Utah police pioneer Charles Illsley dies, but his stories and contributions live on
Black remembered Illsley obsessed over trying to help in the case of murdered gas station clerk Bradley Newell Perry in Box Elder County — a case that went unsolved for 21 years.
"Charles was just so focused on that," Black recalled. "He was just obsessed with bringing justice to that situation and bringing closure to that family. Studying old pictures and taking measurements and getting old pictures blown up where he was pulling out these real precise rulers and taking measurements.
"Once he got hold of a case, the guy who did it had no chance," Black said. "If you opened the door an inch for Charles, he was going to get in that door."
"He could sit down and type out, without any aides, a search warrant faster than anybody I've ever worked with, without errors. It was just phenomenal to watch him work," added Keefe.
"Charles was kind of gruff, but once you became his friend, there was just no one in the entire world that was more dedicated to making sure you did a good job. That you got the credit and he was in the background," recalled Wallentine. "He did the right thing, and he didn't ever need to be the guy getting the award. He didn't need to be the top guy in the credits."
At speaking engagements and other presentations, Keefe said Illsley always spoke with eloquence and was never caught off guard by any question.
What surprised many about Illsley, a man who busted drug dealers for a living, was that he was also once a member of the BYU Folk Dancers and specialized in Native American hoop dancing.
"It was just amazing to watch this guy and his level of proficiency in performing and representing Native American dance that he picked up on his own," Keefe said.
During his final years, Illsley would go to convenience stores at night and just sit and write. Wallentine believes there are about a dozen books Illsley has written sitting around his house unpublished.
He suffered many health problems in recent years. Many believe his years of being a pioneer in the world of busting meth labs — going into a home with an active cooking operation in progress wearing no protection — took its toll.
"He didn't get shot down and we're not going to give him a 21-gun salute. But in a very real sense he paid with his life for protecting the public. It took longer than a bullet to stop and it took something much more powerful than a bullet," Wallentine said.
Illsley is survived by his wife and son and many grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
A celebration of his life will be held at the LDS Stake Center, 13085 S. 300 East, on Sunday from 6 to 8 pm. Funeral services will be held Monday at noon.
"The world is a sadder place that he is no longer here," Keefe said.
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