1989: Sheriff situation reaches critical stage
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.
The year began with the College of Eastern Utah Prehistoric Museum fighting to keep the skeleton of the woolly mammoth found near the dam at Huntington Reservoir in 1988. The mammoth was found on United States Forest Service land and the Forest Service had written a proposal for acceptance and care of the bones that Don Burge, curator and director of the CEU Museum, said was worded so that only three facilities in the state could accept them. CEU was one of them. The college said it would fight the trend that had emerged over the years to not award findings such as the mammoth to the area in which they were found but to some other institution.
In mid-January the Helper City Council voted to drop the Helper Parkway Project entirely. A group called Concerned Citizens who felt the idea was not a good use of taxpayer funds had opposed the parkway from the time they found out about it when some river bed alteration plans were brought to their attention.
The execution of mass murderer Ted Bundy in Florida also became big local news in Carbon County. Just before he was executed, Bundy revealed some information that led authorities to believe that the body of Susan Curtis, who had disappeared from a BYU conference in June 1975, might be buried somewhere within 20 miles of Wellington. Bundy gave a vague description of where her remains lay, but by pinpointing the information the Carbon/Emery County area came under scrutiny. Although Bundy had been suspected in her disappearance, no one ever really stuck it on him. The one thing about her was that she fit the model of most of the girls Bundy either abducted, was suspected of abducting or had tried to abduct.
Ridge Road also was a great topic of discussion in 1989. Because of the large coal trucks transporting coal through areas of the county, it was thought that by taking at that time a narrow poor two lane road and turning it into a road that could be used by those trucks not only time would be saved but safety would be increased. It seemed almost everyone supported the road except, as was reported in February, the town of Wellington did not. The town's officials felt it would detract from the business development plan they had for the area. Then a couple of weeks later a number of Miller Creek residents came out against the idea as well, citing safety concerns about the expanded role of the road. However, in March the Permanent Community Impact Board awarded the county $2.5 million to build the road after Wellington's objections were withdrawn.
In February a hearing was convened by POST to determine if Carbon County Sheriff Barry Bryner would be able to hang onto his peace officer certification, based on facts uncovered during a probe by the agency in 1988. The hearing concluded with only two of the 40 witnesses listed testifying and no decision at that point. The next week County Commissioner Linda Varner called for Bryner's resignation after Bryner admitted to several things and having said he lied about those things.
Later that month another investigation was released which was related to evidence tampering within the sheriff's department. And in the Feb. 21 issue of the Sun Advocate it was announced that the Utah Sheriff's Association had expelled Bryner from the organization. It was the first time in the history of the group that they had ever done that. Finally at the end of the month, under duress and pressure, Bryner apparently lost control of not only the situation, but his actions.
On the morning of Feb. 22. Bryner was spotted in Helper about 3 a.m. drinking and a Helper officer warned him not to drive. However Bryner tried to get into his car she gave him one sobriety test. When she tried to administer another he uttered an epithet and ran to his car and sped off. She chased him at speeds of over 100 mph towards Price and then on to Wellington.
He then turned around and drove toward Price blasting through road blocks in his three day old police cruiser. As he attempted to to leave the by-pass road on the south Price exit, his car went out of control and became airborne. He crashed into a field where he was apprehended. A deputy approached the car and saw that Bryner had a gun in his hand. A call for help went out and police agencies from around the area responded.
Even though he was surrounded Bryner refused to surrender. He began a conversation while holding the gun with Deputy Jerry Cowan and eventually Cowan and Price Police Chief Aleck Shilaos wrestled the gun from him. He was arrested and taken by ambulance to Castleview Hospital. While Bryner's problems had begun many years before, they just grew in the coming months, as he was held accountable for the things he had done that night.