In 1996, Zachary Snarr was killed while on a date. Then his mother received a letter in the mail.

It was August 28, 1996, and Salt Lake City native, Zachary Snarr had not long graduated from high school.

He was 18 years old, and preparing to begin college the following week. 

On that August evening, he took Yvette Rodier on their first 'official' date.

Zachary and Yvette had enjoyed a long friendship throughout high school, sharing most classes together.

"Zach Snarr... made me laugh. And that connected us from the very beginning," Yvette later told CBS News. 

Zachary decided to take Yvette to watch the rising full moon at Little Dell Reservoir, just outside the city. 

"We just started driving up the canyon. I remember feeling that little twinge of excitement when you realise you really have a crush on someone and that they have a crush on you," said Yvette.

"I remember thinking, 'I'm gonna get a kiss tonight. Zach's gonna kiss me tonight.' Zach turned into this parking lot. And he said, 'Well, I've got a surprise for you.'"

Photography was one of Zachary's passions, and he wanted to share it with Rodier. 

He pulled out his photography equipment and promised Yvette to teach her how to capture the moon. 

But he never got to take one photo. 

Suddenly Zachary was attacked from behind. 

He was shot three times; twice in the head, and once in the abdomen. 


Zachary Snarr was shot and killed on August 28, 1996. Image: Snarr Family Photo/Deseret News.

Yvette was also shot several times at point blank range. 

The attacker approached her, as she lay fallen on the ground. 

"All I could think of in my mind was hearing my dad saying, 'If a grizzly ever attacks you, you need to hold still and play dead.' And so I held my breath, and I didn't close my eyes, and I stayed as still as I could. And when he moved my body, I just let it move with him because I needed to be dead for him."


The gunman touched Yvette on the hips, and she said that was when she became "really afraid", thinking he was going to rape her.

"That terrified me much more than what he had just done to us."

"His face is ... close to me. And he's breathing on me."

She remained still, and he reached into her pockets - "for money, I assume".

And then, he ran away. 

Yvette heard Zachary's car start. She yelled his name.

"... And it was so quiet. And I yelled again, 'Zach'. And it was the worst silence that I've ever heard in my whole life."


Despite bleeding profusely, somehow Yvette crawled a few hundred feet up the reservoir to the highway. Some hikers were approaching, also making their way to the Reservoir to observe the lunar display.

Boris DeGranda was one of the hikers.

"All of a sudden, in the headlights in front of us, crawled out from the side of the brush, this woman, covered in blood," he said.

They alerted the authorities.

When police arrived, they realised the offender had stolen Zachary's vehicle, and instead left behind their old white truck.

Meanwhile, Yvette was airlifted to hospital. 


She recalls, "I do remember looking out at the sky and being up in the air and feeling safe. And it's probably the last moment of peace I felt for a long time."


It was 12.45am when Sy Snarr awoke to her doorbell. 

"And I sat straight up in bed, and I said, 'Zach's not home'. And it's like it hit me - Zach's not home."

"What's happened to my son?," she demanded from the two detectives in her home.

They explained there had been a shooting. 

"I was in such shock... I was hearing what they were saying, but it just wasn't registering. And I remember finally saying, 'Are you telling me my son's dead?'.

"It just was not real to me, and I couldn't accept that it had happened, and I just said, 'I have to go to the hospital. I have to go see Yvette'."

Yvette Rodier speaks to news reporters from her hospital bed. Image: KSL TV.


Yvette recalls Sy's embrace at her bedside. She recalls her first words to her: "We are so glad you lived."

But Yvette wasn't. 

"I felt horrible at that moment that I had lived. And I would have given anything to switch and to let Zach be there and let them be hugging their own son."


"They caught him, they caught him," Zachary's father, Ron Snarr, exclaimed to the family after seeing the headlines on the nightly news. 

19-year-old Jorge Benvenuto had developed a recent fascination with death. A few days before the shooting, he confessed to buying a gun. According to TheCinemaholic, he allegedly had been contemplating taking his own life on the night of the fateful shooting. Then he saw the two teens, and decided to open fire on them instead. 

Benvenuto then searched the pockets of both his victims, stealing Zachary's car key and wallet. 


Police caught him buying cookies at a gas station with the last of Zachary's money. 

A young Jorge Benvenuto. Image: Benvenuto Family Photo/Deseret News.

An immigrant from Uruguay, it was reported that Benvenuto's house had been robbed just a couple weeks prior to the shooting, "and it made him very angry," shared Sy. 

Detective Keith Stephens of Salt Lake City Sheriff's Office interviewed Benvenuto. 


"... Part of his [Benvenuto's] explanation [for the killing] was that he was tired of living himself, that he wanted to do something so bad that he would have the courage to then kill himself, but he said, in fact, he'd lost his nerve after shooting both of these individuals.

"He had a real - power trip with the firearm. This made him feel powerful, and somehow - in control of things."

