Editor’s note: The following column contains graphic depictions of an assault and murder of a gay man.
The murder of George Roy Moriarty on Jan.1, 1965 is the first mention of a murder that was so callous, so horrific, that even The Salt Lake Tribune at the time had to print information that indicated this homicide was a sex crime.
George Moriarty was a 33-year-old Korean War veteran who lived with his mother at 164 West Burton Ave. where an RC Willey stands today. His obituary stated that he was a divorced man, a member of the Catholic Church and had worked as a welder for American Steel Company. What the obit did not mention, however, was that Moriarty was also a homosexual, and for that reason he was left to die in subfreezing weather.
To start off the new year, Moriarty was taken by his brother to the Willie Café and Lounge on 1776 South Main St. in Salt Lake City to meet up with his friend, Darrell Bishop. Also at the bar that night was Gary Lynn Horning, an extremely handsome 25-year-old. Horning lived at 226 Navajo St. in the Poplar Grove section of Salt Lake City and was at the bar playing pool. George Moriarty and Darrell Bishop joined Horning at the game, and the three drank for most of the day. Horning later told Moriarty and Bishop that he was leaving and invited them to go bar hopping with him. Bishop refused, and even though the bartender at the Tavern later told police that Moriarty left alone, it is evident that Moriarty hooked up with Horning. Perhaps Horning did not want to be seen leaving with Moriarty, who was last seen in Salt Lake area around 8:30 p.m.
After Moriarty and Horning left the Willie Café they visited several other taverns in Salt Lake City where they played shuffleboard until about 10 p.m. It was getting late and Horning told Moriarty that he had to be in Ogden the next morning for a drawing with the Utah Fish and Game Commission. According to Horning, Moriarty said he would like to go along to party with Horning.
In Ogden near midnight, Moriarty and Horning met up with a rugged, good looking 26-year-old named Leon Dyer in an Ogden tavern. Sometime after midnight the threesome left the bar and drove to a secluded viewpoint parking area about two miles up north Ogden Canyon near 3100 North and 1300 East. While parked at the overlook, Moriarty removed all his clothing.
While nothing in the newspaper accounts related what went on in the car, it is pretty obvious the men were there to have sex. Horning is later quoted as saying that they were in the bar, Moriarty said he didn’t feel good, and the next thing he knew Dyer had started hitting Moriarty. All the details of why the trio left the bar and parked on a deserted canyon road after midnight were left out by Horning, but again, it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out what they were there to do.
What set off the events that led to Moriarty’s death only Dyer and Horning know. Whether Dyer directed his intense feelings of guilt at Moriarty after having sex or whether he was trying to sexually assault Moriarty is unknown. According to Horning, the assault started when Moriarty said he “didn’t feel too good.” At that point Dyer began to beat Moriarty so severely that blood fell all over a plastic car seat. However, Moriarty managed to free himself and jumped out of the car where evidence showed that another struggle took place. Moriarty was then either tossed or shoved over the edge of the parking area down a 140 foot embankment, leaving a trail of blood in the snow
Moriarty somehow managed to survive the fall. After climbing back onto the road, he staggered half mile toward the mouth of the canyon. Dyer and Horning, surprised to see him, ran into Moriarty with their car and fled back to the city, leaving a trail of personal paper and clothing apparently thrown from the moving car. Moriarty’s clothes and personal papers were strewn along the road down the canyon into North Ogden. His sock was even found at 967 East 2600 North Ogden.
On the morning of Jan. 2, a young farm boy up early doing chores found George Moriarty’s nude and lacerated body lying curled beside the road. His head, chest and legs were lacerated deeply. The farm boy found his body at about 8 a.m. near 3100 North 1300 West. A lone shoe lay by the path of the bloody bare footprints that led down the snow-covered roadside. Later that day detectives found a bloody automobile seat cover and signs of a struggle about a half mile from Moriarty’s body.
An autopsy indicated that the bruises and abrasions on Moriarty’s body were superficial. He had died of exposure.
The Weber County Sheriff’s Office apprehended Dyer and Horning within 36 hours after the body was found. Leon Dyer had again gone out drinking on Jan. 2 where he implicated himself in the murder. The sheriff’s office received an anonymous telephone call at 7:30 p.m. and took Dyer into custody at the tavern. At the sheriff’s office Dyer then implicated Horning in Moriarty’s murder, and police picked up Dyer the next day. Neither man offered any resistance. Statements from the two formed the basis of their arrests and both were charged with 1st degree murder even though the autopsy showed that Moriarty had died from exposure.
Leon Dyer and Gary Horning’s trial began in Ogden on June 8, 1965. Incredibly on June 17, the jury delivered a voluntary manslaughter verdict against them both. The all-male jury had deliberated for only four and half hours. As in many other gay murder cases, the jury implicated the victim as being to some degree responsible for his own death. On June 22, the two men were sentenced to simply one to 10 years in prison. Judge Parley E. Norseth of the 2nd District Court said to the pair at sentencing: “You have won a legal victory but not a moral one,” and vowed that they would never receive his recommendation for leniency.