Trooper William J. Antoniewicz
William John Antoniewicz grew up in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Two weeks from his 27th birthday, William accepted an appointment to the Utah Highway Patrol on July 16, 1974. He was assigned to the Port of Entry at Echo on the Utah-Wyoming border. He drove a marked patrol car from Coalville to the Port of Entry, a distance of 40 miles. During the 1970s, state law allowed agencies to hire new officers and assign them police related duties, prior to attending Peace Officer Standards and Training. The agency had to schedule these new officers into an academy class within the first 18 months of employment. Trooper Antoniewicz had not attended POST, but was scheduled to attend an upcoming session. Although not part of their normal assignment, port troopers did occasionally stop violators on their way to and from the port. One such routine traffic stop led to the death of Trooper Antoniewicz.
Trooper Antoniewicz was living in a mobile home at Echo Junction. Prior to each shift he would drive to the UHP office in Coalville and pick up a patrol car which he would then drive to the port of entry. On the night he died, Antoniewicz was scheduled to pick up Sergeant Darrell Shill at Echo Junction, and the two would make the trip together. Antoniewicz never arrived.
Shortly after 10 p.m. on Sunday, December 8, 1974, Trooper Antoniewicz stopped a speeding vehicle nine miles east of Echo Junction on I-80. On approach to the vehicle, the driver fired two rounds from a .38 caliber revolver, striking Antoniewicz in the left chest and back. The murderer then stepped from the vehicle and kicked the trooper several times in the face, while he lay bleeding on the pavement.
A truck driver for IML Truck Lines, John W. Dodds, Bountiful, Utah, came around a bend in the road and found Antoniewicz lying in the outside lane of the eastbound lanes. Antoniewicz’s patrol vehicle was parked on the shoulder of the road, emergency lights flashing as if the trooper had made a traffic stop. The trooper’s .357 magnum revolver was still strapped in its holster.
Dodds later told police that Antoniewicz was still alive upon his arrival and attempted to tell him what had happened. He died before he could say anything intelligible. Dodds attempted to revive Antoniewicz with CPR, but he was not successful.
Under the direction of Summit County Sheriff Ron Robinson and UHP Lt. Colonel Ted C. London, investigators immediately began piecing together the evidence. There was not much to go on. Roadblocks were set up on all roads leading out of the area until mid-morning the following day. Volunteers combed a 25 mile section of the freeway. Citizen band radios were used to query passing traffic for information. No suspects and no evidence turned up.
This crime went unsolved for 18 months. On the first anniversary of Trooper Antoniewicz’s death, Lt. Colonel Ted London wrote Antoniewicz’s parents and stated, “One year ago today the life of your son was taken by an unknown culprit while he was performing his duty as a member of the Utah Highway Patrol. Even though we have not been able to solve this case we assure you that many hours have been spent by various law enforcement agencies in this state and other states in following leads and trying to find some evidence that would lead to the arrest of a suspect. Please feel assured that hardly a day passes that someone in law enforcement isn’t working on the case and will continue to do so in the future.”
By 1976 all leads had been exhausted. It appeared that this case would never be solved. The department decided to employ a new tactic. A reward was offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect. This tactic worked. A woman from Wyoming came forward and told investigators that she had heard a friend brag about killing a Utah trooper in 1974.
On July 2, 1976, first-degree murder charges were filed against Emory Dean Beck. At the time, Beck was serving concurrent seven to ten year terms for convictions on two counts of attempting to deliver a controlled substance. Utah Governor Calvin L. Rampton signed an extradition request for Beck the following week.
On October 1, 1976, Sherrie Sundbloom, 23, testified in a preliminary hearing, telling the court that Beck was living with her and her husband in Lyman, Wyoming, at the time of the murder. She said Beck had even demonstrated to them how the killing had occurred. Beck then threatened to kill them if they told anyone. Beck was extradited back to Utah. Trial began in Coalville on March 22, 1977.
Based largely on Sundbloom’s testimony, prosecutors painted a cold-blooded picture of Beck on the night Antoniewicz was gunned down. On the day of the murder, Beck had gone to the jail in Evanston, Wyoming and broke out a friend, John W. Tague, after officers had left for the night. In addition to the jail break, Beck also stole firearms and drugs being used as evidence against him in a forthcoming case.
The two men drove to Salt Lake City were Beck dropped Tague off at the home of a friend. Tague later testified that prior to leaving for the return trip alone to Wyoming, Beck told him that he had nothing to lose. Beck did not want to be late for work and he “had to book it like hell and God help any cop that stopped him.”
On March 30, 1977, the jury of nine women and three men began deliberation. After two days, the jury was deadlocked. Initial reports indicated that only one juror held out against a guilty verdict. However, the Salt Lake Tribune reported (August 5, 1977) that eight members of the jury believed Beck was guilty, while four did not or could not make up their minds. Third District Court Judge Stewart M. Hanson Jr. dismissed the jury and ordered Beck to stand trial again on May 3rd.
Rather than face a second trial, the suspect pled guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree murder on May 17, 1977. Beck then told the court how he shot Antoniewicz after the trooper had stopped him for speeding. On August 4, 1977, Beck was sentenced to five years to life in the Utah State Prison, the maximum penalty allowable for the charge. He was paroled on August 8, 1989.
For many years following this tragedy, the Utah Highway Patrol gave the Antoniewicz Award for firearms proficiency to new troopers. A trust fund for the award was set up by the Antoniewicz family in memory of their son, and to help ensure that new troopers are better prepared to meet the hazards of the job.
At Trooper Antoniewicz’s funeral, in December 1974, Lt. Colonel Ted London announced that the UHP was returning to the “smokey” campaign which had been discontinued in 1955.