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

Published: Monday, Aug. 29 2011 6:00 p.m. MDT

Based largely on Nisonger's testimony, Beverleigh was ordered to stand trial for robbery, kidnapping and murder. Then, everything went wrong for the prosecution.

“Somewhere in there — we don't know where — Nisonger says he lied, he made it all up,” Gibson said.

Duchesne County Attorney Dennis Draney filed a motion to dismiss the charges against Beverleigh, telling the Uintah Basin Standard at the time that Nisonger had submitted to a polygraph test and his “'new' story is true.” Nisonger told authorities he was just trying to “get even” with Beverleigh for testifying against him in the Boggs case, the newspaper reported.

A judge dismissed the charges against Beverleigh on Nov. 11, 1979. The charges against Nisonger were dropped one month later.

Now a mechanic living near Phoenix, Delwin Wamsley maintains that his family was never told about the original charges against Nisonger and Beverleigh until the cases against the men were dismissed. His mother's murder shattered the family, he said.

“When she was gone, I lost Dad the same day,” Wamsley said. “My sister and I were basically alone after that.”

Wamsley's older sister left Duchesne County in the fall of 1976 to attend college. Their father, he said, spent much of the first few months after the killing sitting at home each night with “a shotgun on one side of him and a 12-pack of beer on the other side,” angrily mumbling about going after the people he believed were responsible for his wife's death.

“To be alone, it was killing him,” Wamsley said.

Othea Wamsley's father also took her death particularly hard, according to his grandson.

“Every Christmas, every Thanksgiving, every anything we'd be together and look over and Grandpa would have tears running out of his eyes, and it was that way 'til the day he died,” Wamsley said. “It was absolutely heartbreaking.”

Larry Swain, who sold the Neola store several years after the murder and later moved to Idaho, was close to Othea Wamsley's father. He confirmed that Olaf “Pat” Duncan “never got over it.”

“He said, 'Sure she was a woman, but she was my little girl,'” Swain said, his raspy voice choking with emotion at the memory. “It really busted him up.”

Wamsley said he always had the impression that his mother was “the one with a little bit of spark.”

“She didn't always do what (her) mom and dad said,” he recalled. “She was the head of the family. She was the dominant person in the whole family, that's for sure.”

But she was also easy to be around, her son said. She let him drive the family car on the country roads as a youngster and they frequently went fishing together. She was an excellent cook and played the piano beautifully.

“It would make the hair stand up on the back of my neck,” Wamsley recalled. “I'd just stand there in amazement. … I think about her every day.”

The 49-year-old father of three also described his mother as “strong” and “bullheaded,” a woman unlikely to back down from someone who tried to steal from her employer.

“I guarantee she told those guys, 'I know who you are and you're not going to get away with it,'” he said.

Variations of that threat are found in the transcripts of the preliminary hearings for both Nisonger and Beverleigh.

Swain, however, isn't so sure that Othea Wamsley would have challenged the robbers. But he also has no doubt that it wouldn't have mattered one way or the other.

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