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Deaths in Utah’s Canyonlands vex loved ones, police say

Sheriff stumped why father and son may have killed themselves.

First Published Apr 10 2013 01:01 am • Last Updated Apr 10 2013 10:52 am

Evidence near the bodies of two men found dead Saturday in Canyonlands National Park has convinced the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office that Dennis Olvera and his son Aarron Olvera died in either a suicide pact or as the result of a murder-suicide.

But what is frustrating friends, family and the sheriff’s office itself is that there doesn’t seem to be a clear reason.

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"Everything that we’ve found at the scene, everything that the medical examiner has found, points toward suicide," said Garfield County Sheriff Danny Perkins. "The thing that’s bothering the family — and it’s bothering me — is we can’t come up with a why."

According to Perkins, the Olveras’ bodies were found Saturday at Lou’s Springs in the remote Maze district of the park, each with a single bullet wound to the head from a gun that was found in one of the men’s hands. Both had been shot in the mouth, Perkins said. Perkins said the gun was registered to one of the men but he declined to say to which one. He also declined to say who was holding the gun.

There also was no evidence that anyone else was at the scene — no other tracks led to the spring where the bodies were found. The men had been dead for a few days before park rangers found them. Dennis Olvera, 65, was from Greenfield, Ind., and Aarron Olvera, 40, was from Scottsdale, Ariz.

But while Perkins is confident that one or both of the men were responsible for their deaths, family and friends are skeptical.

"There’s no way that that man shot himself," said Dennis Olvera’s business partner and close friend, Doug Dugger. Dugger is the president of Developmental Services Alternatives Inc. in Greenfield.

"He thought suicide was a weakness," Dugger said.

Dennis Olvera was the vice president of the company, which offers treatment for people with mental disabilities, and was DSA’s lead behavioral specialist. Dugger said Olvera was known locally as an expert in dealing with clients with difficult behavioral issues.

In the 25 years the two had been business partners and friends, Dugger never saw any indication that Olvera was depressed or give any other warning signs about suicide. Dugger said he didn’t know Aarron Olvera well but added that family members told him Aarron’s alleged suicide also seemed unlikely.

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Dennis Olvera had three adult children, including Aarron, from a previous marriage and another adult son from his second marriage, Dugger said.

Dugger and Olvera often went scuba diving to such places as Belize and Fiji. Olvera was always concerned about safety. Dugger said Olvera did own a gun for target shooting but never brought it with him on the trips.

Perkins acknowledged that Olvera family members indicated neither man seemed to show signs of wanting to commit suicide. It also appeared the two had plans to return. They had a reservation at a motel for the end of their trip in the Maze and beer in the pickup waiting for them. They also had purchased round-trip plane tickets.

Perkins said the investigation is continuing. There was a cellphone at the scene that was locked, which investigators can’t yet access. Investigators also hadn’t found the men’s base camp as of Tuesday afternoon.

"I think something happened out there that was not planned," Perkins said.

kbennion@sltrib.com Twitter: @KimballBennion

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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