The Letter: Sense of dread precedes second 1982 Millcreek Canyon murder

Apr 23, 2024, 4:00 PM | Updated: 4:50 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The second episode of The Letter’s second season, “Ripple Effect,” details the second man killed in a double murder outside a Millcreek Canyon restaurant in 1982.

A sense of dread

When Carla Booth woke up the morning of March 5, 1982, and saw fresh snow on the ground, the sense of dread she’d been feeling all week exploded into full-blown panic.

“I just had a feeling something was gonna happen,” she said. “I just had this feeling several days before, and it just kept getting stronger and stronger.”

It wasn’t hard for the 23-year-old to decide the sense of foreboding she felt was directed at her husband, Buddy Booth. He was getting dressed for work in the pre-dawn light of the apartment where they were raising their two little girls. She admits that she hated the fact that he had to drive a bulky delivery van through Utah’s canyons in any kind of weather. But today’s unease felt different, more urgent.

So she asked him to do something that felt a little irrational.

“I really tried to beg him not to go that day,” she said, “or find a different job …where he’s not going up the canyon…I tried so hard, but he liked his job.”

But her concern was too familiar to feel like a warning to Buddy. He listened as he buttoned his shirt with “Bud” sewn on the chest, ran his favorite blue comb through his thick, unruly curls, and shrugged off his wife’s worry.

Carla was disappointed – but not surprised.

“He always did that,” she said. “But I knew something’s wrong.”

A snowy day in Millcreek Canyon

Even though Carla and Buddy had only been married four years, she knew if there was one thing Buddy Booth was, it was the kind of person who always showed up for work. So she pulled on her coat, and drove him downtown to the laundry delivery company where they’d both worked – Peerless Laundry.

He kissed her goodbye, and headed to the van he drove to businesses where he picked up and delivered laundry. This was a Friday, and that meant he’d be visiting one of Utah’s most well-known restaurants – Log Haven – a popular wedding venue nestled on the north side of Millcreek Canyon.

It was about 7 a.m. – and the sun was just rising – as he climbed into the van, and then, undaunted by the weather, 27 cents in his pocket, Buddy prepared himself for a steep, slick drive.

Carla began the drive back home, to their two tiny girls, to their apartment and modest dreams. It had been a tough year for their young family, as they’d nearly divorced.

But they had a new baby and new resolve and they were young – just 23 and 24. And if there was one thing Carla thought they had in abundance, it was time.

A double murder in the snow

When Buddy Booth eased the van up the snow-covered driveway at Log Haven, he noticed another car already outside the restaurant. It was a Jeep, and the doors were still open. As he got closer, he could see something in the snow.

Then he realized, it wasn’t a thing, it was a person.

According to police reports, he stepped out of the van, his boots sinking into the unplowed snow. He approached the person and realized it was a man lying face down in the snow. There was blood everywhere, but just as he leaned over the body, someone came rushing out of the restaurant. Buddy spun around and came face to face with a man about his age.

“What happened here?” Buddy asked.

The man said something, but Buddy wasn’t looking at the man anymore. He was looking at the gun that the man was pointing at him.

Buddy turned to run – just as shots rang out.

A family in shock

Carla wouldn’t realize that the sense of dread she had was a warning until she drove to Peerless Laundry around 3 p.m. to pick Buddy up for work. That’s when his boss approached the car and told her Buddy had been shot, the victim of a murder in Millcreek Canyon.

She fumbled with the keys, trying to start her car. She had to get to Buddy.

“His boss reached in and grabbed my hand,” she said, “took the keys and said, ‘Carla, it won’t do you any good. He’s dead.’”

She went into shock. She’s not sure what happened, how much time passed, or even what she thought about.

“And next thing I knew is Buddy’s family came in a different car to get me,” she said. “They opened the door for me to get out, and I couldn’t move. I couldn’t move – couldn’t feel my legs. So they had to help me out of the car…. I was just…I was numb. I was just totally numb.”

She was 23, and now a widow with four-year-old and four-month-old daughters.

Millcreek Canyon murder suspect confesses

A few miles from where Carla was being helped into her in-laws’ sedan, the man suspected in the murder of her husband and another man in Millcreek Canyon was telling detectives what happened.

“I shot two people today,” he told detectives. “I’ve done a very bad thing.”

In an hour-long confession, Log Haven manager Michael Moore admitted in excruciating detail what he did, the same afternoon he killed Jordan Rasmussen and Buddy Booth.

And while his reasons would confuse and anger both families, investigators felt certain about one thing – this case deserved the most punitive punishment the state could muster.

Salt Lake Assistant District Attorney John T. Nielsen saw it as an obvious capital murder case.

“It sounded unusual to me,” he said. “Because it was a double homicide, at a fairly famous place in the county, the Log Haven restaurant, and I knew it was going to be a very prominently covered case in the news. And that we needed to do everything right, because of the nature of the case.”

Detectives told him what they thought happened, including the names of those killed. And that’s when he realized he knew the family of one of the victims.

“When I found out who his parents were, I was particularly incensed,” Nielsen said. “Because his father Elden Rasmussen was a high school biology teacher of mine and a person that I had become friends with. …When I found out who the family was, it just made me sick.”

Nielsen said he decided to go visit his friend Elden Rasmussen. During that visit, he assured Jordan’s parents he would do what he could to see justice done. And in this case, it meant sending Michael Moore to death row.

“This was a slam dunk, it seemed to me,” he said. “And I thought of an obvious case that merited the death penalty.”

Carla Booth agreed.

She couldn’t even go back to the apartment she and Buddy shared. She stayed with family, and with every day that passed, she grew more angry.

“I was furious,” she said. “He took my husband, he should be taken.”

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The Letter: Sense of dread precedes second 1982 Millcreek Canyon murder