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Charges likely for watchmen in Logan Canyon scare

The Cache County attorney said he fully expects to file criminal charges against night watchmen accused of terrorizing dozens of thrill-seeking teens over the weekend in Logan Canyon.

"It's hard to commit to that (filing charges)," Scott Wyatt said, but based on what sheriff's investigators have told him, he said he'll file charges within the week.Wyatt said he planned to sift through the information and statements Tuesday and Wednesday.

Wyatt said he's seen the sheriff's initial reports and talked with detectives, who have been collecting witness statements.

The investigation revolves around tales of back-country folks threatening to detonate teens' heads, shotgun blasts at close-range and hogtied necks - usually the stuff of legends around this time of the year.

Especially if the haunts are rumored to have occurred in a remote section of woods with a history of creepy shenanigans.

The men allegedly handcuffed two separate groups of teens after catching them trespassing on the St. Ann's Retreat compound in Logan Canyon. The former Catholic retreat camp is rumored to be haunted, and kids often visit it for thrills during the Halloween season.

A group of eight kids wandered into the camp about 4:30 a.m. Friday and say they got more of a thrill than they wanted. While fooling around in an empty swimming pool, three men with armed shotguns and knives jumped out of some bushes, told the teens to freeze and fired a shot over their heads, alleged Kevin Thompson, who was with the group.

The men yelled profanities at the kids and "threatened to slit our throats if we moved," said Thompson, 19.

The men apparently were hired to guard the camp by the family who owns it.

One of the gunmen, who seemed to be in charge, yelled racial slurs at an Asian male with the group and told him that he "had killed several Vietnamese people in Vietnam and wasn't afraid to do it again," said Thompson.

The teens accuse the man of pointing a handgun six inches from the teen's head and pulling the trigger. The rest of the group couldn't see what was happening, so they thought the man had killed their friend, Thompson said.

"He (one of the gunmen) kept talking about Vietnam," Thompson said. "I don't know what he was talking about, but it was the scariest experience I ever had."

The group was taken to a cabin on the property, where they were tied together at the neck with wire, said Wyatt Stahle, 16, Logan. The men jabbed the barrel of their shotguns in Stahle's back as they walked, he said.

The men allegedly told the teens they had been tied with "detonation wire" and if they moved it "would cut off their heads."

The men eventually called the Cache County Sheriff's Office. But at least one teen said some deputies were less than sympathetic.

Thompson said deputies arrived two to three hours later. One deputy apparently freed them from the wire, frisked them, and then tied them back up again by the neck again, Thompson said.

"We tried to tell them that we weren't there to cause trouble and we'd leave," Stahle said. "But they wouldn't let us go. The plastic handcuffs were so tight that my hands went numb."

In the meantime, one of the gunmen was taking photographs of the teens. While deputies walked the group to the patrol cars, the man followed and continued snapping pictures of the kids, Stahle said. The man also took shots of the teens' cars and license plate numbers.

Police cited the teens for suspicion of trespassing. The men weren't cited.

The Cache County Sheriff's Office said the head watchman was a 50-year-old Pocatello resident. He made the call to the sheriff's office, reporting trespassers at the former St. Anne's Retreat in Logan Canyon on Friday night.

The other two watchmen were identified as Tooele County residents.

Lt. Von Williamson said investigators had most of the teenagers' statements but continued conducting interviews on Monday.

A group of 20 teens had a similar experience in the camp Friday night. They went into the former Catholic retreat camp and were bound and held at gunpoint. One female teen in that group accused one of the watchmen of fondling her during a search.

Deputy Troy Liquin said in his report that when he arrived Friday night, he was met by the three watchmen each with flashlights taped to their shotguns. The head watchman also had a pistol.

When he told them to put their weapons in their vehicles, all of them complied except the head watchman, whom Liquin said had to be told three times before he put his weapon away.

"As I looked at their hands, on the girls particularly, most of them were turning white in color, almost bluish in color. Visible swelling as well as red marks were observed on the majority of the individuals," Liquin stated.

Liquin said he ordered the cuffs to be removed, and the youths complained of being hit and yelled at. One girl said one of the guards fondled her, according to the report. One 16-year-old boy said he was whacked in the head and knocked unconscious with a billy club.

Chief Deputy Mike Stauffer said the watchmen weren't arrested because an investigation was needed to sort out the truth.

"We arrested the juveniles because it was immediately apparent they were trespassing," Stauffer said.

The caretaker felt he was "in serious fear for his safety," one of the owners of the property said.

"He was just trying to sound aggressive," said Mark Epstein, a San Francisco attorney who has an ownership share in a mountain lodge and several cabins in the compound.

Epstein said he hired the man two months ago to do maintenance work and help save the place from vandals.