124-year-old Murders Still Leave Their Mark In Less-Traveled Corners Of Utah County
Apr 17, 2019, 10:36 PM | Updated: Apr 18, 2019, 8:53 am
UTAH COUNTY, Utah — Just to the south of Saratoga Springs’ suburban sprawl sits a stretch of shoreline that remains largely untouched.
Wind quietly whispers through the short brush and dead grass.
Fences and ample ‘no trespassing’ signs seem to have kept out more than just unwanted explorers. There are few outward signs at all of progress or the modern world.
Perhaps it’s appropriate the area historically known as Pelican Point still looks like it’s hiding something.
It’s been an area shrouded in mystery dating back to 1895.
On Feb. 16 of that year, ranch hands and cousins Albert Enstrom, Andrew Johnson and Alfred Nelson were last seen roaming the property.
Two days later, neighbors remarked that the place looked deserted.
Over the next weeks, months and years emerged the story of the “Pelican Point murders”—crimes that still leave their mark today in less-traveled corners of Utah County after drawing national attention more than 120 years ago.
Could he have been Utah’s first serial killer? After 3 bodies surfaced off the shores of Utah Lake in 1895, suspicion eventually surrounded a mysterious drifter. What is known about him now, and where the crimes still leave their mark today, @KSL5TV at 10p #KSLTV #Utah pic.twitter.com/mFNVxipg7M
— Andrew Adams (@AndrewAdamsKSL) April 17, 2019
The Missing Ranch Hands
When the owner of the ranch, Caroline Hayes, learned in early March that her son, Enstrom, and the other two workers were missing from their jobs, she traveled from Eureka to take a closer look.
“Mrs. Hayes came up, her husband declining to do so, and with Mrs. Rasmussen, visited the cabin,” the Salt Lake Herald later recounted in an article on Sept. 8, 1897. “They found the boys’ clothing and shoes there and immediately suspected foul play.”
On or about April 15, a sheepherder spotted Enstrom’s body floating in the water just offshore.
Within days, the other bodies came to the surface in similar fashion. All three men had been shot to death.
“The Pelican Point Butchery the Most Foul on Record” was the headline that appeared in Provo’s Evening Dispatch on April 22.
“Some fiend in human form, in the cold month of February last, deliberately, and apparently without cause, on that cold, black peninsula took the lives of three promising and inoffensive young men and then heartlessly threw their bodies into the lake, food for the fishes, the reptiles and things that crawl,” stated the April 22 Evening Dispatch report.
Suspicion soon surrounded Hayes’ husband, Harry Hayes, who was Enstrom’s stepfather.
“Hayes was extremely indifferent and did nothing whatever to aid the officers,” the Herald reported. “He had ill will towards the boys and threatened them with violence.”
Daniela Larsen, executive director of Lehi’s Hutchings Museum, said the stepfather’s interactions with Enstrom only seemed to make him that much more of a suspect.
“It was well-known that he had a very contentious relationship with his stepson, who was meant to inherit this land,” Larsen said. “They didn’t have anybody else that had a reason to kill these boys; so very quickly everything started to focus on him.”
Harry Hayes was indicted for murder on Dec. 4.
On that date, Hayes gave short answers to a reporter from the Provo Daily Enquirer, during an interview at the jail that played out more like an interrogation.
“You have made the statement, Mr. Hayes, that you did not leave Eureka between Dec. 24, 1894, and March 18, 1895,” the reporter for the Enquirer queried.
“Yes, and that statement is correct,” Hayes replied.
“And you say that you was not at Pelican Point at any time between those dates?” the Enquirer reporter asked.
“I was not at Pelican Point between those dates,” Hayes told the paper.
“What do you think of the action of the grand jury in indicting you?” the reporter questioned.
“I do not care to relate my opinion of the action of that body,” Hayes said.
The stepfather found himself on trial in March of 1896.
A 1986 manuscript written by Delila Williams and La Nora Allred, entitled Murder in any Degree—that contained information contributed by a relative of Caroline Hayes—detailed the prosecution’s case, which focused on the known dispute between Hayes and Enstrom, and Hayes’ apparent indifference about the killings.
