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A BEAUTIFUL SCENE, A TRAGIC END

Published: Thursday, Aug. 29 1996 12:00 a.m. MDT

Zach Snarr and Yvette Rodier were best friends and loved life. Snarr was a talented photographer and played hockey, while Rodier was a standout at Highland High, senior class president in 1995-96.

But Wednesday night, life was cut short for one of the two 18-year-old high school graduates. A sheriff's spokesman said they were shot by a "random, senseless and cold-blooded killer" under the light of a full moon near Little Dell Reservoir.Snarr was fatally shot about 10 miles east of Salt Lake City between Emigration and Parleys Canyons after a man, initially asking for directions, approached and emptied a .44-caliber handgun at the two victims, said Salt Lake County Sheriff's Sgt. Jim Potter.

Snarr and Rodier had previously set up a camera tripod to take pictures of the moon over the smaller reservoir east of Mountain Dell Reservoir.

Snarr's passion for art, one of life's greatest wonders, became a tragic and ironic reminder of life's ugliness. The young man who couldn't say anything bad about anyone, who couldn't start a day without telling his mother how much he loved her, died in pursuit of life's eloquence.

Rodier was in serious but stable condition Thursday morning at an area hopital with family members nearby, a hospital spokesman said.

"These families are just devastated," Potter said. "What's crazy is it was completely unprovoked. The guy who did this is disturbed and is a cold-blooded killer. There's no other way to describe it. He's a huge threat to society and is extremely dangerous."

Police were combing the county and surrounding area in search of 19-year-old Jorge M. Benvenuto for questioning in the shooting, Potter said. A '68 Chevrolet pickup registered to Benvenuto was left at the scene.

The gunman fled the scene in the victims' Bronco and dumped the stolen vehicle at a Riverton car dealer's lot. It was not known where he may have headed from that point, and Potter said there were no cars missing from the lot.

After the shooting, Rodier crawled about 200 yards to the road, where a passing motorist found her about 10 p.m. The passer-by called police from a cellular phone and tried to render first aid but was unable to find a pulse on Snarr.

After emergency crews arrived, Snarr was pronounced dead and Rodier was flown to the hospital, where she was treated for wounds in the stomach and head.

"We just can't understand it," Potter said. "I mean, these are two nice early adults doing nothing but taking pictures."

Always cheerful

Snarr left his house on Ramona Avenue, where he had lived since birth, about 8 p.m. Wednesday to pick up Rodier, a longtime friend. On the way to her home, Snarr drove past other family members who were on their way home. He waved and smiled, as he always did, according to his 15-year-old brother, Levi.

"He was always cheerful, always happy," Levi said Thursday morning as he stood on the family's front porch. "Every morning he'd go in and tell my mom he loved her and she was the greatest thing ever.

"He loved to take time out to do stuff with me. He'd play hockey with me. We'd just been river running up in Jackson Hole. He was teaching me how to use a camera."

Snarr's father, Ronald P. Snarr, said his son was looking forward to attending Salt Lake Community College and then serving an LDS mission next year.

"He loved art, he loved the outdoors," his father said. "He was one of the sweetest kids in the world."

"He never did anything to hurt anybody," said his mother, Sy Snarr.

Snarr was the second youngest of four children. His older brother Trent is 22. His only sister, Syd, is 19. Born June 12, 1978, he graduated from Highland High Scool in June. He was a defenseman on the school's club hockey team, which won the state championship last winter. He received the honor of Eagle Scout just three weeks ago.

"I just can't believe it. It's not right," said Alex Soffe, 18, a neighbor and friend who graduated a year ahead of Snarr. "I don't know, I'm still in shock. I just expect to see him. He's the nicest guy I ever met."

Snarr's father said he was told the killer may have wanted his son's car. Losing his son over an inanimate object was hard for him to accept.

"It's just stupid," he said. "Zach would have given him the car."

Devastated classmates

Students at Highland High School were greeted Thursday morning with an announcement about the shooting. Crisis counselors were already in place to help the students cope with the tragedy.

"They're all really broken up," said one counselor of the students. "These were really good kids, well known and well loved."

A number of students visited with counselors or huddled in small groups to remember their friends.

"Everyone's really broken up because these are good kids that everyone knew - and liked," said assistant principal Ken Powell.

Deeann Reynolds, secretary to the principal, described Rodier as "just an incredible kid. She is my friend - wonderful, kind, caring, loving. She really cared about students and was extremely respectful of both teachers and her peers."

Rodier was involved both in school and in life, friends said. She spent her sophomore year as an exchange student in France.

Rodier was one of three female class officers last year who "worked for the total care of all the other students," a friend said. "She was very good" as class president.

As for Snarr, "they don't come any better," a counselor said. "He was an incredible photographer and won many awards."

One of Snarr's awards, in fact, was on the counselor's desk Thursday morning. She was planning on giving it to him later Thursday.

The Snarr family is extremely close, according to neighbor and close friend Dean Menlove. When one of the boys was returning from his mission to Switzerland, the family took a vacation to Europe to meet him.

As a group, the Snarrs operate a yard maintenance and snow removal business. They do everything together, Menlove said, "always serving other people."

Snarr's death is all the more incomprehensible because he was "so nonconfrontive. He was a kind, benign boy, very mellow," said the counselor, who asked not to be identified.

"A lot of the students are having a difficult time with this because of who he was. He was always putting an arm around someone just for a good love. So many kids put people down or are smart alecks. There was never a trace of that with Zach."

Menlove said that Snarr was getting ready for school and looking forward to going on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "This is the time of year when (kids who have just graduated) are looking ahead to the future. He had a good one."

All-American kids

Former Highland principal Charles Shackett, now a school superintendent in Idaho, told the Deseret News on Thursday that he worked closely with Rodier, meeting every Thursday with her and other student officers in the school's leadership class.

"Yvette was so concerned about every individual in the school. She had the ability to break through any social barrier among the teenagers. She was able to connect with all the kids with the school. She always made me feel like I was making a difference. She was that way with everyone," Shackett said.

One of Shackett's last conversations with Rodier centered on the senior class gift, a large granite rock that would be engraved with the school's name and placed near Highland's entrance.

Shackett recalled that Snarr belonged to the school's humanities club.

"I'd see him around in the halls. He was a friendly kid. I could see why he and Yvette were together. They were both good kids, I mean, he was in the humanities club," Shackett said. "Those two kids didn't get involved in the things that make parents worry."

Shackett said he was shaken by the news, who had been principal of the school for four years. He resigned earlier this summer.

"I'm extremely heartbroken. These are good kids I worked with for many years at Highland. I'm distraught to hear this. I feel bad for all their families and friends. I'm just sad to see this has happened. I worry about school, too," Shackett said. "You always worry about these precious kids and dangers you're confronted with every day. You hate to see this happen, that nightmare that comes true."

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