A father and son on the run from police after tying up five women in a Utah basement abducted and killed a rail line worker, beating him so severely that he was unrecognizable when his body was found in Wyoming, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Flint Wayne Harrison and his son, Dereck James “DJ” Harrison, were charged in Wyoming with first-degree murder and kidnapping in the death of Kay Porter Ricks, 63.
The Harrisons snatched Ricks during his May 12 shift maintaining Salt Lake City’s light rail system after hiding out a few miles away during a police manhunt, authorities say.
The grim details of Ricks’ death emerged in the bizarre string of violence that spanned two states. The Harrisons already face charges that they held a mother and her four teenage daughters captive May 10 after heavily using methamphetamine because they wrongly believed the woman turned them in to authorities.
After the family escaped, the Harrisons went on the lam. Two days later, they kidnapped Ricks and drove his work truck 250 miles north to a hideout in the Wyoming wilderness, killing him along the way, new court documents say.
A manhunt ended when Flint Harrison, 51, surrendered May 14 in Pinedale, where he lived. He told authorities that his son was hiding at a campsite nearby and warned that he would shoot it out with officers, according to an investigator’s statement.
“F. Harrison told the investigator that D. Harrison was a ‘killer’ and he had killed people in the past and how D. Harrison would steal a vehicle to get away,” Special Agent Mike Carlson of the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation wrote in documents filed Tuesday.
Dereck Harrison, 22, was spotted near a roadblock hours after his father surrendered and was taken into custody.
Officers searching for Ricks found his body May 17 along the route the Harrisons likely took to flee Utah, police say. Injuries to his face left him unrecognizable, Carlson wrote. An autopsy determined that he died of blows to the head and had “severe crushing facial injuries due to beating.”
Investigators found a bloody utility knife under Ricks’ left foot. The autopsy also found he suffered cuts to his neck and defensive wounds to his forearms and hand.
An FBI agent discovered Ricks’ Utah Transit Authority truck near the suspects’ remote hideout.
Utah lawyers for the two men said they could not comment on the Wyoming charges, which carry the possibility of the death penalty if convicted. Lincoln County Attorney Spencer Allred would not say if he would seek it.
A spokesman for the Ricks family said he was sickened by the allegations.
“How could somebody do this?” Richard Massey said. “We’re just sad, to tell you the truth.”
Ricks was a handyman who lived by a regimented daily routine and helped neighbors fix their lights and ceiling fans during his free time. The day he vanished, Ricks turned around after leaving for work because he realized he forgot to kiss his wife of 42 years, Massey has said.
Last month, the Harrisons were sent back to Utah to face 16 charges each, including kidnapping and drug possession, in connection with holding the women captive. The younger Harrison was a close friend of the woman’s family.
The men lured the woman and her daughters to Dereck Harrison’s house in Centerville, outside Salt Lake City, police said. Instead of the barbecue the Harrisons promised, they restrained the women with zip ties and beat the mother with a baseball bat, according to charging documents.
The family managed to break free and escape, but the men fled. Police say they ditched their car and got a ride to Salt Lake City, where they spent a night in a hotel and another night with a friend before making their way to Wyoming.
Police believe the Harrisons left Salt Lake City on May 12, the same day Ricks disappeared. Surveillance cameras captured video of his truck that night not far from where his body later was found in Wyoming.