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Suspected murder-suicide leaves 3 dead in canyon

Police searching for witnesses to shooting in Big Cottonwood

SHARE Suspected murder-suicide leaves 3 dead in canyon

BIG COTTONWOOD CANYON — A frantic cat-and-mouse car chase down the steep, twisting canyon road ended with three people shot and killed in an apparent double murder and suicide early Saturday morning.

Police located no surviving witnesses and developed a theory about the events based on physical evidence found in and around the crime scene.

Investigators believe that sometime before 2 a.m. a 30-year-old man became involved in an altercation with his ex-girlfriend and the woman's 25-year-old boyfriend.

The ex-boyfriend followed the couple as they made their way down the canyon road by car. The incident turned into a high-speed chase as the couple desperately tried to elude the ex-boyfriend, who attempted to run them off the road several times, Salt Lake County sheriff's deputy Peggy Faulkner said.

Eventually, the two cars crashed near the Ledgemere campground about 1 1/2 miles up the canyon.

At the spot of the crash, police believe the ex-boyfriend exited his vehicle, walked toward the other car, pulled out a handgun and shot the couple. The ex-boyfriend then re-entered his car and ended his own life with a bullet to the head, Faulkner said.

All three were from Salt Lake County and none had any prior arrest record.

Police were not releasing their names pending notification of family members.

The initial officer on scene believed he had stumbled across an early-morning traffic accident minutes before 2 a.m. Saturday. As the officer neared the scene he noticed the ex-boyfriend had a gun in his hand so he ordered the man to drop the weapon. After receiving no response, the officer crouched back and waited for assistance.

"He just saw a guy with a gun. He didn't know the guy was deceased," Faulkner said.

When other officers arrived they went to both cars and found everyone dead.

Many unknowns remain, and detectives are asking anyone who might have witnessed the events to contact the sheriff's office. Police weren't certain if the ex-boyfriend was stalking the couple, if they met up the canyon by coincidence or if the three went up the canyon together, Faulkner said.

"What they were doing up the canyon I don't know," she said. "Unless somebody comes forward we might never know. It's just awful."

Police similarly don't know if jealousy provided motive for the crime.

"They (the ex-boyfriend and the woman) had dated for some time, but they had been broken up for a while and he was actually seeing someone else, too," Faulkner said.

The incident is Salt Lake County's first multiple homicide since last April when a gunman opened fire at a Chevys Fresh Mex Restaurant in Sandy, killing two people. Quinn Martinez has been charged with two counts of capital homicide in that crime.

E-mail: bsnyder@desnews.com