Real Names: Scott Johnson and Peter Hill
Nicknames: No Known Nicknames
Location: Bullhead City, Arizona
Date: April 3, 1974
Details: The Johnson family moved to Bullhead City, Arizona, from California in 1973. Sue Johnson felt it was the perfect place to raise their children, eight-year-old Angel and seven-year-old Scott. Scott particularly like the desert area surrounding their new house. He often played with friends in an abandoned shack, previously used as a powder magazine, fifty yards away.
Tragedy struck on April 3, 1974, when at 3:30pm, the Bullhead City Fire Department was called to the shack, which was on fire. Inside, firefighters found the bodies of Scott and his six-year-old friend, Peter Hill. They had burned to death.
A few weeks later, the authorities ruled the death an accident. They believed that the boys had been playing with gasoline and matches when they caught themselves on fire. Sue could not believe that Scott had died accidentally. She felt that he and Peter would have been smart enough to simply leave the shack if it had caught fire.
Fire Chief Larry Adams agreed with Sue and believed that the fire was deliberately set. He noted that the shack door had not been locked or obstructed in any way. A few feet from it, he found a 2-by-12-inch wooden plank, with a circle burned into one side. This indicated to him that someone prevented the boys from exiting the shack. He believes that the killer(s) held the plank against the door to keep them inside because it was too hot for them to hold the metal door closed by their hands.
Despite Larry's findings, police closed their investigation. Sue soon began an eighteen year search for answers into Scott's death. In 1978, a convicted felon came forward, claiming that he witnessed the boys being thrown into the shack by two men. The felon's statement was backed up by Tena Moe and John Kalous, the couple who reported the fire. They were teenagers at the time. They remembered seeing one man standing next to the shack door and another one running up the hill away from them. They believe that the original investigators did not take them seriously because of their own troubles with the law.
Sue and Larry were eventually able to convince police that the deaths were homicides and she also located several witnesses to the possible murders. In 1989, a new police detective was able to get the case to be reopened as a homicide. However, much of the evidence from the deaths has been lost or destroyed, leaving police with little to go on unless a new witness comes forward.
Suspects: One theory is that the shack might have been as a meeting place for a drug drop and that Scott and Peter saw this incident transpire, resulting in their murders. This is unconfirmed. However, three weeks before the fire, they found a $100 bill near the shack. Some suspect that it was used for drug activity.
In 1978, a convicted felon named Dale Meador claimed to have information on the case. At the time of the fire, he lived in Bullhead City. He told investigators that on the day of the fire, he had seen two men struggling with two young boys near the shack. He claimed that the men shoved the boys into it. One of them appeared to be drugged. He also saw one of the men carrying a gas can.
Meador claimed that he went up to the men and asked what was happening. One of them told him that the boys had seen them smoking pot, and that they put them in the shack to keep them quiet. Meador told investigators that he later ran into one of the men while serving time in a Nevada prison in 1976. The inmate identified by him, Marc Stubblefield, has been questioned, but no charges have ever been filed against him.
Tena and John backed up Dale's story, claiming that two unidentified men were seen around the shack when it was set on fire.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the May 20, 1992 episode. For unknown reasons, Scott's friend's name was not mentioned in the broadcast, but was identified in news articles as six-year-old Peter Hill.
Results: Unsolved. In 1994, Dale Meador sought a preliminary injunction restraining the newspaper company New Times, Inc., from publishing his name. An author for it wrote an article about the fire. Meador claimed that it unjustly accused him of being responsible for the boys' deaths. The court denied his request for a preliminary injunction. He is currently serving a life sentence in Nevada for an unrelated crime.
Scott and Peter's families are still searching for a resolution to this case.
- Scott Johnson on Unsolved.com
- Two Boys Die in Shack Fire
- Deaths in fire now suspected murder cases
- Gordon Meador v. New Times, Inc
- Peter Hill on Find a Grave