ARTHUR GARY BISHOP
Graeme Cunningham, 13 years old, was looking forward to a weekend camping trip on Thursday, July 14, 1983. His gear was packed well in advance, and the adventure was his sole topic of conversation as departure time approached. If he was troubled by Troy Ward's disappearance, three weeks earlier to the day, Cunningham hid it well. He would be camping with a junior high school classmate and an adult chaperone, one Roger Downs.
What did he have to fear?
Graeme never made the campout, though. Instead, he vanished from his neighborhood without a trace that Thursday afternoon, his parents alarmed when he failed to report home for dinner. The disappearance made statewide news, and Roger Downs came calling to offer Cunningham's mother any help that lay within his power. Later, in custody, "Downs" would tell detectives (quoted in the Deseret News), that his impulse was sincere. "I wanted to help her," he said. "I just didn't know how to tell her that I killed her son."
Instead, before another week was out, he would be telling the whole story to police.
Authorities went through the usual motions with Graeme Cunningham's disappearance. The search was fruitless; their inquiries produced only blank stares or solemn denials, along with expressions of sympathy for the grieving family. This time, however, something clicked within the task force that had been pursuing Salt Lake City's child killer since 1979. At last, detectives recognized the name of "Roger Downs."
They didn't know his real name yet, but suddenly they realized that "Downs" had been interrogated after each of the five unsolved vanishing acts. Incredibly, he had lived in close proximity to four of the victims and was known to the parents of the fifth.
Could it be that simple, after all their grueling efforts? Four years earlier, Chicago's John Wayne Gacy had been trapped by a similar mistake, seen chatting with the last of his 33 victims shortly before the youth vanished. In fact, detectives realized, serial murder cases were usually broken exactly that way, by killers who let down their guard and made clumsy mistakes.
Sgt. Bruce White and Detective Steven Smith went back to question "Downs" again. They had no evidence against him yet, but there was something in his manner that suggested evasion. Was he one of those innocent persons who sometimes lie to the police instinctively, for no apparent reason, or was he concealing the worst of all possible secrets?
After brief preliminaries, "Downs" accepted an invitation to police headquarters. He was anxious to help find Graeme Cunningham, after all. Veteran homicide detective Don Bell was waiting for "Downs" on arrival. Slowly, surely, he began to pick apart the liar's story. Soon, Bell had Arthur Bishop's real name. By sundown, Bishop had confessed to five murders spanning four years.
Bell and Bishop spent most of the night together, nailing down details.
Retrieval of the dead would have to wait for dawn.