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Southern Utah News Front Page: August 17, 2017
Through the Years - Part III
A very sad story in the August 21, 1996 edition of the Southern Utah News about the abduction, and subsequent murder, of six year old Lance Guevarra, of Big Water.
By Dixie Brunner
Editor’s note-This is the third segment in a series celebrating 25 years of Dennis and Dixie Brunner owning and publishing the Southern Utah News in Kanab. The feature series will be a stroll down memory lane featuring the top stories that have shaped Kane County. We hope you enjoy taking a look back – Through the Years!
Ever since we started publishing the Southern Utah News, roads have been a major topic of county conversation, controversy and conflict. An enormous amount of time and money has been spent by the county and state in litigation against the federal government over right of ways and roads. In fact, there were very few SUN editions in the past 25 years that ‘did not’ have an article or reference to the roads issue!
The first time we reported on the issue way back when ... then Kane County Commissioner Ray Lopeman had the county roads crew ‘maintain’ a road that was in a Wilderness Study Area. The action shocked the Bureau of Land Management, as well as angered Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. Lawsuits followed.
In an article entitled ‘County intrudes upon Wilderness Study Area,’ it read the BLM had accused Kane County of building a road on several sections of the Paria/Hackberry Wilderness Study Area. The commission responded that they were just doing an upgrade on the Skutumpah/Cannonville road northeast of Johnson Canyon. Many proponents felt the eventual paving of the road will be crucial to future Kane County development.
The BLM felt otherwise. “In the course of road realignment, the county made some major intrusions on the Wilderness Study Area,” charged BLM area manager Verlin Smith, in the September 1993 edition. “The new road location infringed on the area in about four or five different locations. We will have to prepare an environment analysis on the degradation. The county will be held responsible for Wilderness Study Area repair costs and will also have to address the trespassing issue.”
The January 26, 1994 edition reported the BLM had determined Kane County was financially responsible for the lands damaged by the road crew, and that they must be reclaimed at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars to Kane County taxpayers.
“I’m disappointed that the county violated federal law and regulations, as well as our long standing agreement on roads maintenance. Clearly, they exceeded their authority,” said Utah BLM State Director James Parker.
After several more years of the county fighting with the BLM on the roads/access issue, a roads deal was reached. The agreement listed what roads were the county’s, what roads were definitely not ... and still others that would have to be litigated to determine ownership. The county commissioners viewed the agreement as a way to reduce time and money spent in court.
Kane County residents turned out for the public hearing in droves – over 900 people were in attendance to be exact! Kane residents did not want a roads agreement, and viewed the county’s agreement with the government as nothing short of treason! The agreement was eventually scrapped.
Roads over public lands have dominated the news ever since!
Lance Guevarra murder
Certainly one of the most tragic stories reported on during our tenure was what was first thought to be a child abduction. Six year-old Lance Guevarra, of Big Water, son of Kimberly and William, was last seen walking home from his next-door neighbor’s on August 13, between 8-9 p.m. This was first reported in the August 21, 1996 edition.
Lance was described as 3 foot 10 inches tall and 56 pounds. He has dark skin, brown eyes and brown hair. He’s missing a front tooth and was last seen wearing blue shorts with red trim, no shirt or shoes. Seven law enforcement agencies, a team of Rocky Mountain Rescue dogs, as well as friends, family and neighbors are all searching for little Lance.
The search dogs picked up Lance’s trail around the neighbor’s house, but lost it at the street, leading authorities to believe Lance may have been taken away by car.
“All indications are that the abductor was somebody he knew,” said Kane County Chief Deputy Allen Johnson. “There were no signs of a struggle, and Lance’s Godzilla action figure was not found on the ground and is assumed to be with him.”
In the November 13, 1996 issue, it was reported that Guevarra’s abduction was featured on the hit TV series “Unsolved Mysteries.” They are hoping to get new information on Lance’s disappearance, and deputies are manning the phones hoping for new leads.
The disappearance and six-month search for Lance Guevarra ended tragically Friday with the discovery of his remains not far from his Big Water trailer home, read the February 12 article entitled, ‘Missing Big Water boy found dead.’ After a tearful confession, a 17 year-old cousin led authorities to the six year old’s body on a windswept hill behind his house.
Lance’s cousin admitted to the murder while in a Nevada mental institution following a suicide attempt. He cooperated with authorities on locating Lance’s remains. Based on the information given them, they attempted to locate the body, but were unsuccessful. On February 7, the cousin was brought to the location and directed officers to the specific site.
Lance’s mother Kimberly told the Salt Lake Tribune that there was a small amount of relief in knowing Lance hadn’t been harmed by some kind of pervert all the time he was missing. “He has been in Heaven all this time,” said Mrs. Guevarra.
The July 23, 1997 edition reported that Alexander James Bybee, 19, Las Vegas, was bound over for trial in the murder of his cousin, Lance Guevarra.
Deputy Johnson said that during an emotional interview with Bybee, he told him Lance had come over to borrow a video game. Bybee told the little boy that he wouldn’t lend it to him, until Lance returned the first one he borrowed. Alex said Lance went out the front door and he went out the back to intercept him on the side of the house.
“At that point,” said Deputy Johnson, “Alex stated that he broke Lance’s arm. He had a hard time telling me how he killed Lance,” continued Johnson. “When I asked him whether he used a weapon or what, he raised his hands, and said ‘I used these.’”
Few issues caused more controversy than the ‘Natural Family’ proclamation. Reporter Robert Cook first wrote about it in the January 18, 2006 edition.
The Kanab City Council followed the lead of Kanab City Mayor Kim Lawson and voted to adopt the ‘Natural Family’ proclamation. Lawson read the proclamation to those in attendance at the January 10 Kanab City Council meeting.
The story stressed the proclamation’s adoption didn’t change any current laws or the way the city does business.
“We want people to know that Kanab is a great place to raise a family,” said Lawson. “This is the beginning of a pursuit of excellence in our community.”
Cook wrote the proclamation reiterates the marriage of a man to a woman as ordained by God. The council’s vote was unanimous. My editorial in the following January 25 edition, criticized the mayor and council’s actions:
The Proclamation is said to be a vision for Kanab. Proclamations are non-binding ceremonial statements, and the Natural Family is nothing more than that. But the hurt and exclusionary nature of the proclamation offended many, and was an inappropriate action for the council to take.
It appears that the Natural Family proclamation was offensive to single parents, custodial adults and grandparents, that due to situations out of their control, are loving and raising children single-handedly.
While I think the council endorsed the proclamation in good faith – they didn’t think through its exclusionary implications. Wouldn’t it be better if the council stayed out of peoples’ bedrooms and lives, and worked on doing the job they were elected to do...deal with taxes, pools, roads and making Kanab a nicer place for everyone to live? It sure would seem to be the natural thing for them to be concerned with.
The Natural Family frenzy went on for months, and brought national media attention and much negative publicity for Kanab. Some travel groups pledged to boycott the community. This controversy brought in the most Letters to the Editor the Southern Utah News had in our 25 years of owning the paper. We averaged 10 to 15 letters a week!