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 home. 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 3:30 pm, 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 (whose name was not mentioned in the broadcast). The two boys 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 her son 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 door to the shack had not been locked or obstructed in any way. A few feet from the door, 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 the death of her son. In 1978, a convicted felon came forward, claiming that he witnessed Scott and Peter being thrown into the shack by two men. The felon's statement was backed up by the couple who reported the fire. Tena Moe and John Kalous were teenagers at the time of the fire. They remembered seeing one man standing next to the shack door and another man running up the hill away from them. Tena and John 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 witness 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 have 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 his friend saw this incident transpire, resulting in their murders. This is unconfirmed. However, three weeks prior to the fire, Scott and Peter found a $100 bill near the shack. Some suspect that the money was used for drug activity.
In 1978, a convicted felon named Dale Gordon Meador claimed to have information on the case. At the time of the fire, Meador 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 both boys into the shack. One of the boys 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 the men told him that the boys had seen them smoking pot, and that they put the boys 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 Meador, Marc Stubblefield, has been questioned, but no charges have ever been filed against this person.
The couple who reported the fire to police backed up Dale's story, claiming that two unidentified men were seen around the shack when it was set on fire.
Extra Notes: This segment originally aired on the May 20, 1992 episode of Unsolved Mysteries. For unknown reasons, Scott's friend who also died in the fire'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 the newspaper wrote an article about the fire. Meador claimed that the article unjustly accused him of being responsible for the boys' deaths. The court denied his request for a preliminary injunction. Meador 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
- 1978 Article on Fire
- Gordon Meador v. New Times, Inc
- Peter Hill at Find a Grave