The Hi-Fi murders were the brutal torture and killings of three people during a robbery at a home audio store in Ogden, Utah, on the evening of April 22, 1974. Several men entered the "Hi-fi Shop" shortly before closing time and began taking hostages; two would survive but with severe life-changing injuries. Violence included a pen being kicked into an ear and the brutal rape of a teenage girl who was later shot in the head. Corrosive drain cleaner was also forcefully given to the hostages causing horrific burns to their mouths and throats. The crime became notorious for its violence and accusations of racial bias in the Utah judiciary.
Police believed that six men were involved in the robbery but only had enough evidence to convict three enlisted United States Air Force airmen named Dale Selby Pierre, William Andrews and Keith Roberts. Pierre and Andrews were both sentenced to death for murder and aggravated robbery while Roberts, who had remained in a getaway vehicle, was convicted of robbery.
On April 22, 1974, Pierre, Andrews, Roberts, and three other men drove in two vans to a Hi-Fi store on Washington Boulevard, Ogden, just before closing time. Three of the group then entered the shop brandishing handguns, while Roberts and another man remained with the vehicles. Two employees, Stanley Walker, age 20, and Michelle Ansley, age 18, were in the store at the time and were taken hostage. Pierre and Andrews took the two into the store's basement and bound them. The gang then began robbing the store. Later, a 16-year-old boy named Cortney Naisbitt arrived to thank Walker for allowing him to park his car in the store's parking lot as he ran an errand next door; he was also taken hostage and tied up in the basement with Walker and Ansley. Later that evening, Orren Walker, Stanley's 43-year-old father, became worried that his son had not returned home. Cortney Naisbitt's mother, Carol Naisbitt, also arrived at the shop later that evening looking for her son, who was late getting home. Both Orren Walker and Carol Naisbitt were taken hostage and tied up in the basement.
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Murder, torture and rape
With five people now held hostage in the basement, Pierre told Andrews to get something from their van. Andrews returned with a bottle in a brown paper bag, from which Pierre poured a cup of blue liquid. Pierre ordered Orren to administer the liquid to the other hostages, but he refused, and was bound, gagged, and left face-down on the basement floor.
Pierre and Andrews then propped each of the victims into sitting positions and forced them to drink the liquid, telling them it was vodka laced with sleeping pills. Rather, it was liquid Drano. The moment it touched the hostages' lips, enormous blisters rose, and it began to burn their tongues and throats and peel away the flesh around their mouths. Ansley, still begging for her life, was forced to drink the drain cleaner too, although she was reported (by Orren Walker) to have coughed less than the other victims. Pierre and Andrews tried to duct-tape the hostages' mouths shut to hold quantities of drain cleaner in and to silence their screams, but pus oozing from the blisters prevented the adhesive from sticking. Orren Walker was the last to be given the drain cleaner, but seeing what was happening to the other hostages, he allowed it to pour out of his mouth and then mimicked the convulsions and screams of his son and fellow hostages.
Pierre became angry because the deaths were taking too long and were too loud and messy, so he shot both Carol and Cortney Naisbitt in the backs of their heads, proving fatal for Carol but leaving Cortney alive. Pierre then shot at Orren Walker but missed. He then fatally shot Stanley before again shooting at Orren, this time grazing the back of his head.
Pierre then took Ansley to the far corner of the basement, forced her at gunpoint to remove her clothes, then repeatedly and brutally raped her after telling Andrews to clear out for 30 minutes. When he was done, he allowed her to use the bathroom while he watched, then dragged her, still naked, back to the other hostages, threw her on her face, and fatally shot her in the back of the head.
Andrews and Pierre noted that Orren was still alive, so Pierre mounted him, wrapped a wire around his throat, and tried to strangle him. When this failed, Pierre and Andrews inserted a ballpoint pen into Orren's ear, and Pierre stomped it until it punctured his eardrum, broke, and exited the side of his throat. Pierre and Andrews then went upstairs, finished loading equipment into their van, and departed.
The bodies were discovered almost three hours later, when Orren's wife and other son came to the store looking for them. Orren's son heard noises coming from the basement and broke down the back door while Mrs. Walker called the Ogden police. Stanley Walker and Ansley were already dead; Carol Naisbitt was taken by ambulance to Ogden Regional Medical Center but was pronounced dead on arrival. Cortney, though not expected to live, survived with severe and irreparable brain damage; he was hospitalized for 266 days before being released. Orren Walker survived with extensive burns to his mouth and chin, as well as the damage to his ear caused by the pen.