“The prosecuting attorney promised to show that for five years Harry Hayes had malice and hatred in his heart for the dead boys,” Williams and Allred wrote. “(Hayes) was reported as saying that the ranch didn’t belong to him (actually the land belonged to Mrs. Hayes), and he would never set foot on the (expletive) land again. He added that the boys were no good anyway, that they were (expletive) lazy scrubs, and it was a good thing they were gone.”
Hayes was found guilty on April 1, 1896.
“All eyes turned to Harry Hayes, but Hayes seemed unaffected and his face betrayed no emotion,” wrote Williams and Allred in Murder in any Degree. “He continued to rock quietly, his right leg crossed over his left.”
On April 27, Hayes was sentenced to be hanged.
“The crime for which you are convicted is punishable by death and the (statute) provides that you can choose between hanging and shooting,” Judge W.M. McCarty addressed Hayes on that day, according to the reporting of the Provo Daily Enquirer. “Have you any choice?”
“If I must (lose) my life for those boys who I did not kill, I have no choice,” Hayes replied.
“It really, really was the wild, wild West back then,” Larsen said. “Without there being much more evidence against anybody else, all they had to really go on was the suspicion. There was no weapon recovered, they didn’t have the forensics at the time to test a weapon or the bullets to see who owned that kind of a gun or anything.”
Hayes never wavered on his innocence.
“He insisted before, during and after the trial that if a man named Stevens could be found they would have the real murderer,” reported the Salt Lake Herald in the 1897 story, “but still he manifested no disposition to aid the officers in any way.”
Investigative Questions, Sheriff Storrs and the Man Named Stevens
One of the questions investigators could never answer adequately is what happened to property that disappeared from the ranch around the time of the killings, including a wagon, farm implements and clothing.
“It was suggested that all these things had been loaded into a wagon, the outfit drawn upon Utah Lake, which was frozen, the ice chopped and the whole allowed to sink,” the 1897 Herald article stated. “Following this theory, the officers spent weeks dredging the lake, but without results.”
Hayes was originally scheduled to hang on June 19, 1896, according to Murder in any Degree, but an unsuccessful bid by his lawyers to appeal the case to the Utah Supreme Court pushed the date to Jan. 22, 1897.
Enter Utah County Sheriff George Storrs, who took office on Jan. 4, 1897, just 18 days prior to Hayes’ scheduled execution.
Storrs, as a deposition later outlined, was preparing for the hanging.
“I arranged with the Sheriff of Salt Lake County for the gallows, and I had a Deputy Sheriff there show me how the gallows worked; I purchased some new rope at St. Louis, with which to hang Hayes, which rope I now have at my office in Provo,” Storrs wrote.
A last-minute push for leniency from Hayes’ lawyers—which was supported by a prosecuting attorney—centered around the argument that the evidence was inconclusive and the findings did not merit the death penalty.
On Jan. 18, the Board of Pardons commuted Hayes’ sentence to life in prison.
“I became very much interested in the case owing to the fact that I had come so near to hanging Hayes,” Storrs wrote.
Storrs got a description of the property that vanished from the Hayes ranch and started inquiring.
Five months into the investigation in which leads took him as far away as Idaho, Storrs received his first real clue—a tip from someone in Provo that a suspected cattle thief named James G. Weeks had the property from the Hayes ranch, but he jumped his bail bonds and his wife ultimately sold the property to people around Mapleton.
Storrs found some of the missing property from the Hayes ranch with those people, according to the deposition, and summoned Caroline Hayes.
“When Mrs. Hayes came she went to Tom Williams’ house, and there identified the photograph of a baby that she said a man named Stevens had shown her on February 6th 1895 at the Hayes ranch,” Storrs wrote in the deposition.
Caroline Hayes subsequently identified a quilt, pieces of Enstrom’s clothing, and other property that had been missing from the ranch.
“After I became positive that these things which I had located around Mapleton were the property of the boys who had been murdered at the Hayes ranch, I then started to locate James G. Weeks,” Storrs wrote.
