Two boys die mysteriously in a shack fire.

Scott Johnson

The shack they played in caught 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:

“They loved it. Scott was a natural born fisherman. He loved to fish and go out in the desert, catch lizards, catch a snake, whatever. He was just a desert rat. He just fell in love with it.”

A criminal claimed he witnessed the murder

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:

“Oh, they just played there and played cops and robbers and Indians and cowboys and whatever else little boys do. I never felt any apprehension towards that building at all. It was within sight of the house. It wasn’t anything to worry about. It was the typical thing that children would pick to use for a fort or a clubhouse.”

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 I could see through the smoke is what appeared to be upholstery on the floor. When I got the pike pole, I stooped down to look under the smoke to hook this material and hook it out to extinguish it.”

Other witnesses corroborated the murder theory

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:

“I was shocked, I was very shocked. My child was certainly smarter than to just lay in the back of a building and wait to be asphyxiated by smoke or burned by fire. It’s kind of an obvious thing. I always knew it was murder, always.”

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:

“All anybody had to do to escape that building was push on the door. In this case, a building six-by-six, they would hit that door and escape the building, had they been able to.”

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:

“It indicated to me that somebody had prevented their escape through that door. They may have initially tried to hold the door, but it’s metal, it got hot, they couldn’t hold the door any longer. They’d need something to insulate them from the heat. They picked up the two-by-twelve, one on each end or more, and held the two-by-twelve against the door with one person on each end of it.”

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:

“There was knowledge there. Meador advised us that he saw two men holding these two young kids and pushing them in the powder magazine. One of the kids looked like he was heavily drugged and the other was fighting. Then he saw one of the men with a gas can. One of them told him in street terms to get lost. And that they’d just burned up two kids.”

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:

“There were two men, one was standing on the side of the hill facing the door of the shack and the other one, well, he didn’t like the idea that we were there and he took off and went running.” 

John Kalous was with Tena and also saw the event unfold:

“That’s when I said, ‘You know, Tena, I think we should go call the fire department on this, because I think those guys set this place on fire.’ And that’s when we left.”

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:

“It didn’t seem like they took it seriously at all. It seemed like they didn’t believe my story and, from my past reputation, they seemed like they just disregarded it. And I never heard anything more about it.”

As time passed, the tragedy faded from public memory. But Sue Johnson continued her quest for the truth:

“You wonder if there is someone who just wanted this tucked away quickly and for good.  Or was it just sloppy investigation, or just circumstances? I honestly feel that it was a combination of a lot of things.”

In 1989, Dale Lent became the new Chief of Detectives. He reopened the case as a murder investigation:

“I’ve talked with Sue on the phone and in person many times. I told her in the beginning when I started out that there may not be an answer to this. But we’re going to keep looking.”

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:

“I think it’s possible that there could’ve been someone that used that area, possibly for a drug transaction or something. And maybe the people that they saw doing this thought that the kids would run a block away to the sheriff’s substation and report them, and therefore they felt like they had to do something to stop it.”

To date, no answers have been found, but Sue Johnson refuses to give up hope:

“It’s very hard to live every day of your life and wonder why your son was murdered and why no one’s ever done anything about it after all these years. I hope that whoever did it gets to pay for what they did someday. I don’t care how long it takes. I’ve been patient this long, I can wait longer if that’s what it takes.”

Detectives hope that a new witness will come forward and provide information that will point them to the killer.

Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season four with Robert Stack and in season eight with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.




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    So sad that 2 little boys lost their lives. What makes it even worse is that their deaths have not been acknowledged as murder, no investigation has been done so far, and no justice has been served. the families of these boys deserve answers, and someone has to pay for their crime. I have a 9 year old son myself, and couldn’t imagine losing him at all, let alone is such a tragic and cruel way. My thoughts and prayers for these boys’ loved ones.


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    Tena Moe and John Kalous need to investigated!! In watching his interview (John Klous) I felt he was lying. And they reported the fire. Give em a lie detector exam. I truly feel this case would then be solved. And Scott and Billy would have justice.


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    Sorry for you to loss Mike Hill. I have followed this case since it first aired. My gut feeling is that Tena Moe and John Kalous did this. They reported it. I truly feel if they were pressed more and given a polygraph that this case would be solved. At the time they were troubled teens and I’m guessing that the boys saw something they were involved in and that lead to their deaths. I hope this case is solved. You and your family and Scott’s family deserve peace and answers.


