The following vignettes describe the circumstances for killings not ruled self-defense by private individuals with permits to carry concealed handguns. The incidents below all occurred in Utah. The descriptions include the current, known status of any charges filed against the concealed carry killer as reported by news sources as well as noting instances where the perpetrator committed suicide.
The Violence Policy Center welcomes any new information regarding the status of any case (with verifiable source(s)). Use this link to contact the VPC: http://www.vpc.org/contact.htm.
Concealed Handgun Permit Holder: Aaron Jay Pierce PENDING
Date: May 28, 2016
People Killed: 1
Circumstances: On May 28, 2016, concealed handgun permit holder Aaron Jay Pierce, 24, allegedly shot and killed Maluolefale Toala, 30, following a traffic altercation. Pierce was a passenger in a pickup truck driven by his brother, who made a “yelping” sound, startling Toala, who was riding his skateboard when the Pierce’s truck passed him. Pierce told police that Toala caught up with the truck at a red light, smacked his hand on the trailer the truck was towing, and said. “F— you, punks.” Pierce then got out of the truck, pointed his gun at Toala and told him to get on the ground. According to police, Pierce’s description of what happened next has been inconsistent. At first Pierce claimed that Toala was swinging his skateboard at Pierce, but later said he never actually swung the board, but that Toala had it “cocked back” when Pierce allegedly shot and killed Toala. A witness waiting at the red light in the next lane said she saw Pierce get out of the truck and hold a gun close to Toala’s chest, but said the light turned green and she pulled away and did not see the shooting. Pierce was charged with murder.
Source: “Utah man to stand trial on murder charge in skateboarder’s fatal shooting,” The Salt Lake Tribune, October 14, 2016.
Concealed Handgun Permit Holder: Larry Kent Graff CONVICTED
Date: December 18, 2014
People Killed: 1
Circumstances: On December 18, 2014, concealed handgun permit holder Larry Kent Graff, 54, shot and killed Candice Christina Melo, 26, outside his home in Sandy, Utah. The incident began when Graff let Melo, who had been living at the house temporarily, and her boyfriend, Michael Grimsley, into the house around midnight on the 18th. According to Graff, Melo was looking for Graff’s girlfriend Tennel Jensen, because Melo thought Jensen had slept with Grimsley. Graff went to bed after Jensen arrived at the house, but not before giving her a 9mm handgun for protection. Later, hearing cries for help from Jensen, he came out of the bedroom carrying a 22 caliber pistol. According to Graff, Melo was standing in a hallway holding Graff’s laptop and despite being asked by Graff to leave, continued to move about the house. When Melo and Grimsley left the house with his laptop, Graff gave chase, firing his pistol resulting in Melo’s death.
During cross-examination, Graff stated that based on his weapons permit training class, he had a right to defend his home and property. Graff was convicted of manslaughter.
Source: “Utah man convicted of manslaughter in driveway shooting that killed roommate,” The Salt Lake Tribune, September 10, 2016; “‘You have a right to protect your castle,’ accused killer tells Utah jury,” The Salt Lake Tribune, September 8, 2016
Concealed Handgun Permit Holder: Mary Nance Hanson CONVICTED
Date: January 29, 2010
People Killed: 1
Circumstances: On January 29, 2010, 70-year-old Mary Nance Hanson allegedly shot and killed her ex-daughter-in law Tetyana Nikitina—a single mother of two, ages seven and nine—as she was leaving the Head Start school where she worked. Hanson allegedly fired five shots from her 38-caliber revolver as Nikitina sat behind the wheel of her Dodge Magnum. Nikitina was struck in the head and her car rolled into a parked minivan. Nikitina’s fiancee Rod Hernandez was on the phone with her when Hanson allegedly fired several shots at Nikitina, stopped to reload, and then fired several more rounds. Hanson called 911 from the parking lot and told dispatchers she had shot Nikitina. Hanson, a concealed handgun permit holder, was arrested on investigation of murder.
UPDATE: On August 18, 2010, Hanson pleaded guilty to murder, and in a note to the judge explained, “My physical health is deteriorating rapidly, and I do not believe it would be in the best interests of taxpayers or of myself to pursue a trial.” In court, Hanson told the judge, “I would like to be sent forthwith to the prison, and I would like to request death by lethal injection.” When told her case was not eligible for the death penalty, she responded, “Well, then, I guess I didn’t do a good enough job.” Hanson faces a sentence of 15 years to life in prison.
Source: “Killed for custody,” Salt Lake City Weekly, October 6, 2010; “Police say teacher was killed by former mother-in-law;” Deseret News, January 31, 2010; “70-year-old arrested in fatal shooting,” Salt Lake Tribune, January 30, 2010.
Concealed Handgun Permit Holder: Justin Matern SUICIDE
Date: December 17, 2009
People Killed: 4 (including shooter)
Circumstances: On December 17, 2009, Justin Matern shot and killed his wife and two sons, ages six and four, before turning the gun on himself. Matern killed his family members at the apartment his wife had moved into after leaving him. Prior to the shooting, Matern wrote a note he left at work describing his plans. He also sent text messages after the killings. The couple had experienced money problems including state-imposed tax liens in 2004 and 2008. Relatives said that Matern was distraught over the separation from his wife. Matern’s daughter said that he obtained his concealed handgun permit when the family had previously lived in a Salt Lake City neighborhood that he feared was unsafe.
Source: “Murdered family had money troubles, anxieties,” Salt Lake Tribune, December 19, 2009.
Concealed Handgun Permit Holder: David Ragsdale CONVICTED
Date: January 6, 2008
People Killed: 1
Circumstances: On January 6, 2008, David Ragsdale shot his wife Kristy 12 times, killing her. In 2005, Ragsdale took a concealed-weapons permit class and received a concealed handgun permit. On November 26, 2008, Ragsdale pled guilty to aggravated murder. According to the terms of his plea agreement, he was to be sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. In an interview with the Deseret News, Ragsdale claimed that he would not have killed his wife if he did not have access to a gun. “I probably would have parked my car, sat there and regained my composure,” he stated.
Source: “Ragsdale is bound over for trial in wife’s slaying,” Deseret Morning News, June 3, 2008; “David Ragsdale pleads guilty to killing his wife,” Daily Herald, November 26, 2008; “Access to gun lead to shooting wife, Ragsdale says in exclusive interview,” Deseret News, March 19, 2009.
Concealed Handgun Permit Holder: Eugene C. Wright CONVICTED
Date: November 15, 2007
People Killed: 1
Circumstances: On November 15, 2007, Eugene C. Wright allegedly shot and killed Utah Valley State College hockey coach Kenneth Dolezsar outside of the Village Inn restaurant in Sandy, Utah. A witness claimed to see Wright and Dolezsar arguing in the parking lot, followed by Wright shooting Dolezsar. A Sandy Police detective testified that he found a shell casing from a 9mm Springfield Armory pistol during a search of Wright’s condo. A ballistics test by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives showed that the shell casing was fired from the same gun as five shell casings found at the scene of the murder. Wright had a concealed handgun permit according to the Sandy Police. Wright was charged with murder and aggravated robbery.
UPDATE: On April 30, 2010, a jury of three men and five women deliberated for 11 hours before finding Wright guilty of first-degree felony counts of murder and aggravated robbery for shooting and killing Dolezsar and then stealing his SUV.
Source: “Jury reaches guilty verdict in Wright murder trial,” Salt Lake Tribune, May 1, 2010; “Arrest made in coach’s shooting death,” The Salt Lake Tribune, February 29, 2008; “Shooting suspect to stand trial,” Daily Herald, April 25, 2008.