Manhunt: 'Utah Hardy Boys' find dead criminal who shot ranger in the desert
02/17/2016 12:34 pm PST
The desert doesn't give up its secrets easily. Even a dead man can hide.
In the bone-dry, wind-blown sands of Utah's Moab Desert, where ancient canyon crevices devour its dead and leave no trace, cops have for years searched in vain for Lance Leeroy Arellano, who had been wounded in a shootout with Park Ranger Brody Young, then disappeared into the wind.
That is until an intrepid 23-year-old Eagle Scout, along with his younger brother, cracked the case wide open. They did what an army of cops couldn't do.
Lance Leeroy Arellano shot Ranger Brody Young nine times and left the father of three to die on a lonely hiking trail on the night of November 20, 2010.
"I yelled out 'You got me,' and I turned away, and as I turned over this shoulder, I see him advancing on me, 'boom boom boom boom boom boom boom boom,'" said Young.
The Moab Desert, one of the most inhospitable places on Earth, stands tall above the Colorado River with a majestic sweep of no man's land. It can make a hiker's head spin, and it's the last place you'd expect a modern-day shootout.
On a fateful November evening, Ranger Young was on routine patrol and drove up to a sleeping man who had been illegally camping out in his car. Lance Arellano, 40, had a rap sheet pockmarked with drug possession and theft, and he had just been kicked out of his mother's home.
"I get his name, a fake name and date of birth, I ask him, 'Hey, wait here, I'm going to go to my truck and we'll see what we can find out about you.'"
Without warning Arellano opened fire.
"He was a really good shot because as I turned away, he hit me in the arm right away and my humerus shatters," said Young. "I yell out 'I've been shot.'
"Then I get presented with this choice: Lay down and die or get up and fight, so I got up," said Young. "I think it really surprised him. He's in front of my open door. I see a silhouette and I proceeded to shoot rounds.
"I do a reload one-handed. I use my leg to put the mag in the gun and then I chambered a round using my back bumper," said Young. "I fire more rounds, and he raises his hands and I stop shooting at that point, and he says 'You got me,' and then silence. And then I went 'Oh thank you,' because at that point I think my adrenaline had run out, I just had run out of energy. I didn't know how many times I'd been hit, I just started losing consciousness. I went unconscious, and he left.
"No one knew I was here, hadn't called out on the radio," said Young. "It was thoughts of my family, my wife and kids, I wanted to grow old with them.
"Here's the damage I had sustained: My heart was hit, small intestine, colon, right kidney, liver, diaphragm, left lung, spine, pelvis, that's the major stuff.
"At the point where he fired his first round, training kicked in," said Young. "There was no emotion, there was no anger, there was just training."
John Tangren owns Tangri-La Ranch, a property close to the shootout.
"They found his tracks down here, over here by my chicken coop, and then he milled around here, and then he headed back up the rocks up in here," said Tangren.
You might as well count the stars in the Milky Way -- there's literally thousands of caves and chasms he could have used as a hideaway.
What happened to the wounded gunman has been a thorn in the side of deputy sheriffs and the FBI. They searched for months high and low, but found nothing.
Then, 23-year-old local Eagle Scout Caleb Shumway, on Christmas break from college, decided to take a crack at it.
"My first exposure to [the story] was watching my dad go out the door in his manhunt gear, which includes an assault rifle and camouflage," said Shumway.
The excitement of the chase stoked his imagination, and the $30,000 reward from the FBI served as an inspiration.
By now authorities believed Arellano, who had been shot at least once, had either died from exposure, or escaped, never to be seen again. But police work is in Shumway's blood: His dad is a detective.
"In our house we talked about Arellano quite often," said Shumway. "My father's drive over these last five years had just kind of rubbed off on me."
So Caleb Shumway set out defy the odds and find Arellano, dead or alive.
