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Man arrested in gruesome murders of 3 men missing since 2014

Posted at 12:39 PM, Jan 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-18 20:48:35-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Judy Collins has been counting the days since her son, Levi, vanished.

"Four years, two months and 17 days since I last seen my son. Four years, two months and 17 days since we’ve been waiting for justice," she told reporters on Friday. "My family, Danny’s family and Braden’s family."

On Friday, the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office announced it had filed charges against Richard Christopher, 53. He is facing three counts of aggravated murder, abuse and desecration of a body and other charges in connection with the disappearance of Danny "Kiko" Gallegos, Braden Emerson and Levi Collins.

Christopher was arrested outside the U.S. District Courthouse in Salt Lake City where he was checking in with a federal probation agent. He is currently in jail without bail pending a court hearing next week. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

At a news conference, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill read a probable cause statement outlining the crime. In 2014, a Chevy Tahoe was found in an industrial area with a "huge" amount of blood and a dog belonging to Gallegos. They also found some methamphetamine in the car and other items.

The men have never been found.

Charging documents base the case on testimony from a man named "J.C." He told police that Christopher shot and killed Gallegos when he showed up at a downtown jewelry store. He then killed the other two men, who happened to be with Gallegos.

"According to the Gallegos family, J.C. was enlisted by Gallegos to purchase a home for Danny Gallegos in J.C.’s name, just as he had done for Gallegos’ apartment, a Lamborghini and other high ticket items," Gill said.

The bodies were disposed of at a Utah County animal rendering plant, J.C. told police. Some small human bones, cell phone and key fragments were found in a campfire in Davis Co., charging documents said.

J.C. told another man he helped cover up a murder, police wrote in a probable cause statement filed with the charges.

Gill refused to identify his star witness. But in another case, federal authorities seized an RV and guns and arrested Justin Christopher and his father, Richard. During a court appearance in 2017, federal prosecutors revealed that Justin Christopher had acted as a "straw buyer" for Danny Gallegos. They also claimed in court that Gallegos had been an FBI informant on drug crimes.

Authorities in that case accused Justin Christopher of laundering drug money for Gallegos. The charging documents against Richard Christopher in state court include robbery.

While not disclosing the identity of "J.C.," Gill did confirm the witness has been offered a "use immunity" deal.

"It’s to testify truthfully to any actions that this person may be involved in. So if he testifies untruthfully, the agreement would not be applicable," he said.

Collins hugged police officers and investigators who worked on the case to solve her son's murder.

"Bittersweet. I was happy. Then I cried," she said. "It’s been a long time coming, been a long time."