1950s People

5 Jul 1950: Bandits Crack Safe At Lagoon

Article published in Deseret News, 5 Jul 1950:

Dean Swaner, 1950
“Dean Swaner, Lagoon employe, holds safe handle knocked off as robbers broke open safe after binding and gagging nightwatchman at gunpoint.” Photo: Deseret News

FARMINGTON – Two armed men bound and gagged a nightwatchman, pried open a safe and escaped with 11 sacks of money early Wednesday at Lagoon resort, Davis County Sheriff LeGrande Hess reported.

Sheriff Hess “guessed” the loss might run as high as $15,000.

But Robert Freed, park manager, said he couldn’t even make an estimate of the loss until after a check by the auditing department. He said it was at least partially covered by insurance.

Hugh Roberts, 74-year-old nightwatchman, said he had just finished cleaning a room back of the resort office and walked into the office about 4 a.m. to be confronted by two masked men, revolvers [drawn].

“Stick ’em up buddy. This is a holdup and we’re not kidding,” he was told.

Mr. Roberts told Sheriff Hess they plastered a strip of adhesive tape across his eyes, forced him into a back bedroom and bound and gagged him with torn sheets and more tape.

The robbers then returned to the office and ripped off the safe door with sledge hammers, bar, punch, and coal chisel, the sheriff said.

Eleven bags of money, ranging from pennies to $20 bills, were taken. It represented receipts from Independence Day operations, the sheriff said, and had been bagged for banking Wednesday.

Elvin King, 1950
“Elvin King, cleanup crew foreman, holds up strips of sheeting which armed robbers used to bind and gag Nightwatchman Hugh Roberts. Mr. King discovered Roberts when he came to work Wednesday at 5 a.m.” Photo: Deseret News

The nightwatchman, his hands and feet crisscrossed with strips of sheeting and tape, lay helpless until 5 a.m. when he was discovered by a cleanup crew.

He was so upset by the robbery he could not give a detailed description of the assailants but he said one was considerably darker than the other. Mr. Roberts said they were wearing caps.

Sheriff Hess said they entered the office by breaking a lock at the rear of the combination office and home. Mr. and Mrs. Max Hess, who occupy the home, were away at the time, he said.

The sheriff said he has reason to believe there were three men involved, though only two were present at the robbery. No clue was given as to method of getaway. Three concession operators who live in bunkhouses at the resort said they saw two men leave the office about 4 a.m. One of the operators followed the men a short distance, then turned back and joined his companions.

The employes – Wesley Wicker, Leon Duffy, and Pete Vlahos, all teenagers – said they thought nothing of the incident.

The resort closed at 1 a.m. after one of the heaviest crowds of the season.

“Photograph shows how Lagoon safe was ‘cleaned’ by two robber-safecrackers who bound and gagged nightwatchman and broke open the safe early Wednesday.” Photo: Deseret News
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