Storrs soon discovered a letter addressed to Mrs. Weeks had been signed by a C.T. Case from Rangely, Colorado.
“I became convinced that this man Case was James G. Weeks,” the sheriff wrote.
All names—Stevens, Weeks, Case—started to point to one man.
Based on previous charges related to the theft of cattle, Storrs obtained an arrest warrant from Utah Governor Heber Wells and set out for Colorado on Aug. 20, 1897 as Hayes remained behind bars.
“It was intended, after the capture of Weeks, to charge him with the more serious crime of murder,” the deposition stated.
Another Killing in Colorado
Upon arrival in Colorado, Storrs learned that a man who went by C. T. Case had settled in Rangely in September of 1895.
He claimed to be a nephew of construction and agricultural equipment manufacturer Jerome Increase Case. He also claimed to have mining connections.
Storrs wrote that he just happened to be waiting for a train when he picked up a copy of the Denver Republican newspaper dated Sept. 6, 1897.
He instantly recognized a picture of Weeks on the front page, next to a “startling” headline that stated, “after nineteen months the murder of W.C. Crampton nears solution.”
“Charles T. Case, late ‘King of Freshwater’ brought back under arrest from the east,” the headline continued.
Case, according to the reporting of the Denver Republican, had brought new life and hope to the small mining camp of Freshwater.
“Case dropped in and from the first took a leading part and advancing the new camp,” the paper reported. “His schemes for mills and large enterprises were the ones on which the camp based its hopes of prosperity. A plausible talker, sociable, personally attractive, educated, raised in the technique of geology, he passed for the man the camp could rely upon pulling it out of any difficulty when the values in the veins showed the need for mills and capital to assist in their conversion into gold.”
The man, however, soon fell under suspicion for the Jan. 20, 1896 killing of Crampton, whose body was found hidden in a manure pile. He had two gunshot wounds to the head. His dog had also been shot to death.
According to the Denver Republican, the gun used in the slaying was owned by a man who lived with Crampton, but investigators later discovered Case had traded guns with that man.
Witnesses also said on the morning of Crampton’s killing, they saw Case talking to Crampton at the blacksmith shop near the manure pile where the body was found. Investigators also discovered a pool of blood at the blacksmith shop.
Storrs wrote that the photo Colorado deputies in the area had of Case was an exact match to that of the one he had of Weeks.
The sheriff remained in Colorado for several days until he learned Case had in fact given authorities “the slip” out east in Chicago “and that there was no likelihood of his being captured and brought back to Colorado.”
Identifying a Suspected Killer
Storrs may have reached a dead end in finding the man of several aliases, but other clues drew him closer to the suspected killer’s true identity.
A man in Payson who possessed Charles T. Case’s address in Rangely also handed the sheriff a slip of paper that contained the name Jennie Wright and a P.O. Box address in Fowler, New York.
Authorities in New York, upon Storrs inquiry, determined in October of 1897 that Jennie Wright was living with her mother about 6 miles outside the village of Fowler, and also went by Mrs. George Wright.
“Her husband visited her, I am informed, about a year ago, and stayed in the locality for about a week,” wrote J.F. Hardie, a chief of police in the area. “I have also discovered she now receives letters from him, and I have made arrangements with the postmaster so as to ascertain where such letters are mailed.”
Meanwhile, Storrs’ deputies started to follow up on possible leads that the man by the name of Case or Weeks or perhaps Wright had lived elsewhere in northern Utah prior to moving to Utah County.
Storrs deposition said one deputy named Alexander Wilkins traveled to Salt Lake City in early October 1897 for “the semi-annual conference,” presumably of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and discussed the Pelican Point murders with people who lived in Salt Lake City’s First Ward.
Wilkins shared the photo of Charles T. Case that had been published in at least two newspapers at that point.
“These people said that they believed the picture of Charles T. Case strongly resembled that of a man named George H. Wright who had lived in that ward about 1891,” Storrs wrote in the deposition.
The ward members also gave Wilkins the name of a woman they said knew Wright well.
