Police and prosecutors had at least three opportunities following the April 3, 1985, rape of Joyce Yost to prevent the man who had sexually assaulted her from making good on his threat to return and take her life.
Breakdowns in communication between multiple individuals, agencies and Utah’s courts allowed the suspect, Douglas Anderson Lovell, to repeatedly leave custody before he at last returned to Yost’s apartment and killed her.
Lovell has spent the last 35 years in prison and faces the death penalty for killing Yost days before she was to testify against him in court. Yost’s body has never been located.
‘How safe am I?’
Yost’s disappearance and death are the focus of the second season of the KSL podcast “Cold.” A fresh review of archival case records by the “Cold” team has uncovered three pivotal points where Yost’s life might have been saved, had authorities pieced together Lovell’s intentions.
Yost had told police the man who’d raped her had also threatened to kill her if she told anyone what he’d done. She expressed concern for her safety during her initial police interview. An audio recording of that interview obtained by “Cold” includes an exchange in which Yost asked an officer “How safe am I if (police) come after him?”
Clearfield police detective William Holthaus arrested Lovell just hours after interviewing Yost on the morning of April 4, 1985. The Davis County Attorney’s Office filed felony criminal charges against Lovell the following day.
Out on bail
Lovell did not remain in custody long, in spite of the threat he had made.
The Utah Constitution in 1985 guaranteed people who were arrested on suspicion of crimes a right to bail, except in capital cases or when a person was accused of a felony while already on probation or parole.
A jury had previously convicted Lovell of felony aggravated robbery for his role in a 1978 holdup of an Ogden convenience store, and he received a sentence of five years to life in prison. The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole had released him from prison early, in 1982, and terminated his probation in August of 1983.
This meant the judge handling the rape case less than two years later did not have the option of ordering Lovell held without bail. Court records show he set Lovell’s bail at $25,000.
Lovell’s father, Monan Lovell, secured his son’s release from jail in the rape case by way of a property bond. Archived records from Utah’s 2nd District Court do not indicate what conditions were placed on Lovell at that time. It is common though for judges to require individuals on pretrial supervision to abstain from drug or alcohol abuse.
A little over a month later, in May 1985, a Utah Highway Patrol trooper cited Lovell for driving under the influence in Juab County. Lovell and one of his friends were at that time returning from Utah’s western desert, where they’d buried a cache of guns they’d recently stolen.
The trooper was unaware of Lovell’s status as a person out of jail on pretrial release in a felony rape case. Had word of Lovell’s DUI citation made it back to the prosecutors handling the rape case, they could have asked the judge to revoke Lovell’s bail or placed additional conditions on his release.
Lovell conspired with two would-be hitmen while out on bail during May and June of 1985, hoping to have Yost killed. Both of those plots fell through. Then, on June 20, 1985, Lovell missed an arraignment hearing in the rape case.
Case records show Lovell’s defense attorney informed the judge his client was incapacitated due to a back injury. Later that same evening, a police officer from the city of Washington Heights made a traffic stop on a suspected drunken driver who had left the scene of an accident. That driver was identified as Douglas Lovell.
The traffic stop occurred a mile and a half to the south of Yost’s apartment, which Lovell had been traveling toward. A search of his truck at that time led to the discovery of a small semi-automatic handgun under the driver seat.
Washington Terrace police arrested Lovell on suspicion of DUI, leaving the scene of an accident and carrying a concealed weapon. Lovell had a previous felony conviction from a 1978 armed robbery and was not legally allowed to possess a handgun. As a result, the Weber County Attorney’s Office also charged him with possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person, a third-degree felony.
Word of the second DUI arrest and the felony firearms charge once again failed to make it back to the prosecutors handling the Davis County rape case, even though Davis and Weber Counties are adjacent to one another.
“I doubt they even really knew much about our case at that time,” former Clearfield police detective Bill Holthaus said in a May 2020 interview for “Cold.” “And I didn’t know anything about the DUI up there at all.”
That meant no one was able to inform Yost that the man she’d accused of raping her had been arrested near her apartment with a loaded handgun.
Lovell’s arraignment in the rape case, at which he pleaded not guilty, finally took place one week after the second DUI arrest.
Court papers obtained by “Cold” through an open records request show the judge, Rodney Page, issued a hold order on the same day as the hearing. The order said Lovell should be “held until further notice of the Court.”
The hold order does not appear to have been enforced. A Salt Lake City police detective was at that same time investigating Lovell in connection with a series of thefts involving vehicles stolen from used car lots in the city.
That detective arrested Lovell on July 8, 1985, and booked him into the Salt Lake County Jail. Booking records show the arrest took place at an apartment Lovell was then sharing with his wife in Washington Terrace.
The Salt Lake County Jail records also show jail staff released Lovell a little over an hour after he was booked, even though the felony charges in the car theft case would have been grounds for revocation of Lovell’s bail in the Davis County rape case.
Lovell returned to Yost’s apartment one month later and killed her. He confessed to the murder in court years later and is currently in the Utah State Prison.
Free resources and help with sexual abuse are available 24/7 at RAINN.org. You can also call 800-856-HOPE (4673).
The podcast “Cold” is an Amazon Music exclusive. Listeners can find and follow “Cold” on the free Amazon Music app or by visiting thecoldpodcast.com.