Sy Snarr recalled, "He had told them, 'I just wanted to watch someone die... I wanna see what it feels like to kill someone'."

For Benvenuto, it was a random 'thrill kill'. 

He was charged with one count of aggravated murder (a capital offense punishable by the death penalty), one count of attempted aggravated murder, and two counts of aggravated robbery.

With trial delays due to Benvenuto's mental health and competence, he finally entered a guilty plea on October 15, 1997.

"I think I really hated Jorge Benvenuto. And it was like a cancer spreading through my whole body. I wanted to hurt him. I wanted to hurt him like he had hurt Zach," said Sy.

The Snarr family pushed for the death penalty.

But 15 months after the shootings, Benvenuto was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for this random, needless, and senseless act of violence.



Days trickled into months, that rolled into years, and the loss of Zachary was still as crippling as ever for his family. 

Yvette continued to harbour severe guilt over her survival - and was terrified that Benvenuto would come back "to finish the job" on her. 

Since the original sentence, Benvenuto filed - and lost - several appeals. 

For 17 years Benvenuto sat in maximum security prison. He wanted to write an apology to the Snarr family and to Yvette. He served time mostly in isolation, creating "an even darker and more resentful mental state," he explained in a letter to KSL News Radio.

"It hindered me from getting to the point in which I could contact them. 

"Maybe that’s one of the reasons it took me so long. I always found a reason to put it off for another day."

Jorge Benvenuto. Image: Utah Department of Corrections/KSL News Radio.


Over the years, he penned many letters to the family. But they all ended up in the garbage bin. 

He worried that he "didn't have the words to [apologise]... that I couldn't articulate in the way I wanted to."

"They were never good enough," he wrote. "What does one say to those one has hurt so much? But I kept feeling that it was something I had to do."

Finally, he wrote a letter he felt comfortable to post. Against legal advice, he sent it.

And from it blossomed something he never expected. 


In January 2019, much to his surprise, Benvenuto received a letter back from Sy. 

"It wasn't even a full page," she reflected, "but I just told him how much I appreciated his letter."

Over time, Sy's anger had given way to forgiveness. And she told him that. 

A few weeks later, Benvenuto's mother, Nelida, also wrote an apology to the Snarr family.


It was the beginning of many letters and phone calls between them all. 

Ron and Sy Snarr read a letter from their son’s killer, Jorge Benvenuto. Image: Scott G Winterton/Deseret News.

Sy shared one of the letters she received from Benvenuto:

"Dear Sy, 

I wanted you to know that the letter and messages that you have sent me since January have been very difficult for me to read. It is not what I expected. 


It was somehow easier for me in the past, when you and your family were angry at me and hated me. I understood that reaction. 

But the change of heart that you and your family have had and the forgiveness that you’ve expressed toward me have left me feeling humbled, undeserving of it, and without words to respond to you. I feel that I owe you and your family so much. I wish there was something I could do."

Sy was humbled.

And in February 2020, she visited to the Central Utah Correctional Facility to meet the man who killed her son. 

Sy's friend Dru Weggland Clark accompanied her to the prison. She recalls of their meeting, "I was standing behind Sy, and he said, ‘I’m so sorry I took him from you.’ And Sy said, 'I know you are.'"

They then sat and spoke for two hours, during which time Dru says she witnessed a "physical change" come over Sy.

"She was radiant," she said. "The bluest eyes – I mean, I’ve been with her all morning, all of a sudden her blouse took on this radiant, she was glowing. She expressed her … beyond forgiveness, the redemption for Jorge."

The meeting binded Sy and Benvenuto. They continued to chat weekly on the phone.

11 months later, the Snarr's met with Benvenuto's defense attorney, Mark Moffat. 

"I’m hearing from Sy, and I’m hearing from Ron about how this letter that Jorge Benvenuto wrote to them changed their lives," Moffat said


"And it changed their perspective of him. It changed how they felt about what had happened about the death penalty."

Then, to Moffat's continued surprise, Sy suggested they look at any avenues that may ensure freedom for Benvenuto: a commutation of his sentence of life without the possibility of parole. 

While Benvenuto's future still looks uncertain, Sy wants peace and healing for the families. 

"We don’t want them to suffer anymore. We love them. I mean, we literally love this family. They’re our family now."

Meanwhile, Yvette made it clear that she did not want to receive any contact from the Benvenuto. 

Since the shooting, she has endured multiple surgeries, including sustained nerve damage, hearing loss, memory loss, a severe limp and enduring trauma.

"I'm still afraid during full moons," she said, continuing, "Not really afraid of the moon, but just that something bad could happen during a full moon."

The Letter is an eight-part podcast series by KSL Podcasts which explores the shooting of Zachary Snarr and Yvette Rodier. 

Keen to read more from Rebecca Davis? You can find her articles here, or follow her on Instagram.

Feature image: Snarr Family Photo/Deseret News.