Pictured here, my wife’s Nancy’s great grandfather, Deputy Sheriff Richard Dallin Westwood. “RD” as he was known in Moab, Utah, had been elected as the first sheriff of Grand County. Back then the county had no jail, so Sheriff Westwood would bring the prisoners to his home. The desperados were incarcerated in one room of the two room cabin, separated from him and his wife by a thin curtain in the doorway between the rooms. Mrs. Westwood provided the meals to the prisoners.
RD stepped down as sheriff but was often pressed back into service over the years when the county needed him. It was then on the fateful day of September 5th, 1929, RD was serving as a deputy under then Sheriff J. B. Skewes when he was killed – gunned down in a jail break by two escaped bank robbers.
This area of Utah was made famous after the release of the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Butch and Sundance were real outlaws and passed through Grand County after their heists to take refuge in a secluded fortress like area of red rock backcountry called Robbers Roost. The Butch Cassidy gang was more of a nuisance to the citizens of Grand County; rustling the occasional cow for food or stealing a fresh horse should they encounter one. For the most part, then Sheriff Westwood had little contact with the famous outlaws.
Still the Utah backcountry was a haven for men on the lam. Such was the case in 1929 when bank robbers R. H. Elliott and Dilbert Pfoutz wandered into the mercantile store on the main street of Moab. The two men handed the clerk a bag of coin asking if he could change it into bills for them. A second clerk, suspicious of the men, called the sheriff; Skewes and deputy Westwood arrived on the scene.
Lawmen Skewes and Westwood had been alerted by Mesa County Colorado Sheriff that a bank had been robbed in Grand Junction. Westwood checked out the men’s Chevrolet parked in the street; it was full of camping gear and it had Colorado plates.
Back in the mercantile Sheriff Skewes asked the men if they were carrying any guns. No, the two men replied. But their suspicions aroused, Skewes had Westwood take the two back to the new jail and hold the men until deputies could arrive from Grand Junction. RD, now age 66, was put in charge of watching the prisoners while Sheriff Skewes went home to eat dinner. Within a half hour, the sheriff received a frantic call from the jail.
Skewes arrived at the jail and broke through the throng of people huddled around the door. There on the floor in a pool of blood lay deputy Richard Dallin Westwood, two bullet holes in his shoulder, one in his left side and one in his arm.
The desperados had hidden a stolen gun in their pants. Once they were alone in the jail with RD, as he opened the cell to give the men their dinner, they murdered him with the hidden gun, bolted for the door and ran for the Colorado River hoping to find a boat in which to make their escape.
As dark was falling a posse was assembled to ride out at dawn to look for the killers. The two had split up, heading in different direction. But cold, wet and hungry, and fearing they would be shot by the angry posse, the men surrendered after being found some miles down river.
Fearing another escape attempt, the men were lodged in the more secure Carbon County jail in Price, Utah. The men eventually were tried and convicted of murder and given long prison sentences. One of the men died in prison, the other was eventually released on parole.
Deputy Richard Dallin Westwood is memorialized by the Utah Law Enforcement Memorial, in the “Fallen” section. Nancy’s father was 5 years old when his grandfather was shot and killed in the jailbreak. He says he can still remember the funeral.
This article was written with the help of remembrances of Nancy's father, Melvin Westwood about his grandfather and from a photocopy from an old "Startling Detective" magazine article, date of publication unknown.