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Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
Murderauction.com seeks opening bid of $1 million for Gary Gilmore's gun.

A Web site specializing in so-called "murderabilia" is putting another piece of Utah's criminal history on the auction block: the gun that Gary Gilmore used to kill his victims.

Murderauction.com posted the Gilmore gun on its site Wednesday, with an opening bid of $1 million. It promises "absolute documentation" of its authenticity.

The current owner of the Gilmore gun is Spanish Fork bail bondsman and bounty hunter Dennis Stilson, who has tried to sell it before. He confirmed to the Deseret Morning News he had placed the gun up for auction.

"My goal has always been the same — raising money to open a youth center for kids. Somewhere for kids to go other than hanging out on the streets," he said.

Gilmore gained notoriety for being the first man executed after the death penalty was reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976. He was convicted of shooting and killing an Orem gas station worker and a Provo motel manager in separate armed robberies. In 1977, Gilmore was executed by firing squad.

"Let's do it," he infamously uttered just before being executed.

The gun itself was stolen from a Spanish Fork gun dealer. After Gilmore's execution, the murder weapon was returned to the original owner. Stilson bought the gun from him. Off and on over the years, Stilson has tried to sell the gun.

He says he once turned down a $500,000 bid on another Internet auction.

In 2002, Stilson held an essay contest on the death penalty, with the gun being offered as the prize. Entrants were asked to pay $108. He ended the contest because of a lack of entries to justify awarding the gun and refunded the money.

Stilson said since then he gave the gun to someone else for a loan. He has the option of buying it back or auctioning it off to pay back the loan.

The Utah Attorney General's Office on Wednesday suggested the sale of Gilmore gun may violate its so-called "Son of Sam" law passed in 2004.

"It comes under the definition of memorabilia," Assistant Utah Attorney General Sharel Reber said. "What we're looking at is the sale."

The law states that anyone who makes a profit from the sale of memorabilia related to a first-degree or capital felony has to give the proceeds to Utah's Crime Victim Reparations Fund or face $1,000 civil penalty per item sold.

Stilson did not know about the law.

"I guess it's all in the eye of the beholder," he said. "I guess perhaps we'd better check this out."

As of Wednesday afternoon, there were no bids for the gun.

Murderabilia Web sites have drawn criticism from victim advocates for skirting so-called "Son of Sam" laws, which prohibit convicted killers from profiting from their crimes.

"It's like exterminating cockroaches," said Andy Kahan, the director of the Houston, Texas, mayor's crime victims office who has pushed for a federal law cracking down on the sale of murderabilia. "They remove 'em from one site and they set up somewhere else."

Last month, the Deseret Morning News received a tip about a pair of murderabilia Web sites thatMark Hacking autographs. After hearing the news, the Utah State Prison warden spoke to Hacking, who admitted he was sending the papers out to someone in California who was auctioning them online.

Kahan claims some of Hacking's papers were sold for about $100. Reber said to collect any profits from the sale of memorabilia would likely require someone to file a civil lawsuit.

Hacking is serving a six-to-life sentence for the 2004 murder of his wife, Lori Hacking. He admitted to shooting her in the head and dumping her body in the garbage. Lori's body was found months later in the Salt Lake Valley landfill. Prosecutors said Hacking killed her after she uncovered a series of lies her husband had crafted.

Murderauction.com insists it does not glorify killers and placed some of the blame on the news media for publicizing the cases and reminding victims of their loss.

"We simply present the facts as they are and offer a rare opportunity to own various pieces of criminal history," it said. "Collecting this type of memorabilia is nothing new."

Stilson said he hopes to be able to sell Gilmore's gun to create something positive from the infamous murders. He is also looking to publish a book about the murder weapon and its history beyond Gilmore, which he has titled "The Gilmore Gun: My Side of the Story."

"I'm trying to turn this into something good," he said. "I think my goal has always been to make this into something good."


E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com