Utah detectives ask hunters to help find body of 99-year-old homicide victim

Authorities suspect the victim’s body was disposed of in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.

(West Valley City Police Department) Maren Carlson, 99, has been missing since November 2021. West Valley City police have asked that hunters heading to the mountains this fall look out for evidence related to her apparent homicide.

West Valley City police have asked that hunters heading to the Uinta Mountains this fall and winter look for evidence in the apparent killing of Maren Carlson, 99, who has been missing since late last year.

Authorities suspect that she was killed by her grandson in November 2021 and that he disposed of her body in the area of Kamas, Utah.

Since her suspected slaying, West Valley City police have worked with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, the Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office, search and rescue teams and cadaver dog teams to locate Carlson’s body. But her remains have never been recovered.

The grandson, Garman Shaun Cunningham, may have disposed of his grandmother’s body in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, investigators say. They specified the area in the High Uintas near State Route 150 (also known as Mirror Lake Highway) and State Route 35.

Carlson was about 4-foot-11 and weighed about 85 pounds. She had white hair, and was last seen wearing light pink pajamas with a floral print, and possibly a robe.

Investigators said that evidence of her killing may also be in a black garbage bag.

Documents detail suspected killing

Cunningham is suspected of holding his wife captive in their home and torturing her for several days in November 2021. The wife escaped on November 12 and reported to police that Cunningham had killed his grandmother, Carlson, during the time she was held captive. Carlson had been living with Cunningham at the time.

The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office in December 2021 charged Cunningham with aggravated murder and aggravated kidnapping. He also was charged with obstructing justice, two counts of aggravated assault and three counts of illegal discharge of a firearm.

The wife told police that throughout her captivity, Cunningham had handcuffed her to a rocking chair, cut her with knives and broken glass, and burned her with cigarettes, charging documents state. He also choked her multiple times and threatened her with a gun, she said.

At the time, she also described the grandmother’s killing, stating that Cunningham had first attempted to smother his grandmother with a pillow. She described seeing the older woman’s skull “caved in” after Cunningham then beat her with his fists, charging documents state.

Cunningham then dragged his grandmother out of bed and down a hallway — her arm still tangled in her walker, the documents state. He then threw her down a flight of stairs, his wife told police.

After Cunningham picked Carlson up, carried her back up the stairs and threw her down them again, the wife said, Cunningham stabbed his grandmother in the neck with a broken piece of her walker, and, when he realized she was still alive, threw her down another set of stairs to a basement, his wife told police.

He then stabbed her in the chest with a steak knife, he later told his wife. The wife could hear him wrapping his grandmother’s body in plastic and tape in the garage, charging documents state.

When the wife threatened to call police, Cunningham threatened to kill her, she said.

Cunningham then drove up a mountain, where he dumped his grandmother’s body off the side of a road, “rolling her body down an incline in hopes nobody would see her,” the documents state.

Tracking data from Cunningham’s phone shows that his phone was in the area of Kamas, Utah, near SR-150 on Nov. 2, the documents state, which is why authorities suspect Carlson’s remains and other evidence may have been dumped in that area.

After the wife escaped, Cunningham was taken into custody outside the couple’s home, armed with a sword, police said at the time. Forensic investigators found evidence of large quantities of blood at the base of the stairs, in the downstairs laundry room and in the garage, the documents state.

In March, Cunningham died by suicide while in custody.

Detectives continue to search for Carlson’s remains. Anyone who locates evidence potentially related to this case should note the coordinates of the items and contact West Valley City police at 801-840-4000.