The Letter: A long-awaited delivery that ‘changes everything’
Oct 11, 2022, 4:35 AM | Updated: Oct 12, 2022, 8:38 am
(Photo by Scott G. Winterton/Deseret News)
Listen to all episodes of ‘The Letter’ here.
SALT LAKE CITY – Even with the distraction of a holiday dinner, Sy Snarr could tell something was bothering her friend Karen Fairbanks.
“We were sitting there, and she says, ‘I have something to tell you, and I’m nervous to tell you’,” Snarr recalled. “And I said, ‘Well, is it about Jorge? Because I figured why else would you be nervous to talk?’”
When Fairbanks answered with a yes, Snarr pressed her for more information about the man who had killed her 18-year-old son, Zachary Snarr, more than two decades earlier as the teen and his long-time friend, Yvette Rodier, prepared to take pictures of the rising full moon at Little Dell Reservoir.
“She says, ‘Well, he wants to give you a letter,’” Snarr said. “For some reason, she told me that night, and I just looked at her and I said, ‘I’ve waited 22 years for that letter.’ … Every single August 28th, I think, ‘Does he know what today is? You know, does he even think about Zach? Does he care’ That had always been on my mind. So I said, ‘I want the letter.’ And she said, ‘Are you sure?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’m sure.’”
Her family, however, was not as convinced that accepting a letter from the man who killed her son was a good idea. When she got home, she called her oldest son, Trent, and told him about the letter.
“He says, ‘Well, I don’t think you should read it. What if he says something that’s upsetting or is going to make you sad or upset you?’” she said. “And I said, ‘He can’t take any more from me than he already has. He can’t hurt me anymore. …I really think it’s got to be an apology. Why else would he send a letter?’ And he says, ‘Well, what if he just wants you to get him out (of prison)?’ And I said, ‘Well, that can’t happen.’”
While Snarr told her family about the letter, Fairbanks called her cousin, Liane Bell, and told her that the Snarrs wanted the letter. Bell’s parents met Nelida Benvenuto, Jorge’s mother, many years earlier when they were serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New York City. She was a single mother of three hoping to find stability for her little family in her new-found faith, and she moved to Utah when Jorge was 18 – about a year before the shooting.
Bell and her parents stayed close to Nelida, even after Jorge Benvenuto went to prison for killing Zachary Snarr and gravely wounding Rodier. And, a year before Fairbanks offered Sy Snarr that letter, Nelida had reached out to Bell to see if she’d approach the Snarrs and Rodier to see how they felt about receiving a letter from Jorge.
Bell said she decided against being the person to deliver the letter – or even approaching the victims of the crime. Still, she couldn’t stop thinking about it, and then, after many months, she remembered her cousin Karen Fairbanks was friends with Sy Snarr.
So she reached out to her, and the offer was made.
Bell said Nelida sent the letter via FedEx, and in January of 2019, she called Sy to tell her she had the letter. Sy went to Liane’s house to pick up the letter, but she said she wanted to wait and read it with her husband.
She held the letter in her hands as she waited for Ron Snarr to return home from work.
“It was surreal to me,” she said of how it felt to hold the letter from her son’s killer. “I used to wonder if he’d ever even write a letter or something, you know? I never thought it would happen. And here it is, 22 years and a half years later…When Ron got home, we sat and read it together and I just wept. I could not believe that letter. I felt the sincerity. …It was handwritten, and I knew it was his signature. …I could not believe how the letter made me feel.”