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    Why is there no smoke on the outside of the door? It seems that if the door wasnt covered that smoke would pour out the handle hole.


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    I find it interesting that nothing was ever said about the other little boy who lost his life, not even a picture. There barely is any mention of him, why is this?


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    I used to live in Bullhead, Az I was with a man Steven Thomas West. When I met him he was in a wheelchair. Before he got paralyzed he was able to walk. A few times the undercover police would come to talk to him, and Steve would tell me to leave. When I came back I would ask m what they wanted and he would tell me a completely different story then what I saw on Unsolved Mysteries I really believe Stephen West had something to do with the murder of them two boys in Bullhead City Arizona the man that was with him was convicted and sent to prison for life but why they did not come back Stephen West to charge him with the murder of them two boys I live there with Steven at 410 River Glen Bullhead City Arizona for 4 years it was the worst time of my whole life I finally left and came back to Phoenix in 1996 I never came back to Bullhead City ever but did learn that Stephen West was killed in an automobile accident around 2000 2001 I think it’s really sad that the police department can even come back Stephen West and then two boys murdered Police Department in Bullhead City is really a sad sad Police Department setting two little boys had been murdered in a very cruel way I hope that Steven was dressed in hell and that man that was with him and serving time I believe in California I hope he goes to hell right next to Steven


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    sade Wheeler

    i think that was mean for killing them boys for no reson


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    How incredibly sad. Poor boys just being kids. May the murderers rot in hell.


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    Blue bird

    What in the Hell Is Going On Here? Scott Johnson And his friend Were Murdered ! And to U People At Unsolved mysteries I Love Your Show Good Luck!


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    Mother Of A BHC Runaway

    My daughter ran away when she was 14 was in California at the time… Her boyfriends mother came and picked her up without consent from me or anyone else that would be responsible for my daughter crossing state lines. The BHC PD said that running away was not illegal… There were sightings of her in BHC the police never questioned her bf mother or even tried. When someone would tell me that she was at a house mysteriously she wouldn’t be there anymore by the time the PD got there. Turns out the mother of one of her friends was working for dispatch and tipping her off every time they were called. Anyway a month later she was found in a house full of underage kids drinking several had to be taken to the hospital for alchoal poisoning. The mother still never was even slapped on the wrists or anything for what I call kidnappings my daughter for her son. Ridiculous. But at least my daughter realized the kind of crowd she was hanging with was no good and changed her ways and is now a mother herself(this happened almost six years ago) and hopefully will not have to deal with what we did from her daughter!


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      Thats because you didnt have custody of your daughter!!! And look where your at now dealing drugs being raided ect. Your no angel yourself and your daughter turned out amazing and is an amazing Mother!!!


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    Bullhead is full of incompatant lazy ignorant people. But so is any city you go to. Doesn’t mean everyone is. Just who you choose to surround yourself with. As far as the law hors in bullhead…. Not the best.. I do have to admit. My daughter ran away and they told me that running a way was not illegal, (she was 15) and the fact that she was taken from California back to bullhead city Arizona by her boyfriends mom whom didn’t have permission at all by me or anyone else who my daughter would receive permission from didn’t make them try to find her or even question the boys mom about it a priority whatsoever. They tried knocking on the door once and that was about it. Them when I would receive calls telling me that my daughter was spotted at a house when I called dispatch to send out a car her response was ” I will if we have a chance to…” Turns out the dispatch lady was one of my daughters friends mother who was in on her disappearing and would alert my daughter or the house she was at that they were on their way evryyime, making it so when they arrived the house she would be at would be empty. She was found about a month later at a house party where several underage drunk kids had to be rushed to the hospital and has been straightened out ever since then thank goodness for that. But if this is the kind of people in Bullhead that is working for the people… Things need to change because obviously its been that way for years.


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    rob main

    i think what happened here was it was a drug deal gone bad and the boys came across something they shouldn’t have had.the hundred dollar bill is was dropped in a drug transaction


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    I was a 11 year old runaway in 74. Many of us kids were from L.A. foster homes. AZ. was popular spot to transport dope, kids were the best mules-did not draw attention from the man. This was a very bad scene that happened in B.H. City, a kid/courier was hurt/wounded-cash was missing for the drop, the dealers went looking for the $, found 2 boys, a 6 year old & a 10 year old….