Storrs visited that woman and asked her to describe Wright, and her description “corresponded exactly” with the one the sheriff had of James G. Weeks. He then showed the woman the photo of Case, and she recognized the man as Wright. She also supplied Storrs with a photo of Mrs. Wright and their baby, Ruth Wright.
Tom Williams, Storrs wrote, also recognized the woman and child in the photo as Mrs. James Weeks and their baby, Ruth.
“Up to this time, I did not know that James G. Weeks had any other name than Charles T. Case and Alexander Wilkins’ information was the first that I had that Weeks’ real name was George H. Wright,” the sheriff wrote.
Storrs began following Wright’s path through the Salt Lake Valley, which moved from north to south. He’d apparently lived near a copper plant close to the Jordan River. One neighbor told him Wright had an indictment against him for stealing sheep, and pointed him in the direction of another man in South Jordan named William Beckstead.
Beckstead had obtained a wagon from Wright, which was of interest to Storrs because of the wagon missing from the Hayes ranch.
When Storrs spoke to Beckstead, according to the deposition, Beckstead told him he traded a Schuttler wagon for a 3 ¼ Cooper wagon, and then subsequently traded that wagon to his brother-in-law.
Storrs examined the Cooper wagon and it resembled the description of the one at the Hayes ranch, and family members later confirmed it was in fact the wagon because of known damage to it.
Storrs also confirmed that the Schuttler wagon traded by Beckstead was sold in Mapleton by a man recognized as James Weeks.
It appeared to Storrs that he had finally identified the suspected killer—George H. Wright.
The challenge was finding him.
George H. Wright
Wright, the sheriff soon learned, had roots in the Midwest.
His father, Abner Wright, lived in Owatonna, Minn.
Family members told investigators there that they believed, as of Jan. 10, 1898, that he may be living in Boston, Mass., but Storrs wasn’t able to develop anything further on Wright’s whereabouts.
What Storrs was able to build was a detailed profile of Wright.
He had studied to be a lawyer in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Police in Michigan told Storrs he was set to be married in Alma and hastened the process to avoid going to jail on embezzlement charges.
“The day fixed for the wedding Wright was arrested but fixed it up and left with girl before hour set for wedding and disappointed the invited guests as well as the sheriff who had secured warrant,” according to a letter dated Sept. 6, 1898, that was signed D. D. Whitesall, a detective in Alma.
On Jan. 21, 1898, the sheriff received a letter from Chicago Journal city editor Fred Logan that said Wright at one time had contributed several articles to the publication on gold mining regions.
Storrs also received intelligence from William Allan Pinkerton, principal of Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency, that his investigators had interviewed an attorney who represented Case, or Wright, in civil matters until he discovered his client was a “scoundrel.”
“He had committed forgeries and embezzlements with every one of the mining companies he was connected with, and was a clever forger and an all-around crook,” a letter from Pinkerton stated. “They know one thing, and that is he is the cleverest all-around scoundrel they ever met in their lives.”
Pinkerton also said it appeared Wright’s wife was living in New York.
That theory was additionally supported by a letter sent to a woman living in Mapleton, addressed from Jennie Wright, who signed the name “Weeks” in parentheses after Wright.
“In this letter, Mrs. Wright asked whether anything had ever been proved or found out in the Pelican Point affair, saying that she often thought she knew something bearing on that affair,” Storrs wrote in his deposition.
Mrs. Wright, who had parted ways with her husband for reasons that would become clear later, ended up being a key witness that turned the case for Storrs, according to his deposition and other accounts that are part of a 320-page pardon application submitted on behalf of Harry Hayes.
Her testimony, however, didn’t come without significant efforts to convince her.
One local New York investigator in one correspondence with Storrs even suggested an attempt at seducing her to gain information.
“I have a scheme, I think I can work successfully, it is this,” a paragraph of the letter dated Oct. 22, 1898 read. “Her time is out December first next. I think I can get her a place here in this village, but her employer probably could not afford to pay what she will expect, on account of having her child four or five years old. But it could be done, provided you will pay the difference, say a dollar or a dollar and a half a week. In that way she will be here where I can see her frequently, and the amount saved on livery rigs would about pay the difference, for such a time as I can accomplish my object, which is to get intimate with her, play the love act, if necessary, to get her confidence; suggest that she get a divorce from him. Believe she can locate him through their friends and acquaintances, if she does not already know where he is. I don’t fancy this part of the play but will resort to almost any means to gain her confidence and get her to assist in locating him.”
