COLD: The search for Sheree Warren’s remains, part 1
Feb 21, 2023, 4:46 PM | Updated: Feb 22, 2023, 9:35 pm
(This is the first in a two-part story about the search for Sheree Warren, a woman missing since 1985. Read the second part here)
HUNTSVILLE, Utah — KSL’s investigative podcast series COLD has uncovered details of a previously undisclosed effort to locate the remains of a missing Weber County woman in the mountains east of Ogden.
The searches conducted two decades ago included an on-the-ground effort involving cadaver dogs as well as an overflight by the Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter. Neither were successful in turning up evidence related to the unsolved cold case disappearance of Sheree Warren.
Still, investigators involved in the Sheree Warren case have told COLD they believe the site could still be relevant to ongoing efforts in 2023 to locate Warren’s remains.
The disappearance of Sheree Warren
Sheree Warren was last seen by a coworker, leaving her job at a Salt Lake City office on the evening of Oct. 2, 1985. Warren’s car turned up weeks later behind a casino hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. Her unsolved disappearance is the subject of COLD season 3, which is currently releasing episodes on all major podcast platforms.
At the time of her disappearance, Warren was separated from her husband, Charles “Chuck” Warren. Their divorce had stalled over a dispute involving child support payments. The Warrens had a three-year-old son and were sharing custody of him at the time.
Sheree Warren had temporarily moved in with her parents, Ed and Mary Sorensen, after filing for divorce. Mary Sorensen became concerned when her daughter didn’t arrive home from work on the night of Oct. 2 and reported Sheree Warren missing to police in Roy, where the Sorensens lived, the following day.
Former Roy police detective Jack Bell was the initial lead investigator on the Sheree Warren case. Bell’s suspicion had first turned to Charles Warren, the estranged husband. Bell learned that Charles and Sheree Warren had made plans to meet at a Toyota dealership in Salt Lake City on the day of her disappearance.
“Sheree was going to pick [Charles] up when she got off work and pick up her son who was going to be with him,” Bell said. “He called, according to Chuck, and canceled that appointment.”
However, when Sheree Warren left the office at approximately 6:30 p.m., she told a coworker she was on her way to meet up with her estranged husband.
Charles Warren subsequently refused a police request to submit to a polygraph examination regarding this inconsistency.
The arrest of Cary Hartmann
The focus of Bell’s investigation shifted a year-and-a-half into the case, after Ogden police arrested a man Sheree Warren had been dating while separated from her husband. That man, Cary Hartmann, had become a suspect in a series of sexual assaults against women in Ogden during the mid-1980s.
Hartmann was a former Ogden police reserve officer and an old high school acquaintance of Roy police detective Jack Bell. Case records obtained exclusively by COLD show Hartmann remained in close contact with Bell during the first days and weeks following Sheree Warren’s disappearance.
“I didn’t put my finger on it right away but later on I felt like he hand-picked me to report it to because he knew me,” Bell said.
The arrest of Cary Hartmann on May 8, 1987 by Ogden police resulted in new leads emerging for Roy police about the disappearance of Sheree Warren. Detective Bell spoke to two women who’d lived above Hartmann at a house on Ogden’s 7th Street during 1985. The women said they’d overheard a loud argument between Cary Hartmann and Sheree Warren on or around the date Warren disappeared.
“They recall hearing a loud thump and then all went quiet,” Bell said.
Bell began to suspect Hartmann might’ve killed Warren during a heated fight, then disposed of her body before deflecting suspicion onto Warren’s estranged husband.
“Cary did everything he could to promote Chuck Warren as being the guilty party in her disappearance,” Bell said.
New leads from Cary Hartmann’s old friends
Bell also spoke to a longtime friend of Cary Hartmann’s named C. Brent Morgan following Hartmann’s arrest in May of 1987. Morgan owned a cabin in a private mountain subdivision east of Ogden called Causey Estates.
Case records show Morgan told Bell that Hartmann had borrowed his key for the gate that provided access into Causey Estates a few weeks prior to Sheree Warren’s disappearance. Morgan also said Hartmann had refused to return the gate key in the days after Warren disappeared, which had prevented Morgan from accessing his property.
Causey Estates sits adjacent to Causey Reservoir, an impoundment on the South Fork Ogden River. It’s surrounded by hundreds of thousands of acres of private, undeveloped mountain used primarily for cattle and sheep ranching. The area surrounding Causey is also prized elk hunting habitat.
Detective Jack Bell’s notes also indicate he spoke to an elk hunting guide named Allen Fred John on May 13, 1987. John frequented the mountains around Causey and was a personal acquaintance of Cary Hartmann’s.
John reportedly told detective Bell he’d seen Hartmann and another man, whom John identified as Hartmann’s younger brother Jack Hartmann, at a specific spot on the mountain on Oct. 6, 1985, four days after Sheree Warren was last seen.