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    I’m sorry for your loss Mike Hill. This case is definitely suspicious, and I do believe that those two young innocent boys were victims of murder. Absolutely horrible. I hope that someday this case will be solved, and that the family members finally get the justice they deserve.


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    mike Hill

    My brother’s name was Peter Hill. Scott Johnson was actually my friend, but for some reason he was hanging out with my brother and found a hundred dollar bill. I don’t know if the hundred dollar bill had to do with anything but it still could be a good piece of evidence. Peter was 6 years old and was a very inspirational brother. I will always remember him as a caring brother. R.I.P Peter. My family and I will miss him always


  16. Avatar


    It’s a cruel world and with the advanced technology of DNA, thi case should be solvable. Please let a bulldog detective in the cold case unit pick up this case and solve this horrific crime. SOMEONE has to speak for those murdered children.


  17. Avatar


    THIS was a cover up. Several reports of 2 men and even claim of witness to the murder.
    What a terrible world we live in


  18. Avatar

    Debra Ballinger

    WOW! I do not believe it was police corruption or deliberate…maybe just failure to cover the issue forcefully? I pray for your justice!


  19. Avatar

    mike Hill

    Other victim was my brother didn’t know half of this info parents didn’t talk about it my son looked it up and showed me I was in same grade as scott


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      Hi Mike. So sorry for your loss. I’ve been curious about this case ever since it first aired. Still no new leads? I hope your family’s get justice soon.


  20. Avatar


    I agree they were deliberately murdered, those boys didn’t get a chance to grow up. Such an inhumane act, how could someone do that to two children. I hope the killer or killers are brought to justice it is never too late. Justice for the two boys and for their parents as well. Too many unanswered questions, but someone has the answers, they really need to come forward this family need closure.


  21. Avatar


    Scott and Peter were obviously murdered. It was reported neighbours heard the boys screaming out for help, and since the door was easily able to be pushed open for entry/exit, someone must have held it shut to trap them inside and set the powder magazine alight. The $100 bill is an interesting clue. To me it was homicide and I hope somebody is arrested soon and pays for this horrific crime.


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Please note that you can request, at any time, that we delete your Personal Data.  All requests must be directed to the contact in the “Contact Information” section below.  We can decide to delete your Personal Data if we believe that the data is incomplete, inaccurate, or that our continued use and storage are contrary to our obligations to other members, individuals, or third parties.  When we delete your Personal Data, it will be removed from our active databases or anonymized so that the data is no longer identified with you, but the data may remain in our archives if CMP determines that it is not practical or possible to delete it.

Your Personal Data is processed in the United States, where privacy laws may be less stringent than the laws in your country and where the government, courts, or law enforcement may be able to access your data.  By submitting your Personal Data to us, you agree to the transfer, storage and processing of your Personal Data in the United States.

You, as the data subject, have the right to lodge a complaint with a supervisory authority, in particular in the Member State of your habitual residence, place of work, or place of the alleged infringement, if you believe that the processing of your personal data does not comply with legal requirements.

In the event we determine the occurrence of a data security incident, we will notify you by email, US mail, telephone, or other means as permitted by law.

If you have questions, comments, or complaints concerning our privacy practices or if you wish to change, access, or remove your Personal Data, please contact us as indicated below.  We will attempt, where practical, to respond to your requests and to provide you with additional privacy related information.

Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. is the owner of this Website and retains all ownership rights to the information collected at this Website. Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. reserves the right to change, modify, add, or remove provisions of this Privacy Statement. Any changes to this Privacy Statement will be posted here, and we encourage you to check back from time to time. In addition, Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. will notify registered users of changes as they occur.

We allow third-party companies to serve ads and/or collect certain anonymous information when you visit our web site. These companies may use non-personally identifiable information (e.g., click stream information, browser type, time and date, subject of advertisements clicked or scrolled over) during your visits to this and other Web sites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services likely to be of greater interest to you. These companies typically use a cookie or third party web beacon to collect this information. To learn more about this behavioral advertising practice or to opt-out of this type of advertising, you can visit Your use of the site constitutes your agreement to accept cookies, beacons and third-party advertising. Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. assumes no responsibility for third-party ads.

