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Two boys die mysteriously in a shack fire.
Bullhead City, Arizona, is a small, desert community on the banks of the Colorado River. Sue Johnson moved there from California in 1973. She and her husband felt it was a great place to raise their children, Scott and Angel. Sue recalls how her children took to the place immediately:
Less than fifty yards from the Johnson’s new home stood an old shed once used by copper miners as a powder magazine. It became a playhouse for Scott and his friends. Sue used to watch them play in it:
On April 3rd, 1974, at 3:45 P.M., the Bullhead City Volunteer Fire Department responded to a call: the old powder magazine was on fire. Former Bullhead City Fire Chief Larry Adams remembers the details vividly:
What Adams found was the badly burned bodies of Scott Johnson and one of his friends. Seven weeks later, the coroner concluded that the two boys had died accidentally, suggesting they were probably playing with matches and gasoline when the shed caught fire. Sue Johnson didn’t buy it:
Sue Johnson was not alone in her opinion. From the beginning, former Fire Chief Adams also believed that Scott and his friend were victims of foul play. He had noticed that the door of the shack had not been locked or obstructed in any way:
A few feet from the door, Adams found a 2-by-12-inch wooden plank. Adams thought it was odd that the board had a small charred circle on one side:
Despite this evidence, police closed the case. As the months went by, Sue Johnson continued her efforts to have the case reopened. Four years after the fire, Dale Gordon Meador, a convicted felon, came forward with a shocking story. Meador was serving time at a county jail in New Mexico. At the time of the fire, he was living in Bullhead City. Former Detective Robert L. Melton was one of the men who spoke with Dale Meador:
Dale Meador told police that he came to know one of the men while serving time at a prison in Nevada. Authorities questioned the man that Meador accused of setting the fire, but they were unable to make a case. However, other witnesses backed up Dale Meador’s account. Residents Tena Moe and John Kalous reported the fire on the day Scott Johnson and his friend died. They are also convinced that the boys were murdered. At the time of the fire, Tena and John were teenagers. Like Dale, Tena recalled seeing two men:
John Kalous was with Tena and also saw the event unfold:
John and Tena told police about the two men they had seen. However, John believes their statements were ignored because of their own previous scrapes with the law:
As time passed, the tragedy faded from public memory. But Sue Johnson continued her quest for the truth:
In 1989, Dale Lent became the new Chief of Detectives. He reopened the case as a murder investigation:
Were Scott Johnson and his friend deliberately burned to death? If so, why would anyone kill two ten-year-old boys? One clue may be the unusual discovery that Scott made three weeks before his death: a $100 bill. Sue Johnson believes that could have been a small key:
To date, no answers have been found, but Sue Johnson refuses to give up hope:
Detectives hope that a new witness will come forward and provide information that will point them to the killer.