When writer Gary Kinder heard about the Hi-Fi Murders in Ogden, Utah, he immediately recognized a compelling story. But it took some time to realize where the real story was. It wasn't in the three depraved perpetrators—an avenue most authors would've pursued—but in the victims themselves. Of the five people injured and/or killed, one stood out from all the rest: Cortney Naisbitt, the 16-year-old who miraculously survived the incident.
On April 22, 1974, Cortney stumbled upon an armed robbery at the Hi-Fi Shop, a record store where his friend—20-year-old Stanley Walker—was an employee. Alongside Stanley and the other clerk, 19-year-old Michelle Ansley, Cortney was ushered into the basement by two assailants. While the trio was tied up and held at gunpoint, another attacker stood by a car outside, prepared to make a quick escape.
But in an unfortunate twist of events, Cortney was not the last person to interrupt William Andrews and Dale Selby Pierre's torture session. Orren Walker and Carol Naisbitt—the worried parents of Stanley and Cortney, respectively—were also taken hostage after coming to Hi-Fi in search of their sons. As Gary Kinder reports in Victim, both instinctually felt that something had gone horribly wrong.
Neither could have predicted how wrong things had gone, or would go. Once all five victims were sufficiently bound, Andrews and Pierre forced them to drink "a mixture of vodka and a German drug" (see also: Drano). Next, Pierre shot both Naisbitts at point-blank range—killing Carol, but not Cortney—before turning his attention to the others. Stanley and Michelle were also shot and killed, but Orren survived—though not without severe wounds caused by brutal ballpoint pen stabbings.
Hours later, an anonymous tipper, two dumpster divers, and a clever detective helped bring the culprits to justice. Meanwhile, doctors doubted Cortney and Orren would survive the night. But survive they did—despite critical physical and psychological injuries—and both lived to see Pierre and Andrews receive death sentences on November 20, 1974. Getaway driver Keith Roberts also did time, but only for two accounts of aggravated robbery. All three men were in the U.S. Air Force.
Gary Kinder explores the Hi-Fi murders in his 1982 book, Victim, which largely focuses on the Naisbitt family in the wake of the crime. It was a standout of the genre for this very reason, earning praise from Newsweek as “Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood turned inside out,” and became a pivotal part of the FBI training program at Quantico. But while much of the book is concerned with exploring the emotional aftermath, it also recounts the crime in unflinching, sometimes hard-to-stomach detail. Read on for an excerpt, in which Carol Naisbitt first enters the scene and the killers prepare to force-feed their victims Drano.
The back door of the Hi-Fi Shop burst back on its hinges. Carol Naisbitt gazed down the stairs, directly into the barrel of the taller man’s revolver.
“What’re you doin’ here, man!”
“I’m checking on my son,” she snapped. “What is going on here?”
When Cortney heard his mother’s voice at the top of the stairs, he said to himself, “God damn it!” But he was still tied and helpless, facing the wall, afraid to speak out. He said nothing as his mother stood on the landing above. Then the short man sprinted up the stairs, squeezed in beside her, and waved her down into the basement. When they reached the bottom, he ran up the stairs again, pressed the door shut, and with a sharp click threw the bolt.
The light now was dim. Only the workshop bulb cast a faint glow through the crack left by the sliding panel. The short man tiptoed quickly down the stairs. He grabbed Carol by the arm, pulled her into the corner next to Cortney, and pressed down firmly on her shoulders. She bent awkwardly on her hands and knees, and finally lay flat on the floor. A few inches from her face was the back of Cortney’s head. Neither Cortney nor his mother spoke.
As Cortney faced the wall, the man knelt over Carol and tied her hands and feet. When footsteps again were heard in the parking lot, the man stopped to look up. But then a car door opened and slammed shut, an engine turned over and the car backed around, rolled across the gravel toward the exit, and turned right on Kiesel Avenue.
The parking lot was quiet once again. The basement, too, was silent, except for the short man’s light footsteps as he walked over to the stool and picked up the green cup with the blue liquid.
The man walked back across the room, the cup in his hand. He knelt next to Carol, propped her into a sitting position, and put the rim of the cup to her lips.