ARTICLE 1. Personalization
1.1 We may use the contact information you give us to better tailor your Website experience to your interests, and to send you information about Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. and its services as well as promotional material on behalf of some of our partners. We may use other information that you provide to us to show you content in which you may be interested and to display the content according to your preferences. We will also share this information within Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. in order to enhance your experience on this and other Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. Websites.
1.2 In addition, we may share this information with advertisers or other third parties that are not part of the Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. family on an aggregate or other basis that does not disclose your identity or contact information.

ARTICLE 2. Online Surveys/Contests
2.1 From time to time, we may conduct online surveys and contests. These may ask you for contact information (like name or email address) and demographic information (like zip code or age).
2.2 We may use this contact information from our surveys and contests to provide you with information about our company and promotional material on behalf of some of our partners, and to contact you when necessary.

ARTICLE 3. Shopping/Commercial Services
3.1 This Website may offer shopping services, which may be offered by us or by a firm that operates a store under contract with us. If our Website offers shopping or other commercial services, you will use a customer order form to request information, products, and services. The order form will ask you to give us contact information (like name or email address), financial information (like account or credit card numbers), and demographic information (like zip code or age).

3.2 We will use the financial information that you provide to bill you for products and services. By giving our Website your credit card and related personal information, you are authorizing our store to give that information to the merchant and credit card company in order to confirm and fulfill your order.

3.3 We will use contact information from the order form to fulfill your orders. We may also use contact data to get in touch with you when necessary. We will not otherwise use or distribute your financial information without your prior approval.

ARTICLE 4. Public forums
4.1 This Website may make available chat rooms, blogs, forums, message boards, and news groups. Please remember that any information that you disclose in these areas becomes public information and you should exercise caution when deciding to disclose your personal information. Information disclosed by you or by others enters the public domain and may be freely used by any other persons or entities using the site.

ARTICLE 5. Information Sharing With Third Parties
5.1 From time to time we may enter into a special relationship with another company that is not owned by Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. to provide additional features at this Website. These special relationships may include “powered by” partners, business partners, sponsors, and co-branded sites (referred to here as “co-branded pages”). These might include, for example, pages that share our name and that of another entity. You should look for a specific privacy statement on any such co-branded page. Any personal information that you provide when signing up at one of those co-branded pages may be shared with our third party partner. You should also check our partner’s website for information regarding its privacy policies.

5.2 Also, the nature of some features of our Website may require that we share personal information about you with persons or companies outside of Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. For example, this may occur at a feature that enables you, via our Website, to ask questions of persons or entities that are not part of Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. By responding to those features of the site, whether by email or direct entry of information on our Website, you are consenting to our transferring that information to such persons or entities.

5.3 With respect to specific registration modules, like contests, we may disclose personal information collected, and we may post a conspicuous statement on the registration module to the effect that we will be disclosing the information collected with third parties.

5.4 Finally, we may share any of the information collected from you with these other non- Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc companies in an aggregate basis. The aggregated information is not linked to any information that can identify you.

ARTICLE 6. IP Address and Log Files
6.1 We may use your IP address to administer our Website, to help diagnose problems with our server, to analyze trends, to track users’ webpage movements, to help identify you and your shopping cart, and to gather broad demographic information for aggregate use.

ARTICLE 7. Cookies
7.1 This Website may use a standard technology called a “cookie” to collect information about how you use the Website. Cookies reside on your computer and help our Website to recognize your computer’s browser as a previous visitor. This information allows us to customize delivery of information. For example, our Website may use cookies to save and remember registration information or preferences that you may have set while browsing the Website, to keep track of your shopping cart, to ensure you don’t see the same ad content repeatedly, to deliver content specific to your interests, and to save your password so you do not have to re-enter it each time you visit our site. We use cookies only to gather information as indicated in this policy.

7.2 In addition, on occasion our site may also set a “session cookie” which helps us administer the Website. The session cookie expires when you close your browser and does not retain any information about you after it expires.

7.3 Finally, we may also use an ad network provider to help present advertisements on this and other Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. websites. This ad network provider, like other advertising service vendors, uses cookies, web beacons, or similar technologies on the hard drive of your computer to serve you advertisements tailored to interests you have shown by browsing on this and other sites you have visited, and to determine whether you have seen a particular advertisement before and to avoid sending you duplicate advertisements. In doing so, the provider collects non-personal data such as your browser type, your operating system, web pages visited, time of visits, content viewed, ads viewed, and other clickstream data. The use of cookies, web beacons, or similar technologies by these ad network providers is subject to their own privacy policies, not ours, and Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. assumes no responsibility for the collection or use of such information.

