SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) -- Law enforcement officials on Friday announced the arrest of a man they believe is responsible for the murders of three Salt Lake City men declared missing in November of 2014; Danny Gallegos, Levi Collins and Braden Emerson.
Including the three murders, Richard Christopher, 53, faces 9 felonies. He’s being held on $3 million cash-only bail and will likely appear in court Tuesday, District Attorney Sim Gill said.
Standing with several of the investigators, Gill said Christopher killed the men in a crime that began as a robbery.
The three victims arrived to a meeting with $200,000 in cash, but were killed before a deal involving the money could be completed. Christopher, investigators believe, ended up with the money.
Gill said Christopher had help disposing of the bodies, which were ultimately cremated at a Utah County crematorium. Police believe one of the men involved in the cover-up previously worked at the business and broke in while it was closed to use the facility.
What was left of their remains, as well as their personal effects, were taken to another site in Davis County and burned again, Gill said.
It is exceedingly rare for homicide charges to be filed in a case that lacks a body, but Gill said there are a couple of cooperative witnesses who have agreed to testify about what happened. One of them is trading his testimony for immunity.
Police believe that man, identified only as “J.C.,” acted as a straw buyer for Gallegos, purchasing real estate, a Lamborghini and other expensive items for him so as to mask the true buyer. Gill was intentionally short on details about the business in which all the involved parties were involved.
2News learned earlier in the investigation through court documents that Gallegos was working as a confidential informant for the FBI.
Gill declined to answer questions about that Friday, and couldn’t confirm whether that may have played a role in his death.
The only evidence after the initial disappearance in 2014 was an SUV found near Redwood Road and 1500 South in Salt Lake City. Police said it contained blood that matched at least one of the victims.
Gill said investigators piece together a long trail of evidence, including a “digital footprint” for the three victims, which tracked their last movements.
Collins’ mother was in the audience at the press conference and spoke briefly to thank police for their work.
“Levi was a mama’s boy,” said Judy Collins. “I raised three great men, Levi being one of them.”
Gill was moved to tears when addressing Collins,
“I know it’s been hard on all of you,” he said, going on to thank all the families for their patience as investigators worked the case. “Closing these kinds of cold cases are very important to us as a community.”