Bell’s notes, obtained exclusively by COLD, said Cary allegedly told John “that they had been elk hunting but had not done any good so they were going home. [John] also said that [the Hartmanns] had two 3-wheel off-road machines with them.”
Bell could not question Hartmann about this at the time, because Hartmann had hired a defense attorney and invoked his right to remain silent following his arrest at the hands of Ogden police.
Cadaver dog search for Sheree Warren’s remains
Cary Hartmann stood trial in September of 1987 on unrelated charges of aggravated sexual assault and burglary. A jury convicted him on all counts. A month-and-a-half later, on Nov. 2, 1987, a judge sentenced Hartmann to serve two terms of 15-years-to-life in prison.
A pair of Ogden police detectives attempted to question Hartmann about Sheree Warren following his conviction in the other cases in February of 1988, but Hartmann declined to speak with the officers.
The Weber County Attorney’s Office considered filing criminal charges against Hartmann in connection with Sheree Warren’s presumed murder at that time, but ultimately declined to do so because investigators had been unable to locate Warren’s remains.
The Sheree Warren investigation lapsed into cold status through most of the 1990s. In 1998, an Ogden police detective named Shane Minor revived the investigation. Minor spent several years re-interviewing witnesses, including the elk hunting guide Allen Fred John.
“He basically went through that same story that he went through with Bell,” Minor told COLD. “He recalled seeing [Cary Hartmann] that first week in October. I believe it was the first week of the elk hunt.”
Minor theorized the sighting of Cary Hartmann on the mountain behind Causey Reservoir could have been tied to an effort by Hartmann to dispose of Sheree Warren’s body in a location where it would not be found. He believed locating Warren’s remains on the mountain might provide sufficient evidence to result in the filing of criminal charges against Hartmann.
Minor asked John to take him to the specific spot where John claimed to have seen Hartmann.
“He agreed to do that,” Minor said. “It was sometime later when the snow allowed. He showed me the area where [Cary Hartmann] was backed in at and where he’d talked to him.”
After confirming the location, Minor arranged to have a cadaver dog team brought to the site on June 9, 2001. The dog search, which has not been previously disclosed, focused on a relatively small area at the head of the Righthand Fork of Guildersleeve Canyon.
“We hit that hillside with the dogs just to see if we could kick anything up but again, we’re now at 15 years, 16 years after-the-fact,” Minor said. “I was putting a lot of faith in those dogs and if something had been dumped, hoping that it wouldn’t be too far down in.”
The cadaver dog search did not result in the discovery of any evidence.
Helicopter search behind Causey Reservoir
Detective Shane Minor did not believe the failure of the dogs to locate any human remains on the mountain behind Causey Reservoir ruled out the location as potentially significant in the search for Sheree Warren.
On May 24, 2004, Minor and several other investigators conducted a fly-over of the mountain between Causey and Lost Creek Reservoirs as part of the Sheree Warren investigation.
“It was just to try to document the area, the roadways that go up into it,” Minor said.
COLD obtained a copy of the video recording captured by the Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter on that flight through an open records request. The video file included audio of conversation between Minor and the other investigators.
At one point, Minor speculated Cary Hartmann could potentially have left Sheree Warren’s body anywhere along many miles of winding dirt roads and trails, in a place the cadaver dogs had not searched.
“After he was seen though, he could’ve drove back out and dumped her any place,” Minor said in the recording.
Cary Hartmann answers questions, 20 years later
Cary Hartmann went before the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole in September of 2005. At that time, an officer for the parole board implied Hartmann would be unlikely to win a release from custody unless he fully cooperated with police investigating Sheree Warren’s disappearance.
“I had nothing to do with it,” Hartmann told the board. “I worked with detective Jack Bell for over a year and a half to look for her and locate her.”
Hartmann agreed to speak with investigator Shane Minor, who traveled to the San Juan County Jail in Monticello, Utah to interview Hartmann on Oct. 20, 2005. An audio recording of that interview obtained by COLD through an open records request revealed Hartmann denied the account of his former upstairs neighbors, who’d placed Hartmann and Warren together in Ogden after she was last seen in Salt Lake City.
“That’s absolutely incredibly false,” Hartmann told Minor. “Ain’t no way on this planet. That’s a lie, absolutely direct lie.”
The recording showed Hartmann also denied having borrowed a key for the gate at Causey Estates, or having gone hunting in on the mountain behind Causey Reservoir the weekend after Warren was last seen.
“Absolutely not,” Hartmann said. “Number one, it’s private and two, I couldn’t get through the gate.”
Minor told COLD he was unable to reconcile Hartmann’s account with the stories of multiple witnesses in the case. However, Hartmann was never arrested or charged with a crime related to Sheree Warren’s disappearance.
The Utah Department of Corrections released Hartmann from custody in March of 2020. When contacted by COLD, Hartmann referred questions to his lawyer. That lawyer did not respond to messages seeking comment.