COLD: The untold story of the search for Sheree Warren’s remains, part 2

Feb 22, 2023, 6:27 PM | Updated: 6:33 pm

(This is the second in a two-part story about the search for Sheree Warren, a woman missing since 1985. Read the first part here)

ROY, Utah — A police detective in this suburb of Ogden received a box of old reports in February of 2015. They detailed a 30-year-old cold case involving the disappearance of a woman named Sheree Warren.

John Frawley, the detective, was tasked with researching the long-abandoned investigation on the chance a set of skeletal remains uncovered along U.S. Highway 89 might possibly belong to Warren.

“I honestly didn’t know much about the Sheree Warren case at all,” Frawley said in an interview for the KSL investigative podcast series COLD. “I just started reading through this case and I just became fascinated with it.”

The skeletal remains, Frawley would come to learn, did not belong to Warren. Dental records instead tied the bones to another young woman who’d disappeared in the 1980s, Theresa Greaves. But by that point, Frawley had met with Warren’s family to let them know fresh eyes were reviewing the case.

“Kind of a sobering feeling,” Frawley said. “This family went to bed every day, woke up every morning never knowing what happened. They didn’t get any answers.”

Two persons of interest

The original investigation into the Oct. 2, 1985 disappearance of Sheree Warren had been stymied by the presence of two viable suspects. The first was Warren’s estranged husband, Charles Warren. The second was a man Warren had dated while seeking a divorce named Cary Hartmann.

As detailed in part one of this story, both men drew the suspicion of investigators for differing reasons. Police learned both Charles Warren and Cary Hartmann had instances of violent abuse against romantic partners in their past. Neither provided satisfactory answers about their whereabouts on the night of Warren’s disappearance when questioned.

“You’ve got to really go down both paths to really figure out what happened,” Frawley said.

The initial investigation carried out by Roy police in 1985 had focused on Charles Warren. That had shifted in May of 1987, after Ogden police arrested Cary Hartmann as part of an investigation into a string of sexual assaults.

In the early 2000s, an investigator for the Weber County Attorney’s Office attempted to piece together clues that suggested Hartmann might potentially have taken Sheree Warren’s body to a remote, mountainous area east of Causey Reservoir.

The witness sighting of Cary Hartmann

The key piece of information pointing to that possibility was the account of a witness named Allen Fred John, also known as “Fred Johns.”

“We know from Fred Johns’ testimony that Cary Hartmann was up in the Causey area on October 6, 1985,” Frawley said.

That date was four days following when Sheree Warren was last known to have been seen, while leaving her work at an office building in downtown Salt Lake City. It also marked opening weekend of Utah’s general elk hunt.

John worked as an elk hunting guide. He told police that on the Sunday after Sheree Warren disappeared, he came across Cary Hartmann and another man parked alongside a dirt road that connects Causey Reservoir to Lost Creek Reservoir.

“It was private land, but [Cary Hartmann] had a key from a friend, he had access to that area,” Frawley said.

Allen Fred John died in 2017. COLD was unable to independently verify his account, but John’s past statements to investigators are preserved in case reports and detectives notes obtained by COLD through multiple open records requests.

In his initial contact with investigators in May of 1987, John said he’d observed Cary Hartmann and a man John believed was Hartmann’s younger brother, Jack Hartmann, at the head of the Righthand Fork of Guildersleeve Canyon. John also told a detective at that time he’d observed Hartmann had two 3-wheeled ATVs with him.

Police search the mountain behind Causey

John was interviewed again by a different detective in April of 2001. At that time, John recalled stopping to speak with Hartmann after finding Hartmann trespassing on private property John had leased. John said he’d found Hartmann’s presence suspicious.

“Johns stated that he did not see the Hartmanns earlier in the day and thought that he would have, if they would have been hunting,” a report obtained exclusively by COLD reads. “Cary told Johns that they had been hunting earlier in the day down lower, Johns referred to the Causey area.”

On May 29, 2001, John escorted a detective to the site of his reported encounter with Cary Hartmann. Investigators subsequently brought cadaver dogs to that site and later conducted a fly-over in the Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter in the hopes of locating Sheree Warren’s remains. Case records show neither effort turned up any evidence.

However, current and past investigators involved with the Sheree Warren case who’ve spoken with COLD said those searches do not rule out the mountain behind Causey Reservoir as a possible resting place for Sheree Warren’s remains. They point to John’s mention of Hartmann having 3-wheelers with him on the mountain as a sign Warren’s body could potentially have been transported beyond the area checked by the cadaver dogs two decades ago.

