When Douglas Lovell raped Joyce Yost, he set in motion a sequence of events that would forever deprive Yost’s children and grandchildren of the opportunity to share their lives with her.
“His decision that night in April of ’85 altered my life forever, and my family’s,” Yost’s daughter Kim Salazar said in an interview for KSL’s investigative podcast series “Cold.”
The show’s second season details the Joyce Yost case, beginning with Lovell’s sexual assault of Yost and his subsequent murder of her in August of 1985.
Salazar had three children at that point: 4-year-old Melisa, 3-year-old Melanie and 22-month-old Michael.
“My oldest daughter’s really the only one that has any real memories of her,” Salazar said.
Doug Lovell’s 2015 trial
Lovell had killed Yost to prevent her from testifying against him in the rape trial. A jury convicted him of aggravated sexual assault even in Yost’s absence and a judge sentenced him to a sentence of 15 years to life. Six years later, the Weber County Attorney’s Office charged Lovell with capital homicide for killing Yost, having obtained a surreptitious recording of Lovell confessing to the crime.
Lovell subsequently pleaded guilty in June of 1993, in an effort to avoid the death penalty. He received a death sentence anyhow and spent the next 17 years attempting to withdraw his guilty plea through a series of appeals. The Utah Supreme Court in 2010 overturned his sentence, setting the stage for Lovell to stand trial.
That trial took place in 2015, a full 30 years after the initial rape. Yost’s grandchildren, by then adults, were able to attend. They for the first time heard graphic details of Lovell’s rape and murder of their grandmother.
“In a much different light than they heard it all their lives growing up,” Salazar said. “They’re hearing it raw in a courtroom. It wasn’t censored, it wasn’t filtered.”
Salazar’s daughters, Melisa and Melanie, provided victim impact statements during the trial’s penalty phase after the jury had found Lovell guilty of capital homicide. They were able to say from the witness stand how Lovell’s actions had altered their lives.
“I’ve talked to one of the jurors afterward,” Yost’s son Greg Roberts said. “It had a big impact.”
Roberts did not have children of his own at the time of his mother’s murder. He was out of state attending dental school in 1985 and did not start a family of his own until years later.
“I miss terribly that my kids couldn’t know her and get a bigger piece of her growing up,” Roberts said. “She was so much the glue in the center of our family.”
Roberts brought his 10-year-old son Austin to the trial in 2015. Utah 2nd District Court Judge Michael DiReda, who was presiding over the trial, took notice and interrupted prosecutor Chris Shaw’s closing statement.
“I am uncomfortable having your son in the courtroom when Mr. Shaw begins discussing details of the rape, of the homicide and other aspects of this case that quite honestly I just, and maybe I’m unique in this respect, but I just think it’s inappropriate for him to be privy to those details,” DiReda said in court.
Roberts agreed to remove his son from the courtroom. He later called it a “nice gesture” on the part of the judge to protect his son from exposure to the potentially graphic details of Lovell’s crimes.
“I didn’t even think twice about it,” Roberts said. “To some degree I want my kids to — they weren’t even born when all this happened to Joyce — so I want them to kind of make it more concrete and deal with the reality of it.”
Doug Lovell declines allocution
The court provided Lovell an opportunity to make an allocution statement. Allocution is an opportunity for a convicted defendant to speak to the court, and to the victims of the crime, prior to sentencing.
Lovell hoped to avoid the death penalty by convincing the jury he felt remorse for what he’d done to Yost 30 years prior. Making an allocution statement, in which he could apologize to Yost’s children and grandchildren, would have been one means of showing that remorse to the jurors. Lovell opted to not make an allocution statement.
The lead defense attorney on Lovell’s case during the 2015 trial, Weber County public defender Michael Bouwhuis, spoke to KSL’s podcast “Talking Cold.” Bouwhuis described reading Lovell’s account of the murder as he prepared for the trial.
“The first time I read that, it had an impact on me. It was chilling,” Bouwhuis said.
Bouwhuis said he advised the other members of the defense team not to lose sight of the facts of what happened to Yost, because the jurors would likely react to Yost’s story in a similar fashion.
“It’s easy when you’re in a case and you’re dealing with a thousand different things to sort of get detached from that and not really understand the emotional impact that that set of facts could have on a person,” Bouwhuis said.
The jury ultimately sentenced Lovell to death. Lovell then appealed, arguing ineffective assistance of counsel. That appeal is currently pending oral argument before the Utah Supreme Court.
Listen to the full episode
Season 2 of the “Cold” podcast will take you inside the no-body homicide investigation triggered by Yost’s disappearance. Audio tapes never before made public will allow you to hear Yost, in her own voice, describe the events which preceded her death.
You will learn why police suspected one man, Douglas Lovell, yet were unable to arrest him at the time. And you will see how some individuals and institutions gave — and continue to give — Lovell every opportunity to evade the ultimate penalty.
Hear Joyce Yost’s voice for the first time in the podcast, available to listen free on Amazon Music.
Free resources and help with sexual abuse are available 24/7 at RAINN.org. You can also call 800-856-HOPE (4673).