Hours after news of the crime broke, an anonymous Air Force employee called the Ogden police and told them that Andrews had confided to him months earlier, "One of these days I'm going to rob that Hi-Fi shop, and if anybody gets in the way, I'm going to kill them." Hours later, two teenage boys dumpster diving near Hill Air Force Base, where Pierre and Andrews were stationed, contacted the police after discovering the victims' wallets and purses, recognizing their pictures from the drivers' licenses.
The detective who responded to the scene, believing that the killers might be in the crowd, put on a show for the gathered airmen. Speaking dramatically, he waved each piece of evidence in the air with tongs as he removed it from the dumpster. Later, he noted that most of the service personnel who gathered around the dumpster stood still and watched in relative silence, with the exception of two men, later identified to be Pierre and Andrews, who paced around the crowd, speaking loudly and making frantic gestures with their hands. The detective later received an award from the Utah branch of the Justice Department for his use of proactive techniques.
Based on the two men's reactions to the evidence being removed from the trash bin, and the officer's implication of Andrews, Pierre and Andrews were arrested. A search warrant was then issued for their barracks. Police found fliers for the Hi-Fi Shop and a rental contract for a unit at a public storage facility. Following the issuance of another search warrant, stereo equipment taken from the Hi-Fi Shop, later identified via serial numbers, was recovered from the unit. Also recovered was the half-empty bottle of Drano.
With the collection of the evidence, Pierre and Andrews were charged with first-degree murder and aggravated robbery. Another airman, Keith Roberts, who had waited outside the Hi-Fi Shop in a getaway vehicle, was charged with armed robbery.
Pierre, Andrews, and Roberts were tried jointly for first-degree murder and robbery. Pierre and Andrews were convicted of all charges and sentenced to death. Roberts was convicted only of robbery and was sentenced to imprisonment. He was paroled in 1987.
During the trial, it was revealed that Pierre and Andrews had robbed the store with the intention of killing anyone they came across, and in the months prior to the robbery had been looking for a way to commit the murders quietly and cleanly. The two then repeatedly watched the film Magnum Force, in which a prostitute (played by Margaret Avery) is forced to drink Drano and is then shown immediately dropping dead. Pierre and Andrews decided that this would be an efficient method of murder and decided to use it in their crime.
Survivor Orren Walker was the star witness for the prosecution. Due to his amnesia, Cortney Naisbitt was unable to testify. His father, Dr. Byron Naisbitt, did testify.
The official police report stated that six black men driving two vans committed the robbery. Roberts and another man remained with the cars and two others loaded the vans, while Pierre and Andrews tortured and killed the victims. However, detectives only had enough evidence to convict Pierre, Andrews and Roberts. Ogden Police Department Officer Delroy White, who was a detective when he worked the case, observed: "Andrews was the brains behind the whole deal, the one who organized it [...] Pierre was the enforcer."
- Dale Pierre Selby (January 21, 1953 - August 28, 1987): Pierre was 21 years old at the time of the crime. He was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago, until moving to Brooklyn, New York, at the age of 17. In May 1973, Pierre entered active service with the United States Air Force, and was transferred to Hill Air Force Base in September 1973 as a helicopter mechanic. Almost on arrival, Pierre became the prime suspect in the October 5, 1973, murder of Edward Jefferson, an Air Force Sergeant at Hill Air Force Base, though police lacked enough evidence to file charges. At the time of the Hi-Fi murders, Pierre was out on bail for car theft from a Salt Lake City car dealer. On November 16, 1974, Pierre was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated robbery for the Hi-Fi crimes. On November 20, 1974, he was given three death sentences, one for each of the murder victims. While in prison, Pierre changed his name 27 times, reportedly to protect his family name from notoriety, finally settling on "Dale Pierre Selby" (simply transposing his first, middle, and last names from birth) as his legal name. After exhaustion of appeals, Pierre was executed by lethal injection on August 28, 1987, at the age of 34. At the time of his death, Pierre bequeathed all of his money ($29) to Andrews.