It was ultimately the promise of immunity, though, that led Jennie Wright to finally agree in 1899 to travel back to Utah with Storrs, arriving in Provo on Jan. 15. She submitted her own deposition on the Pelican Point murders which helped to exonerate Hayes and implicate her estranged husband.
She described the circuitous trail she and her husband took in the years prior to the killings. Their travels stretched from city to city across much of the Northeast and Midwest before ultimately bringing them to Salt Lake City in 1890.
George Wright, she wrote, never seemed to want for money, though he never paid any attention to the law he had studied in Michigan.
“I would frequently wake up at night and find him gone and he would not return until after daylight,” Jennie Wright wrote in her deposition. “I asked him where he got his money and he told me he sold shares in a mining company; when I married him he represented himself as being rich, and I never bothered myself in those days as to where he got his money.”
She eventually concluded that her husband was a thief of cattle, horses and sheep.
“I dared not inform on him because I was afraid of him,” Jennie Wright wrote. “I was in fear of my life; I felt he would kill me if I exposed him.”
Their journey ultimately brought them to Utah County ahead of that fateful February of 1895.
Jennie Wright stated she had only received written correspondence from George from January of that year until he returned to her in early March.
“He came with a team, consisting of a 3 ¼ Cooper wagon nearly new, and two horses, one a dark bay and the other a light bay,” the wife wrote.
She said one of the horses had a brand of an “H” with a quarter circle over it.
“I asked him where he got the team and he said he had stolen them,” Jennie Wright wrote.
George Wright tried to get her to poison the horses—to which she said she felt uncomfortable—before he killed the horses himself after trading the wagon to Beckstead, noting one of the horses was “known over in Lehi.”
It was after that, Jennie Wright wrote, that she took on the name, Mrs. James G. Weeks.
The wife also noted George Wright had amassed numerous items she had not seen before, including articles of clothing “for three different sized men.”
She described a suspicious dinner conversation one Sunday with Tom Williams present:
“Tom Williams said, ’Have you heard of the find they have made over there at the lake?’ Wright replied that he had not; I asked Tom what the find was and Tom then told about some boys being found, who were supposed to have been murdered; he told who the boys were and I noticed that Wright turned ghastly pale; after Tom Williams and (Greg) Metcalf left our cabin that day George was taken very ill with nervous prostration and was sick for two weeks.”
Jennie Wright put the pieces together in the coming days.
“The newspapers came out with descriptions of how the boys were dressed when last seen; the newspaper accounts also described the team and wagon, the household goods and the duck overcoat; it was the description of the duck overcoat that first attracted my attention; I also found that the goods which I found at the cabin when I reached there corresponded with the descriptions in the newspapers of the missing articles at the Hayes Ranch at Pelican Point,” the wife wrote. “I was afraid to talk to him about the Pelican Point affair for fear I might betray my suspicions of his guilt; and he might then kill me to prevent me from betraying him.”
She noted that her husband had even killed her pug dog.
“I think he intended at that time to kill me, because he had become convinced that I knew too much about his crimes,” she wrote.
With an apparent desire to distance herself from the precariousness of the situation, Jennie Wright moved back to New York in September 1895.
George Wright, meanwhile, continued on his own path, sending a letter to his estranged wife from Pueblo, Colorado, dated Feb. 19, 1897, that warned her not to tell anyone what she knew and included an offer to meet up in St. Louis, if she desired.
The wife said she saw George Wright one last time when he came to Fowler, New York on May 18, 1897.
He then promised to send for her in two weeks and take her and her mother to St. Louis. He never did.
The last letter she received from him was dated June 3, 1897, from Chicago.
Jennie Wright stated that George Wright could be “engaged in business as a lawyer, civil engineer, lecturer, newspaper reporter or mining operator.”
