Murder mystery solved; Casper native writes fantastic book


Some unsolvable and heinous Wyoming murders were the topic of a cover story of People Magazine a couple of years ago. They were even the topic of a biopic TV cable program that features unsolved murders.

The murders of Riverton’s Virginia Uden and her two sons back in 1980 was a 34-year-old crime that appeared to be the ultimate mystery.

Casper native Ron Franscell has written “Alice & Gerald: A Homicidal Love Story,” which is on sale across the state this month.

Franscell, 62, is a fantastic author.  His prose is among the best I have ever read. His writings about Wyoming are just wonderful. He now lives in San Antonio, Texas. Prior to that he was a national award-winning editor and publisher of the Gillette News-Record.

His books “The Darkest Night” and “The Sourtoe Cocktail Club” are two of the finest books I have read in the last twelve years. The first one is about horrific murders of two young sisters in Casper; the second is a personal memoir that tugs at the heart of any man with a son.  Franscell has written 13 books.

But back to the Udens.

I am close to this situation because Virginia was a part-time employee when we owned the Lander Journal.

Franscell has put together a mini book tour around Wyoming from April 10 to April 15. He will be signing books and in some cases, making a presentation. One of the best bookstore owners in Wyoming, Vicki Burger from Wind City Books in Casper, has been accompanying him to handle book sales.

Franscell’s schedule had him in Casper April 10, Cheyenne April 11, Riverton and Lander April 12, back to Casper April 14, and in Douglas April 15. 

Franscell seems to have had unparalleled access to Gerald and Alice and to law enforcement officials working on the case.  He paints a vivid picture of how Virginia Uden and her two sons were murdered. The detail included in the book is amazing and close to home, since so much of it occurred in Wyoming.

However, this mystery seemed destined to be perpetually unsolved. Then, just like that, it was solved.

And the answers to all of those questions are as horrible and grisly as anyone could have possibly imagined.

Gerald Uden was a worker at the U.S. Steel iron ore mine at Atlantic City, some 25 miles south of Lander in the Wind River Mountains.  Co-worker Kim Curtis remembered him as being  “scary.”

Virginia must have seen something in the guy as she was married to him for six years. Uden even adopted her two sons.

Five years ago, if you were watching TV or reading the newspaper, you knew what happened next. The story was on CNN, ABC and the New York Times among all the other state and national media outlets. The story was impossible to ignore; if you proposed to write about the Uden crimes as fiction, the story would not sell, because it is so unbelievable.

Gerald Uden and his new wife Alice both worked at the iron ore mine on South Pass.  As it turned out, Alice had earlier murdered her 25-year-old husband and dumped his body down a mineshaft in Albany County.

Then they conspired to rid Gerald of his obligations.

An acquaintance of Alice’s who worked with her at the mine, reported that Alice was always complaining about Gerald never having any money because he had to support Virginia and her boys. Thus, money appears to be the motive for the taking of these three lives.

On a fall day in September 1980, Gerald Uden convinced Virginia and her boys to meet him in Pavillion, Wyo., for some target practice. He waited until Virginia and Reagan had their backs turned to him and shot them both in the back of the head. He had to chase down Richard before shooting him in the head, too

The photos of the Uden boys may still be appearing on milk cartons. There were millions of images of the Udens spread across the country over the decades. 

Officers finally found Alice’s murdered husband’s body five years ago, and that led them to her and Gerald, who were then living in Missouri. 

Meanwhile, Fremont County officers never gave up trying to connect the dots. Credit also goes to a UW archeologist who, with eight students, spent some awful summer days in 2008 digging around in Uden’s old pigsty in Pavillion, looking for evidence of the Uden bodies. They were unsuccessful.

At this point, Gerald Uden, 76, has confessed, as has his wife Alice, 79. Both are serving the rest of their lives in Wyoming prisons.

What happened to the bodies, which was a mystery for more than three decades, is now known. Gerald claims he put Virginia, Reagan, and Richard in barrels and sunk the bodies to the bottom of the deepest lake in Wyoming, Fremont Lake east of Pinedale.

Franscell has some theories about all this and his book is one that is impossible to put down. If you attend his book signings, you will be enlightened.

Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books.  His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find them at www.wyomingwonders.com.

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