“The Letter” details journey from Utah murder through grief to redemption
SALT LAKE CITY — Ron Snarr laughs at the memory before he even starts to share it.
It isn’t a joyful laughter. It’s the kind of laughter meant to mute the sharpest edges of pain he feels when he recalls the last day he saw his son alive.
“I get up and I go out, stretch and yawn, look out the window, see if it is raining or anything,” he said of waking up on Aug. 28, 1996, and shuffling through his Salt Lake City home. “And (Zach’s) sitting there on the couch. He says, ‘Dad, where’ve you been? I’ve been waiting for you.’ He’s sitting there all dressed ready to go.”
Ron chuckles, but his eyes begin to fill with tears.
“I said, ‘Zach, I’ll be right out.’ That’s just the type of guy he was, you know?” Snarr said of his 18-year-old son who was preparing to attend college in a week. “That’s what happened the morning he was gone. He says, ‘I’ve been waiting for you’ … And I think he still is.”
Ron Snarr isn’t the only member of the family who clings to those final moments shared with Zachary Snarr before a 19-year-old stranger shot him and his friend, Yvette Rodier, as they prepared to take pictures of the rising full moon at Little Dell Reservoir. The random murder shocked Utah and shattered three families.
Memories sustain family members, years after murder
For Sy Snarr, her son’s last day alive will always be framed by a kindness he offered her. The mother of four teens rushed into the house between work and an evening appointment, and noticed something unusual right away.
“And I’d been gone all day and came through the back door, and I noticed my kitchen was spotless,” said Sy. “And I had not left that way. And Zach was standing right there. And I said, ‘Who cleaned my kitchen?’ And he said, ‘I did it for you, Mama.’ And I said, ‘Thanks, Zach!’ …You know, that was Zach.”
And then she pauses.
“The thing I do think a lot is why didn’t I stop and say, Zack, have I told you today, you’re the greatest?” she said. “I said thank you, at least; I noticed, and I’m glad. But why didn’t I stop and hug him? That was the last time I ever saw him.”
For his older sister Sydney Snarr Davis, that last memory captured her brother’s unique and playful sense of humor.
She was riding her bike home from the bakery where she’d worked between her freshman and sophomore year at Utah State University.
“All of a sudden, I just heard this honking, crazy honking, and I looked up and Zach was driving opposite (direction) of me,” Syd recalls with a smile. “And he had his body hanging out the front window of the car. And he was just laying on the horn and he had his fist up in the air like this victory.”
She raises her fist to demonstrate, and then laughs again at the picture in her mind.
“He was just like, “WHAAA!” … as he drove by, and I remember just going, ‘You’re a dork’,” she said. “And then he just kept going, and I shook my head and rolled my eyes and just kept going home.”
And then she pauses.
“But that was the last time I saw him.”
“The Letter” podcast details Utah murder, aftermath
Just a few hours after Zach made his sister laugh one last time, a man he’d never met opened fire on him Rodier, as they set up camera equipment on the shores of Little Dell Reservoir in Emigration Canyon. Zach was killed instantly, Yvette survived and crawled to the highway where passersby summoned police.
Random shootings were rare back then, and the murder sent shockwaves throughout Utah.
“It frightened a lot of people,” said retired Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Detective Keith Stephens of the shooting. “It was just so horrific. …A lot of times when a shooting first happens, the media other people, it’s a very hot topic for a minute, and then people go about their business and dissipate and go about their business and forget about it…This circumstance where two teenage kids were doing what teenage kids do…They were here enjoying themselves – good, clean, wholesome kids – every parent’s nightmare, every parent’s nightmare. So that’s what I think really sent those shockwaves out.”
The Snarrs and Rodier revisit the agony of that night in a new podcast from KSL called “The Letter” – but only to shed light on the lasting impacts of grief and the realities of trying to reclaim one’s life after it’s been shattered by violence.
And, for the Snarr family, it’s also about a gift they never expected – a letter from the man who killed their son.
Listen to Episode 1 of The Letter below or here.
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