A former resident of rural Eskdale, a communal-living village in Millard County, has been charged with aggravated kidnapping, a first-degree felony, after he allegedly took a community leader at gunpoint and demanded ransom.
Eskdale is located ninety miles west of Delta near the Nevada-Utah border. Local and county officials say people often mistake the passive residents for polygamists, cult members or hippies.
"That's not true," community leader John Conrad said. The group is a monogamous band of Christians who live out a rural life of communal sharing in Utah's west desert, he said.
"If I was to rank all the communities on the face of the Earth as far as peacefulness, they would be Number 1. They are good people," Millard County Sheriff Ed Phillips said.
The only time Phillips' deputies have dealt criminally with the small group of some 300 people is when people commit crimes against them, he said.
That could have been the case on Dec. 15 when Daniel Moe Chauvin, who community members insist is really named Jonathan Brander, allegedly kidnapped another community leader, Dean Hayward, while the two were in Salt Lake City.
"It's a pretty bizarre case. It was extremely scary for me. I'm not even sure I can interpret my feelings at this time," said Hayward, who is still recovering emotionally and physically from the ordeal.
Chauvin was arraigned in 3rd District Court on Tuesday and will receive a court-appointed attorney from the legal defenders office. No attorney had been assigned to the case as of Wednesday morning.
Chauvin had been living in Eskdale on an interim basis for several months in 1998. He left about 14 months ago but returned recently, and Hayward had offered him a ride to Salt Lake City.
Chauvin was one of many needy people that the community temporarily takes in until they can get back on their feet, Hayward said.
Chauvin accepted the offer, but when the pair reached Sandy, Chauvin allegedly pulled out a gun and a grenade and kidnapped Hayward, charges filed Monday in 3rd District Court state.
Chauvin instructed Hayward to get a room at the Ramada Inn, 600 S. 300 West, where Chauvin called Conrad and informed him he wanted $100,000 for Hayward's return, the charges state.
Conrad hung up and called Salt Lake City Police and told them Hayward had been kidnapped.
A couple of hours later Chauvin and his prisoner walked to Denny's, 250 W. 500 South, to eat. After ordering a glass of water and a Coke, Chauvin left Hayward alone at the table to go to the bathroom. Hayward told the waitress, Crystal Merrill, that people would be looking for him and for her to call police. Merrill called 911, and when officers arrived they took Chauvin into custody.
"I thought it was kind of suspicious seeing a well-dressed man with a transient, but I didn't do anything until he asked me," Merrill said.
It wasn't until after police arrested Chauvin that Merrill noticed Hayward's blood-soaked head.
Hayward declined to comment about the apparent injury.
After police arrested Chauvin, they checked the trunk of the car and found a .38-caliber revolver, a box of bullets, a pellet gun and three hand grenades, court documents state.
Chauvin is being held in Salt Lake County Jail on $500,000 bail. If he is found guilty he could face up to life in prison.
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