- William Andrews: Andrews was 19 years old at the time of the crimes. During the trial it was revealed that he and Selby had the intention of killing anyone they came across while robbing the store. Andrews was executed by lethal injection on July 30, 1992.
- Keith Roberts: The court found that Keith Roberts had no role in, or knowledge of, the murders. He was, however, convicted of armed robbery. Roberts was paroled in 1987.
Pierre and Andrews became notoriously hated prisoners at Utah State Prison, and were particularly reviled on death row. In 1977, convicted murderer Gary Gilmore (also facing capital punishment) was reported to have said, "I'll see you in Hell, Pierre and Andrews!" as he passed their cells on the way to his execution by firing squad. However the The Deseret News reports that Gilmore's parting words to the Hi-Fi killers, moments before his execution were: "Adios, Pierre and Andrews. I'll be seeing you directly."
Following the handing down of death sentences to the defendants, the NAACP and Amnesty International campaigned to commute Pierre and Andrews' death sentences.
The NAACP demanded that Pierre and Andrews' death sentences should be revoked because of racial bias at the trial. They noted that the defendants were both black, and the victims and jury were all white. According to Amnesty International, the sole black member of the jury pool was stricken peremptorily by the prosecution during jury selection. Andrews also accused the judicial system of racism following the NAACP's request for reduced sentences. In an interview with USA Today, he claimed that he had never intended to kill anyone. This was later rebutted when detectives cited a statement by Andrews in which he admitted being the one to purchase the drain cleaner and bring it to the store on the night of the killings.
After Pierre's execution, a petition for a stay of Andrews' execution was submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In the Inter-American Commission petition, it was alleged that a hand-written note, "hang the nigger's" [sic], had been found in the jury area during a recess, and that the judge had refused a request for a mistrial and a right to question jurors concerning the note. Despite these appeals, both death sentences were ultimately upheld.
In December 1996, the Inter-American Commission found that the USA had violated its international obligations by denying William Andrews a trial free from racial discrimination.
The Deseret News reports that Dale Pierre Selby said, to no one in particular, moments before his execution: "I'll be glad when this is over." When asked if he had any final words, he responded, "Thank you. I'm just going to say my prayers."
The victims included the following five individuals, three of whom were murdered. Each of the victims was bound, forced to drink liquid Drano, and later shot. Nonetheless, two individuals survived their injuries.
- Michelle Ansley: Ansley, age 18, was an employee of the Hi-Fi Shop. She had been hired only a week before the murders. She had recently become engaged and planned to be married on August 5, 1974. Ansley was raped and killed by Pierre.
- Byron Cortney Naisbitt (September 25, 1957 - June 4, 2002): Cortney Naisbitt was a 16-year-old Ogden High School student at the time of the crime. Although he survived his injuries, he suffered from amnesia and was thus unable to testify at trial. Naisbitt was able to return to school more than a year after the incident, and he graduated with his class at the high school in 1976. Due to the brain damage from his head wound, however, he was forced to drop out of college. Because he could not hold down a job, he had to apply for Social Security assistance. On November 15, 1985, Naisbitt married Catherine Hunter. He suffered chronic pain for the rest of his life, and he died aged 44 on June 4, 2002. The experiences of Cortney Naisbitt and his family were detailed in Gary Kinder's 1982 book Victim: The Other Side of Murder.
- Carol Naisbitt: Carol Naisbitt, age 52, was the mother of victim Cortney Naisbitt. She died at the hospital.
- Orren W. Walker (September 17, 1930 - February 13, 2000): Orren Walker, the father of victim Stanley Walker, was 43 years old at the time of the crime. Having survived the brutal attack, Orren Walker testified at trial against the perpetrators. He died at the age of 69 on February 13, 2000.
- Stanley Walker: Stanley Walker, age 20, was an employee of the Hi-Fi Shop. He was killed.
The Hi-Fi murders still rank among the worst crimes ever committed in the state of Utah. The case is now taught to FBI trainees at the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia, and it was included as a sample case in the FBI's Crime Classification Manual.
The experiences of Cortney Naisbitt and his family became the basis for Gary Kinder's book Victim: The Other Side of Murder (1982).
The Hi-Fi murders were also the basis for the CBS television movie Aftermath: A Test of Love (1991), starring Richard Chamberlain and Michael Learned.
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