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WEBER EVIDENCE ROOM BULGES WITH GUNS, GOLD AND OTHER CURIOS

The rows of filing and storage cabinets in the concrete-walled room on the first floor of the Weber County Municipal Building would probably appear unimpressive to most.

But Laurie Villalpando knows the 2nd District Court's evidence room holds many treasures for the curious.Earlier this month, Villalpando, a deputy court clerk, along with other courthouse employees, spent four days cleaning and cataloging the hundreds of items in the 12- by 30-foot room, many of which are connected to some of the most interesting, bizarre and explosive Weber County crime stories.

"What we have here is stuff from actual trials," she said, including murder weapons, crime-scene photographs, documents and even gold jewelry, silver coins and a bag of pasta.

"These things were actually submitted in a trial to convict or try to convict somebody," Villalpando said. "When I first started working here, I was the evidence custodian. I remember looking at all that stuff and wondering what this was for and what that stuff was for."

The clean cabinets and uncluttered floor are a sharp contrast to the state the room was in just a few weeks ago.

"There was one person who took care of it, and he had an organizing system, but nobody else knew what it was. One of the ladies here went on a cleaning spree, and we reorganized this whole thing," Villalpando said.

"I like coming down here because there's so much interesting stuff," she said. "Of course, with work I can't come down here very often."

During a recent excursion into the evidence room, Villalpando opened a drawer and pulled out an envelope filled with police reports, grisly photos of a murder scene and a single length of rope. Court records showed the rope and documents were used in the trial of Robert Eugene Jones, convicted in the 1983 shooting of his ex-girlfriend and the murder of her boyfriend.

Across the room, another cabinet revealed parts from a vehicle's drive train. This time the story was less dire: evidence in an Ogden man's failed attempt to sue Ford Motor Co. and a local car dealer after claiming a defective drive train caused him to crash his truck.

From a steel cabinet in the room's rear, Villalpando began producing dozens of handguns and rifles, along with several knives, crowbars, bats and an ax handle seized as evidence in various crimes.

"I remember being impressed by the first shotgun I saw," she said, recalling her early days on the job. "Then I saw all the rest, and it's not a big deal anymore."

Although each piece of evidence has a story, some have become famous, or infamous, among court workers. Picking up a sawed-off shotgun, Villalpando recalled how several people were briefly terrified when one of the county's prosecuting attorneys carried the weapon into a crowded elevator on his way to court.

She pulled out another shotgun used in the case against Tyrone Lemons, who was convicted of attempted murder last May for shooting Pete Romero Jr. in the head during a gang fight at John Affleck Park. The shooting left Romero unable to speak and partially paralyzed.

The story behind other items is not as easy to decipher. Many pieces of evidence have been there so long their identifying tags have been lost or faded. To this day, Villalpando said, she has no idea what case a bag full of macaroni and a piece of floor tile were used for.

A box in the corner contained several broken records. After an extensive check, Villalpando discovered they were evidence in the 1944 trial of then-Ogden Mayor Kent S. Bramwell, who was accused of accepting a bribe to allow gambling interests in the city.

"I looked at those records, and they don't say what those records were used for," she said, "but he was found not guilty."

Besides making things easier to find, court officials said the cleanup was an opportunity to clear out several decades worth of things that were never disposed of or reclaimed after cases were concluded.

Many of the drugs and weapons, some of which were in the room for decades, already have been turned over to the Weber County sheriff's office for disposal or sale. "Basically, anything that's contraband, narcotics or unusable is destroyed," Lt. Archie Smith said.

Of the 41 firearms, he said, most are handguns and a few are starter pistols used mostly in robberies. Smith said he plans to inspect the guns and knives, and those that are not too badly broken or corroded will be sold to licensed gun dealers.

As for the rest, Villalpando said the county attorney's office will attempt to locate the lawyers and their clients to see if they want their property back.

Some things she doesn't expect anyone to claim, such as a large bottle of horse pills. But Villalpando said she is baffled at why some people have left valuables to collect dust in the evidence room.

"We have charts and graphs and stuff that somebody paid money for. We have a bag full of 40 silver dollars. There's an 18-karat gold ring, gold watches, a box of coins like a collector's set that's been sitting here for years," Villalpando said.

"I guess most of this stuff could be from people who didn't know it's here or didn't want the stuff back or got paid by the insurance company . . . and didn't want to pay the insurance company back."