opened in October. While the road was open, some construction was still on-going. The traffic through downtown Price immediately dropped dramatically, which was a relief to some, but to others meant the beginning of the end to their businesses.

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October 27, 2011
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