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'Absolutely heartbreaking': Investigators still searching for answers in 35-year-old murder mystery

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 30 2011 1:19 a.m. MDT

When authorities questioned Beverleigh about Nisonger's allegations, he denied his involvement and even took a polygraph test. The results were inconclusive.

Still, in September 1978 — more than 2 ½ years after Wamsley's death — arrest warrants were issued in Duchesne County for both men on charges of murder in the first degree, aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery.

Nisonger was ordered to stand trial in April 1979 after a preliminary hearing where at least three Wyoming State Penitentiary inmates testified he told them about robbing the Neola store with Beverleigh and “blowing the old lady away.”

After the hearing, Nisonger agreed to another interview with Marett. He implicated Beverleigh once again, then added a new twist. Beverleigh's wife had accompanied the men to the store and had witnessed the slaying, Nisonger now claimed.

Linda Beverleigh was arrested and extradited to Utah from Wisconsin. Then, for reasons Gibson and other investigators looking back at the records don't understand, Marett put Linda Beverleigh in a room with Nisonger just two days before her husband's preliminary hearing was scheduled to take place.

After the face to face meeting, Nisonger said Linda Beverleigh wasn't involved after all. Now he claimed the third person at the Neola store was his own wife, Peggy Nisonger.

In his testimony at Beverleigh's preliminary hearing, Nisonger said the trio traveled from Salt Lake City to Roosevelt to borrow money from Beverleigh's brother. That plan didn't pan out though, so they drove north on state Road 121 toward Neola.

They pulled up to the intersection of state Route 121 and 9000 North in Beverleigh's 1971 Jeep Wagoneer and eyed the small store on the northwest corner. “Beverleigh made the statement, 'We might as well start here,'” Nisonger testified.

“Nisonger gave this great step by step of how the crime was committed,” Gibson said, flipping through a thick three-ring binder containing the entire case file.

“He goes through and basically fries Beverleigh,” the investigator added.

Nisonger said he and Beverleigh entered the store carrying handguns. Beverleigh walked directly to the counter and demanded money from Wamsley, according to Nisonger, who said he was prowling the store to ensure it was otherwise unoccupied.

The men then walked Wamsley outside. She broke free as they approached the Jeep and started to run, but Nisonger said he was able to stop her and put her in the backseat next to his wife.

“She was crying,” Nisonger testified, referring to Wamsley.

Wamsley tried once more to escape from the moving Jeep. Nisonger testified that Beverleigh responded by taking wire from a set of tire chains and binding the woman's wrists with it. He also blindfolded her with a bandana, Nisonger said.

The group drove in silence for several miles before pulling onto a dirt road. Wamsley was taken from the Jeep and walked a short distance away by the two men, according to Nisonger's testimony. She stumbled and fell at some point and Nisonger said Beverleigh told her to stay down. Then, without warning, Beverleigh fired one shot into Wamsley's head, Nisonger told the court.

“He said, 'We're all going to be involved in this,'” Nisonger testified. "At that point I fired the second shot.”

Beverleigh fired the final shot, dragged Wamsley's body to the nearby canal, and collected the shell casings from his gun, Nisonger said. The men got back in the Jeep with Nisonger's wife and drove back to Salt Lake, passing Swain's store again as they went, he testified.

Their take, according to Nisonger, was $623 in cash. They dumped the checks in the Strawberry River on the way back to Salt Lake City, he said.

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