“We’re going to have a little cocktail party,” he said.
“I don’t drink,” said Carol.
“You will drink this,” said the man. He seized the back of her head. The cup pressed against her teeth.
“What is it?” she asked.
“It’s vodka and some kinda German drug,” said the taller man. “It’ll just put you to sleep.”
Cortney heard his mother swallow the liquid in a large gulp. Then she choked and began coughing loudly, spewing the liquid from her mouth and nose. The man lowered her to the carpet again, where she lay, still heaving and spitting.
He strutted to the other side of the room, held out the cup, and the taller man filled it again from the bottle in the brown bag. Cortney heard the man coming toward him. The man stepped over Carol. Cortney was twisted onto his back, then lifted by his neck into a sitting position. The edge of the cup was at his lips, the man’s hand gripped the base of his neck. The fumes rising from the cup stung his nostrils as the cup tilted upward. The viscous liquid flowed across his lips, and suddenly they felt scalded. Then Cortney opened his mouth and the liquid poured in until it overflowed onto his chin. His throat flexed, and with a jerk of his head he swallowed. The liquid scorched his throat and oozed into his chest. He gagged, coughed violently, and vomited as the man lowered him onto the carpet. His mouth and esophagus were inflamed, and the burning was beginning to drip into his stomach.
He lay on his side again, sweat beaded across his forehead. His stomach and chest rolled in convulsions. Behind him his mother was moaning softly and spitting. He coughed. His throat puffed out and his lower lip sucked in as he gagged, then vomited more. Light tears wet the rims of his eyes. In his mouth and across his lips sores were beginning to form. Some of the liquid still stuck in droplets to his chin and his cheeks, burning his skin.
Across the room he heard the liquid gurgle from the bottle as the cup was filled again. Light footsteps trekked behind him. The man grunted with the effort of propping up Stan. Stan swallowed from the cup, then coughed explosively and began spitting. The man tiptoed back for more of the liquid and returned to Michelle. She swallowed too, but her coughing and spitting were not as loud as the others’.
The fifth cupful went to Mr. Walker. The man hoisted him up and poured the fluid into his mouth. Acrid fumes knifed up his nose, and the lining of his mouth felt singed. He pretended to swallow. When the man lowered him into the shadow, he parted his lips and let the caustic leak out over his shoulder and onto the carpet. Then he coughed and spit as he had heard the others do. Mr. Walker had worked on electronics projects with Stan and had some knowledge of chemicals, especially those strong enough to etch metal. From the biting fumes and the sizzling in his mouth, he guessed that the liquid dripping onto his shoulder was hydrochloric acid.
When the short man had lowered Mr. Walker to the floor, he filled the cup for the sixth time and returned to Stan, making him drink again from the cup. This time Stan began vomiting violently. Cortney had ceased vomiting, but the caustic burned his throat, forcing him to cough and spit. The low moans and spitting and impulsive coughing had increased with each cupful the man had served, until the room was filled with retching. To keep them from spitting the caustic out, the short man tried to cover their mouths with masking tape, but droplets of the caustic had formed on their lips and chins, and the tape wouldn’t stick.
No lights shone in the basement now. Out back a street lamp lit the parking alley like soft moonlight, the light coming dimly through the glass brick into the sound room above. Only a shaft of gray settled over the two men as they huddled now at the base of the stairs, whispering. Cortney heard their voices raise and lower, but he couldn’t understand what they were saying. His wrists were rubbed raw by the cord, the skin beginning to break. His arms and shoulders felt stiff. If he pushed back against the cord, trying to stretch them, his muscles seized up and prickled. But the pain on the outside of his body was merely numbness. Inside, the caustic was burning his throat, down the lining of his esophagus and into his stomach.
The conversation by the stairs stopped.
“What time is it?” Cortney heard the short man ask.
The taller man held his watch up to the dim light.
By now Cortney could distinguish the two men by their footsteps: the short man stepped lightly, almost daintily, on the stairs, while the bigger man lumbered. As he lay in the darkness, Cortney heard heavy footsteps tramp up the stairs and those of the short man follow. The bolt on the back door clacked open and the taller man slipped through the doorway. As the door closed and the bolt snapped shut, the vehicle parked in back started up and the exhaust reverberated against the door until the tires edged forward and moved slowly across the gravel.
