A cooperative effort involving several law enforcement agencies led to the arrests of three men accused of driving a woman to Jordanelle State Park, shooting her and leaving her to die.
The Deseret News learned new details Wednesday of the arrests of Christopher Alvey, 19; Joshua Binkerd, 22; and Jason Cowdell, 29. Each is being held in the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of aggravated murder. On Wednesday, an extended hold was placed on Binkerd and Alvey to keep them in the jail until at least Tuesday.
If formal charges are filed, the Utah State Parks Service, the lead investigative agency in the case, said they would be filed by the Wasatch County Attorney's Office.
The three men are accused of shooting and killing Ashley Sparks, 21. Sparks' family said she was shot for being a police informant. Investigators from State Parks said earlier this week they couldn't confirm whether Sparks was working with police but noted she had received threats previously.
Following the shooting last Friday, Alvey and Binkerd were brought into custody quickly, thanks to a joint effort among several agencies, including the U.S. Marshals Service, Salt Lake Metro Gang Unit, Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office, Salt Lake police homicide unit, Salt Lake gang unit, and Adult Probation and Parole.
Jim Phelps, with the U.S. Marshals Service and supervisory director of the Joint Criminal Apprehension Team, said all three of the arrested men were already very well-known to law enforcers. He called them "criminal associates" and "street thugs" who are believed to have committed numerous crimes together. They were on the radar of several agencies even before the Sparks homicide.
Once the Department of Natural Resources asked for help from other agencies in locating the men, Phelps said, the agencies had several good leads right away.
"Everybody got together and started sharing information," he said. "Everyone had a little piece of information."
Sunday, marshals spotted Alvey driving Binkerd's car near 5600 South and 5000 West, Phelps said. A high-speed chase ensued, which ended when Alvey missed a turn near 4700 South and 4000 West and crashed into a snowbank and a parked vehicle, Phelps said.
Alvey got out of his car and ran into a nearby Smith's store that was filled with customers. After surrounding the store, law enforcers from several agencies went inside and found Alvey in a back storage area. He was not armed and surrendered without further incident, Phelps said.
About the same time, U.S. marshals and the Metro Gang Unit developed information that Binkerd was hiding in a hotel on Salt Lake's west side near the International Center. They surrounded the hotel and contacted Binkerd on the phone. A 30-minute standoff ensued. Eventually, authorities were able to talk him into coming out and surrendering, Phelps said.
Cowdell was captured Tuesday after eight hours of tracking as officers followed one lead to another, he said. Cowdell was also booked into jail for violating his federal parole. He was placed on parole after being convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm, Phelps said.Officials from Utah State Parks said the investigation is still ongoing and additional arrests are possible.