clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:


More than a decade has passed since Page, Ariz., police investigated a murder. Not since 1983, when a man died after a fight at a local tavern.

That record dissolved Friday with a brutal slaying that stunned residents of the Lake Powell resort town located 10 miles from the Utah-Arizona border.Police discovered the body of Paula Wurtz, a night clerk at the Best Western at Lake Powell, in the motel lobby after a patron tried to check out Friday morning but couldn't find anyone at the front desk. Police refuse to say how Wurtz died, just that additional lab tests are pending.

A 26-year-old Avondale, Ariz., man - also a motel guest - was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, sexual assault, burglary, armed robbery and kidnapping, according to a complaint filed in justice court. Max Richard Ogas remained in the Coconino County Jail in Flagstaff Wednesday, with bail set at $1 million.

The charges against him tell a violent story.

Armed with a knife, Ogas is accused of entering the motel lobby and threatening Wurtz, then abducting and sexually assaulting her, eventually killing her, the charges state.

"We believe right now that it's a very random act," Page Police Chief Wayne Wright said. "We initially don't see any connection with the victim and the suspect at all."

Ogas was passing through town when he stayed overnight at the motel, 208 N. Lake Powell Boulevard, police believe.

"As far as we know he was a student. He was not employed, to our knowledge," Wright said.

Wurtz was a recent newcomer to the Page area. She was married and a mother of two.

"It's going to be a long, tedious investigation because we have so much evidence to process," Wright said. "We've got an awful lot of information to look at."

Largely a company town, Page grew out of the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam in the late 1950s and later the Navajo Generating Station. Bordering the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area to the northwest and the Navajo Reservation on remaining sides, Page is still a relatively quiet community, despite hordes of summer tourists.

"This is the first time anything like this has ever happened in Page," Wright said. "It's really shocked and traumatized the community."