Cary Hartmann’s 3-wheelers

Multiple former friends of Cary Hartmann have confirmed to COLD that Hartmann owned or had access to a pair of 3-wheeled all-terrain vehicles at the time of Sheree Warren’s disappearance in October of 1985.

In 1987, one of those friends provided Ogden police with a photo that showed Hartmann and another man standing beside a trio of 3-wheelers on a snow-packed road in the mountains near Causey Reservoir. Police records indicate the photo was taken in March or April of 1986, roughly six months after Sheree Warren disappeared.

COLD obtained a copy of that photo through an open records request.

In the photo, Hartmann has his hand placed on the handle bar of one of the 3-wheelers. Decals on that particular 3-wheeler identify it as a Honda model ATC185S. Honda ATCs, short for “all-terrain cycles,” were wildly popular in the early 1980s. They were capable of carrying riders across terrain few other vehicles could manage. This made ATCs popular among hunters who might otherwise have to hike or ride horses into the backcountry.

ATCs often lacked or had only rudimentary suspension. They were prone to tipping or rolling over. This made ATCs risky to operate for inexperienced or underage riders.

At the end of 1987, the U.S. Department of Justice sued the major ATC manufacturers. The government’s complaint alleged 3-wheelers presented an imminent hazard to the health and safety of the public. Months later, the manufacturers entered into a consent decree with the federal government that resulted in a de facto ban on new 3-wheeler sales.

Safer and more stable alternatives, like 4-wheeled ATVs and side-by-sides, supplanted relatively primitive 3-wheeled ATCs in the decades that followed. 

The limitations of vintage Honda ATCs raised questions about the speculations voiced by past investigators in the Sheree Warren case: could a 3-wheeler like the ones Cary Hartmann once owned effectively transport a human body off road in the heavily forested mountain behind Causey Reservoir?

COLD’s 3-wheeler experiment

COLD staged an experiment with the aim of answering this question. It purchased a used 1982 Honda ATC200E “Big Red” model 3-wheeler. This model was slightly larger than the ATC185S model in the photograph of Hartmann, but mechanically similar.

Honda ATC200E models came equipped with a rear cargo rack. The same rack was available for ATC185S models as an optional accessory. The ATC185S in the photograph of Hartmann provided to police has a rack mounted.

The owner’s manuals for both models of 3-wheeler listed a maximum payload capacity of 66 pounds for the rear rack. The manuals also warned carrying cargo could “reduce the ATC’s stability, performance and safe operating speed.”

COLD received special permission to access the area where Allen Fred John told police he’d seen Cary Hartmann four days after Sheree Warren disappeared. COLD transported its 3-wheeler to the site and placed 120 pounds of rock salt on the machine’s rear rack, to simulate the weight of an adult human body.

COLD then conducted multiple test rides, both on a graded dirt road and across an open sagebrush field, carrying the additional weight.

Vintage 3-wheelers were powered by small gas engines. Their performance could be adversely affected by thinner air at elevations above 6,500 feet. The location of the Hartmann sighting sat at roughly 8,000 feet above sea level.

The combination of thinner air and extra weight meant the 3-wheeler at times bogged down or struggled to get up to speed. The placement of the load over the rear axle reduced pressure on the front wheel. This resulted a marked decrease in the 3-wheeler’s maneuverability and steering effectiveness.

Despite the cumbersome handling, COLD’s test runs suggested a cautious rider would’ve been capable of using a vintage 3-wheeler to transport an adult human body over much of the terrain surrounding the location of the Oct. 6, 1985 Cary Hartmann sighting.

Police request new tips about Sheree Warren

Locating the remains of Sheree Warren continues to be a priority for Roy police.

“I would absolutely love to find Sheree Warren,” detective John Frawley said.

COLD has learned Weber County investigators obtained an investigative subpoena in January of 2006. They used the subpoena to compel testimony from Cary Hartmann’s younger brother, Jack Hartmann, in a secret hearing.

According to an audio recording of that hearing, Jack Hartmann said he did not recall accompanying his brother to the mountain behind Causey Reservoir the weekend after Sheree Warren disappeared, as the witness Allen Fred John had reported to police.

That has left detectives with the belief a different person might have accompanied Cary Hartmann up the mountain, and that person could hold information relevant to their search for Sheree Warren.

“If you have information, pertinent information regarding Sheree’s disappearance … or if you had any contact with Charles Warren or Cary Hartmann the days following that you feel law enforcement should know about, please reach out to us,” Frawley said.

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COLD: The untold story of the search for Sheree Warren’s remains, part 2