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Local Man Murdered, Girl Raped Near Here (Cold Case 1972') Vernal, Ut.

Updated: May 3, 2023


Posted By Travis Uresk| Gregory Dahl Nickell |


An all-out search is still being conducted in the Uintah Basin area for two men involved in the killing of a local man, burning his car with his body inside, and abducting and double raping his female companion early Sunday morning. Four days of massive Ariel and ground searching have failed to turn up evidence of the whereabouts of the two suspects, stated Uintah County Sheriff Arden W. Stewart, Wednesday.

Nearly 150 law enforcement officers and volunteers have assisted in the search throughout the rugged Book Cliffs south of Vernal, to the Colorado line, and west throughout Duchesne County. The victim of the slaying was Gregory Dahl Nickell, 21, son of Mr. and Mrs. Dallas C. Nickell, Vernal.

The Macabre story of the murder, double raping, and night of terror was told by18 year-old victim from Twin Falls, Idaho, who was visiting friends in Vernal and had been previously working in Provo. In her statement to Sheriff Stewart, the victim stated that she and Gregory had just driven out to the scenic viewpoint 3.4 miles west of Vernal on US. 40 to see the valley after a dance. While they were talking, a man appeared on the driver's side and tapped on the window.

On rolling down the window, the man informed Nickell he had been in an automobile accident and asked if he would report the accident. Then, without warning, the man fired a barrage of shots into Mr. Nickell. Nickell shielded the girl by throwing his body over hers, pushing her down as the bullets struck him in the head, neck, and torso. The time of the shooting was about 1:30 a.m., according to officers.

Seven .22 shell casings and two live rounds were later recovered at the scene. According to the girl, the gunman then opened the door, pushed Nickell out of the driver's seat, and started the car. The body remained slumped in the girl's lap.

The killer drove west on US. 40 when another car, after following for a short distance, passed them. The two cars stopped, and the drivers got out and talked and then continued on with the second car in the lead to the Ouray turnoff on U-88, traveling south four miles and then turned to the right on a dirt road for .7 mile where the two cars stopped.

The gunman forced the girl from the car and raped her. He then ordered her onto the floor of the back seat of the second car and covered her with a blanket. Both men then set fire to Nickell's auto, leaving his body inside. For about three-and-a-half hours, the two abductors rode over back roads. During the drive, the girl was raped by the second man in the back seat. As it was beginning to get light, about 6 a.m., the men finally released the girl on the old US. 40 road two miles east of Duchesne, Utah.

All during the abduction, the two men kept a coat or blanket over the head of the girl so she could not see her abductors, resulting in her having very little actual knowing of the men or car involved. After being dropped off, the girl ran as fast as she could for about one-fourth mile to the Clinton Moon home, where she got Mr. Moon out of bed. He summoned the Duchesne County Sheriff, who in turn notified the Uintah County officers.

The girl was given medical treatment Sunday morning and released from the Uintah County Hospital. The girl described the gunman as in his early 20s and his accomplice as about 30. Both were Caucasians with medium-length hair, and both wore cowboy boots. One talked with a Texas accent. The car they escaped in was described by the girl as an older model four-door Ford, either tan or gold, with blue and white checkered upholstery in the back seat. It also had stickers on the side window.


Source: Vernal Express 11/30/72



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