ARTICLE 8. Banner Advertising
8.1 We have contracted with an ad-service to place banner advertising on our Website. All of the data provided and generated by the ad-server software remains in our possession. This feature of our Website may, on occasion, set “cookies” on your computer. Any information collected or stored by the ad-service or the cookies is treated in the same manner as other information described in this statement.

ARTICLE 9. Children’s Personal Information
9.1 Consistent with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act:

9.1.1 This site does NOT collect, use, or disclose personal information (including online contact information) of children under the age of thirteen (13).

9.1.2 In the event that a child under the age of 13 attempts to register on our site, we will NOT accept the registration and will delete information received from the child.

9.1.3 In the event that a child posts personal information in a public forum such as a chat room, we will attempt to delete that information once we become aware of it.

ARTICLE 10. Security of Your Personal Information
10.1 Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. employs reasonable security measures consistent with standard industry practice, for information collected through this Website. We believe that we have adequate security measures in place in our physical facilities to protect against the loss, misuse, or alteration of the information we collect on our Website. We also use internal protections to limit access to users’ personal information to only those employees who need the information to perform a specific job.

ARTICLE 11. Sale or Merger
11.1 If this Website is sold to, or merges with, another company not owned by Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc., you should expect that some or all of the information collected from this Website may be transferred to the buyer/surviving company. If so, CMP will seek to obligate the acquiring company to use any personal information transferred by this Website in a manner consistent with this statement, but cannot guarantee that it will be able to impose that requirement or that the acquiring company will comply.

ARTICLE 12. Legal Process
12.1 You should be aware that Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. may be required to disclose your personal information to the government or third parties under certain circumstances, such as in court or regulatory proceedings.

ARTICLE 13.  Contacting the Website

13.1        If you have any questions about this Privacy Statement, the practices of this Website, or your dealings with this Website, please contact us at:

ARTICLE 14.  general information

14.1        Choice of Law:  This Agreement and the Additional Terms shall be governed by, construed and enforced in accordance with the laws of the State of California , as it is applied to agreements entered into and to be performed entirely within such state, without regard to conflict of law principles.

14.2        Choice of Forum:  You agree that any cause of action you or Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. brings to enforce this Agreement and/or the Additional Terms, or in connection with any matters related to this Website and/or the Privacy Statement, shall be submitted to arbitration in the County of Los Angeles, State of California, United States of America in accordance with the commercial rules and regulations of the American Arbitration Association then in effect (as amended herein), provided that said arbitration shall be heard before a single arbitrator, who shall be a retired judge, selected pursuant to such rules and regulations, and shall be conducted on an expedited basis and in confidence. The arbitrator’s decision shall be controlled by the terms and conditions of this agreement and any other agreements I may enter into with you, and shall be final and binding, and shall provide for each party to bear its own costs of arbitration and attorneys’ fees.  Each party expressly waives any right to a jury.  Judgment upon the award of the arbitrator may be entered or enforced in any court of competent jurisdiction. 

14.4        If any provision of this Agreement, or the application thereof to any person or circumstances, is held invalid or for any reason unenforceable then such provision shall be deemed superseded by a valid, enforceable provision that matches, as closely as possible, the original provision, and the other provisions of this Agreement shall remain in full force and effect.  The failure of either party to insist upon strict performance of any provision of this Agreement shall not be construed as a waiver of any provision or right.  Unless expressly provided otherwise, this Agreement is the entire agreement between you and Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. with respect to the use of this Website and shall not be modified except in writing, signed by an authorized representative of Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc.

ARTICLE 15.  European Union and Other Foreign Nations

15.1        This Website is governed by and operated in accordance with the laws of United States of America and is intended for enjoyment of residents of the United States.  Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. makes no representation that this Website is governed by or operated in accordance with the laws of other nations.  By using this Website and submitting any personal information, visitors from outside of the United States acknowledge this Website is subject to U.S. law, consent to the transfer of personal data to the U.S., and waive any claims that may arise under their own national laws.