"I told my parents I was going to look for him," said Shumway. "My mom's first response was, 'You know that it's dangerous out there and there's lots of boulders and things you can fall off and get hurt.' My dad's initial response was, 'You know that hundreds of people have been looking for this guy. Do you really want to risk your life to go get this guy?' And I told him 'I know I'm going to get this guy, I'm going to find him because this is where I grew up, this is my place, and if he's out there and anyone's going to find him, it's going to be me.'"
Caleb's parents told him it was too risky to go it alone. So he grabbed his 15-year-old little brother, Jarom.
"I said 'Hey Jarom, what are you doing?' 'Nothing.' 'Want to come hiking with me and go find a dead guy?' And he said yes," said Caleb.
"Caleb's really good at finding things when he wants to find them," said Jarom. "Even when he's not looking, he still finds things."
The Eagle Scout knew that to find where Arellano was hiding, he first had to get into his head.
"Walking through his thought process was really helpful," said Caleb. "I had to ask myself, What would a 6-foot-1, 165-pound man fit into, versus my weight? I'm a little bit heavier than he is. Could someone smaller than me fit into that? Which helped a whole bunch with eliminating caves 'cause there were ones that's just way too small. Also, with his survival background, I was able to look at stuff and go 'What would I would find useful in this cave, in this situation?'"
On the first day the brothers turn up nothing. But on day two, less than 48 hours after they set out to find a veritable needle in a haystack, Caleb's scouting skills kick in. He steps off the grid, aims his compass in a new direction and searches where no one had gone before.
"At the corner of my eye I saw a bright yellow something at that moment, and I look up and it was this bag," said Caleb.
Could it be? In less than 48 hours this Eagle Scout and his teenage brother had cracked a case that baffled authorities, unearthing the first clue in five years.
"I grabbed the bag and pulled on it, and it was awesome because it ripped open and there was a pistol and there was a gun magazine full of bullets," said Caleb. "We had to be so sure that it was Arellano. We were so pumped, it was so much adrenaline it was really exciting."
His heart racing and his legs trembling, Caleb climbs up to a small vertical cave.
"We looked in, there was a bone, and then I began to realize what I was looking at, that it was a human bone," said Caleb.
Caleb frantically clicks pictures on his cellphone.
"And I just get all jittery, and just, 'Jarom, we need to go.' He saw my demeanor change from just casually taking pictures to really excited, and it hit him too what we had actually found."
Those pictures are worth a thousand clues. He shows them to his father, who calls deputies out on Christmas Eve.
"That was enough for us to on Christmas Eve go out there to this remote location and start searching," said Caleb. "Everyone was so excited we were solving this cold case."
But suddenly exhilaration turns to trepidation. Where is the rest of Arellano's body?
"We hadn't discovered the actual full skeleton yet," said Caleb. "It's Christmas Eve and we have all these sheriff deputies out from their families, and it's cold and I started getting really worried that I'd led them on a wild good chase."
Caleb asks cops if he could a have try. He jumps back into the cave. He looks around with his headlamp and crawls to a very narrow opening leading to another cave. Caleb slithers in, and the mystery is finally over.
"So I start yelling from the hole, 'I found ribs. I got a ribcage. There's a belt. There's hiking boots.' I was a hundred percent sure at that moment that I'd found the remains of Arellano," said Caleb. "I became really excited because I hadn't let everybody down. I climb out of the cave and I stand there and say 'We've got our guy. We found him.'"
But there was still work to do. Getting to the cave is no easy task. In fact sheriff's deputies couldn't fit, so they asked Caleb to climb back in with a body bag and pull the body parts out.
For hero Park Ranger Brody Young, the excruciating nightmare had ended.
"I was at home, it was Christmas Eve. My supervisor comes over, and he just says 'We found him,' and then we just embraced, and cried," said Young. "It was such good news."
Even though Young was wearing a bulletproof vest at the time of the shooting, four bullets and a lot of shrapnel remain lodged near his vital organs.
However, he's back on the job, and is now the assistant coordinator of the division's statewide boating program.
As for that $30,000 reward, Caleb Shumway says he plans to give his brother at least $5,000 to help him pay for his religious mission down the road.