Big crimes at BYU few but notable

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Pranks and bike thefts are common items in The Universe’s Police Beat, but BYU has occasionally been affected by more notable crimes.

An interview with University Police, along with a search of BYU Police media releases archived in the Harold B. Lee Library and court records, details some of the more infamous criminal episodes connected to BYU.

Airline hijacking

A BYU student hijacked a plane and about $500,00. (Image courtesy the Harold B. Lee Library Archives)
An FBI wanted poster for hijacker Richard Floyd McCoy. (Image courtesy of Harold B. Lee Library Archives)

April 7, 1972: BYU law enforcement major Richard Floyd McCoy, armed with a hand grenade and an empty pistol, hijacked a Boeing 727. He then parachuted out near Provo with $500,000 in ransom money. McCoy was arrested at his home by the FBI after it was learned that he discussed hypothetical plans for a hijacking with highway patrolman Robert Van Leperen and asked his sister-in-law for help with the hijacking plot. A duffel bag with $499,970 was found in his house. McCoy was a Sunday School teacher in the Provo First Ward. One of McCoy’s Sunday School students said, “All he ever talked about was sin.” In an ironic twist, McCoy was on National Guard duty flying one of the helicopters used in the search for the hijacker. McCoy also wrote his thesis at BYU on how to prevent hijackings.

Murder

March 11, 1974: BYU student Barbara Jean Rocky’s body was found in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Rocky had been raped and was shot five times. Her murder went unsolved for 33 years until Salt Lake City Police were able to use DNA evidence found in a soil sample to charge former BYU student Gerald Hicker with the murder. Hicker confessed to her murder in 2010 but said he shot Rocky in self-defense, claiming she took off her clothes, began to pray to the devil and then threatened him with a revolver, which he took from her in a struggle and used to shoot her. Rocky’s family denies Hicker’s claims and asked Hicker to simply tell the truth about Rocky’s killing. Hicker insisted his story was true.

Serial killer kidnapping

June 28, 1975: Ted Bundy kidnapped 15-year-old Susan Curtis when she left her youth conference group at BYU to go to the dormitory and brush her teeth. Curtis was never seen or heard from again. Before his execution, Bundy confessed to killing her and burying her body by the highway in Price. A search of the area failed to locate her remains.

Large-scale art theft

June 1986: The Museum of Art discovered 900 works of art had been stolen after art donors asked where some of their donations had gone. The dollar value of the missing art totaled in the millions. These works of art included priceless pieces by Claude Monet, Winslow Homer, the Weir family, Norman Rockwell, Mahonri Young and others. This case is still active, and many works have since been recovered.

Church president threatened

Feb. 7, 1993: LDS Church President Howard W. Hunter was giving a Devotional address in the BYU Marriott Center when Cody Judy rushed up to him holding a briefcase he claimed was a bomb and a cell phone that appeared to be a detonator. Judy handed a note to Hunter to be read to the crowd that announced Judy as the new president. Hunter refused to read the note and stayed silent with his eyes looking down at his notes. The audience spontaneously began singing “We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet,” at which point a man ran up to Judy and pepper-sprayed him. A mob of people then rushed up to Judy and tackled him. The mob subdued Judy by punching and kicking him while they waited for police to take him into custody. Afterward, President Hunter resumed his speech. Judy served six years in prison and was released Aug. 3, 1999.

Officer shot

May 20, 1998: A bank robbery was in progress at a Wells Fargo bank branch at 66 E. 1650 North. University Police officer David Adams headed to the crime scene. When he arrived at the intersection of Canyon Road and University Parkway, the robbery suspect got out of a car and started shooting at Adams. The officer was hit in the head and in the chest; however, the rounds first hit the steering wheel, which slowed their velocity and saved Adams’ life.

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