The short man tread lightly down the stairs, crossed the room, and slid open the panel door. He stepped into the workshop and again reached up to twist the naked light bulb into its socket. The yellowish light fell through the doorway, and with it the man’s shadow, gliding back and forth across the carpet, looming larger then smaller, sometimes disappearing altogether. At times Cortney could hear him beyond the workshop, shuffling boxes at the rear of the stockroom.
Before long he heard the same vehicle back up against the building. The engine died, then five hard knuckle raps came at the back door. The short man unscrewed the light bulb in the workshop, pulled the panel door shut, and ran up the stairs. The bolt clicked back and the door opened. Cortney heard the heavy footsteps of the taller man as he stepped inside.
The basement was dark. The shaft of light that once beamed down the stairs had turned from gold to gray, and the gray had slowly darkened until only the faint light of the street lamp found its way through the window of glass brick, and even that now faded into the blackness at the bottom of the stairs. When Cortney opened his eyes, he could see nothing. Behind him he heard his mother’s raspy breathing. The coughs from deep within her chest jolted her body and broke the silence, as did the others with their coughing. Cortney burned inside, and bubbles were beginning to form in his throat, making it difficult for him to breathe. He tried to cough the bubbles out, but each time he coughed they quickly formed again.
Upstairs, the two men moved as before, back and forth, stepping on the fire grating. But now there was no pattern of quick heavy footsteps out and long strides back in. They shuffled from one side of the shop to the other, starting near the street entrance and working their way back into the sound room above Cortney’s head. He could hear the rustle of cloth or tissue paper, wiping sounds, as though the men were dusting the shelves and equipment. The footsteps and the rustling moved through the sound room and ended at the back door, where one of the men rubbed hard on the doorknob.
The short man tiptoed down the dark stairs, felt his way across the room to the panel door, and again twisted on the light in the workshop. The glow from the bulb spread into the black room where Cortney and the others lay, lighting parts of it, leaving the rest in soft gray shadow. In the dim light the taller man walked heavily down the stairs, and the two of them continued wiping and rubbing in the basement.
When they had finished, the men stood in the shaft of light coming through the panel door from the workshop. Cortney heard the thin, crisp snap of rubber, like surgical gloves being pulled tight. The short man stood over Mr. Walker. He bent down and removed Mr. Walker’s watch from his wrist. Then he slid his hand into Mr. Walker’s back pocket and pulled out his wallet. He unfolded the wallet and flipped through its contents.
The taller man was watching.
“How much’s he got in there?” he asked.
“Five bucks,” said the short man. He ripped it out of the wallet.
“No,” said the taller man, “take the whole thing.”
The short man stood up and stuffed the wallet into his pants. Cortney heard light footsteps coming toward him, then felt a hand slide into his back pocket and take out his wallet. He had on no watch or rings, but lying behind him, his mother was wearing expensive jewelry: a gold Rolex wristwatch, a large diamond ring, and an ornate ring of gold and jade. Michelle too was wearing a watch, a diamond engagement ring on her left hand, and another gold ring set with a ruby on her right. Around her neck was a gold necklace. The man took Carol’s purse and that of Michelle, and removed the wallets of the men, but when he had finished, the jewelry on both women was left untouched.
At the base of the stairs now, the two men again were arguing. Their voices were low and the words hard to distinguish, but it was clear the argument was over what to do with their captives. The talk went back and forth, and got louder and louder, until finally Cortney heard the taller one say: “No, I can’t do it, man! I’m scared!”
The short man snapped something back, then said, “Give me about thirty minutes.”
The taller man ran up the stairs. The bolt clicked open. The door swung wide and quickly closed again.
Want to keep reading? Download Victim, by Gary Kinder, today.
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Featured photo of victims (from left to right) Michelle Ansley, Stanley Walker, Cortney Naisbitt, Carol Naisbitt: Find A Grave; Orren Walker not pictured.