He also had told her once that he had an illegitimate child and wanted to take care of it.
Despite reported sightings in future years that stretched from Chicago, per a May 14, 1900 story in the Deseret Evening News, to Oklahoma and Hawaii, George Wright eventually disappeared into the fog of history, never to be seen or heard from again.
Pelican Point Murders and Present Day
Despite the 124 years that have passed since the 3 ranch hands were killed, traces of the crime can still be found at rest on a lonely hillside in Benjamin.
An old cemetery there is the burial site of Harry Hayes, who died a free man in 1911 thanks largely to Jennie Wright’s testimony.
“Him shall the scorn and wrath of men Pursue with deadly aim; And malice, envy, spite and lies shall desecrate his name,” Hayes’ headstone reads, “But truth shall conquer at the last, for round and round we run, And ever the right comes uppermost, And ever is justice done.”
Close by are buried Enstrom, Johnson and Nelson, whose headstones all are inscribed, “said to be massacred.”
Larsen, whose museum contains documents and histories related to the killings, said timing proved to be remarkable in the case.
“If it hadn’t been for that timing and for Storrs’ desire to not hang a potentially innocent person, nobody would have dug deeper and found the evidence that pointed to Wright,” Larsen said.
Hayes’ grave also sits next to his wife, Caroline, who later in life went to live with her nephew, Oren Porter Tyrrell, in Spanish Fork.
David Andreason, the grandson of Tyrrell and a direct descendant of famed Wild West law man Orrin Porter Rockwell, only found the headstones for the first time in late February.
“I understood it was an unmarked grave, but apparently that wasn’t the case,” Andreason said of Hayes’ marker. “All I have are stories that my grandfather told me and my mother years ago.”
Andreason said his late mother, Reva Tyrrell Andreason, was very familiar with the Pelican Point murders and was the relative who contributed information to Murder in any Degree.
He formed a strong opinion about Wright after reading up on the case.
“I think he was a serial killer is what it sounds like to me!” Andreason exclaimed. “The education that he had, the things that he did—it just didn’t make sense. He came from a wealthy family, he was an attorney, a surveyor—just a lot of different things that he did, so why would he be an outlaw for a living?”
Andreason said he was very impressed by the great lengths Storrs—who traveled from New York to Oregon in his pursuit of answers—went to solve the mystery at Pelican Point and free his innocent relative.
“He was on waiting for the noose,” Andreason said. “It’s amazing the time the man put into this for somebody he didn’t really even know.”
“Murder Mystery: A Young Utah County Man Fouly Butchered,” Evening Dispatch, April 16, 1895
“Still Unsolved: The Pelican Point Murder Still a Mystery,” Evening Dispatch, April 17, 1895
“Triple Murder: The Pelican Point Butchery the Most Foul on Record,” Evening Dispatch, April 22, 1895
“Harry Hayes Arrested for a Triple Murder at Pelican Point,” Provo Daily Enquirer, Dec. 4, 1895
“Hayes to Hang: Justice McCarty passes Sentence,” Provo Daily Enquirer, April 27, 1896
“Charles T. Case, late ‘King of Freshwater’ brought back under arrest from the east,” Denver Republican, Sept. 6, 1897
“Pelican Point Murders: Strong Evidence that Harry Hayes Is an Innocent Man,” Salt Lake Herald, Sept. 8, 1897
Prisoner’s pardon application case files, Harry Hayes, Utah Board of Pardons and Parole, 189
“Is the Pelican Point Murder Mystery Solved? Strange Story of an Atrocious Crime and Its Startling Sequel,” Salt Lake Herald, April 16, 1899
“Innocent Man was Convicted: Pardoned after Serving Four Years for a Crime He Did Not Commit,” Evening Times, April 19, 1899
“Wright at World’s Fair City,” Deseret Evening News, May 14, 1900
“Is Lennon a Muchly Wanted Utah Man: Startling Resemblance Has Caused Official Investigation,” Honolulu Republican, Nov. 17, 1901
Murder in any Degree: An Account of Two Unsolved Murders in Utah County, Delila Williams and La Nora Allred, 1986