William "Willie" Odell used to scrawl messages on paper to communicate after doctors at the Veteran's Administration Medical Center removed diseased vocal cords. In March, after months of waiting, doctors gave him a device he held to his neck that turned his silence into speech.
Late Monday night or early Tuesday morning someone with a knife silenced Odell, 62, again. This time forever.According to Salt Lake Police, Odell was found in a studio apartment at the Del Roya Apartments, 335 E. Third South, with multiple stab wounds in his chest. His basement apartment, for which he paid $175 a month, was a mess. Clothes where strewn around, one window was open, two screens were detached, and when neighbors found him the door was ajar.
"He was a decent person," said the apartment manager. "He always dressed in denim pants and Western shirts. He always had a big hat."
A neighbor who lives across the hall said Odell was a World War II veteran who had lived in the small apartment with a kitchenette and couch for only three weeks. He didn't work and paid for his apartment and food with a monthly $537 government disability check.
He was usually an affable person, Chavez said. Before doctors gave him the electronic device to resonate his voice, one tenant had befriended him and tried to teach him sign language.
Odell liked to leave the door to his apartment open to allow a draft through. That may have been how his assailant entered the apartment, a neighbor speculated. That neighbor saw the door ajar Monday night, and when she went to work early Tuesday morning she thought nothing of it. Another tenant found him a couple of hours later.
A man with few friends, neighbors don't know where he came from or whether he had any family. He did have a mysterious red-haired female friend who frequently visited him, and he listed the name of a woman in West Valley City on an application as his niece. A man at the number listed said no one there had ever heard of Odell. Police were hoping to contact relatives in the South late Tuesday.
Police arrested two people Tuesday afternoon. Booked into jail for investigation of homicide was Bruce Eugene Ulrich, 29. Booked for investigation of obstructing justice was Daniel Fred Chavez, 30. Both men lived in the same apartment complex as Odell.