Putting Down the Rocks

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Life after Zach’s murder is painful and complicated, but the Snarrs find a way forward through their grief. Sy and Ron try to be the parents their other children need while his siblings build lives in which he only exists as a memory. Another tragedy strikes.

Get more information and photos on our website, theletterpodcast.com.

Researched and reported by Amy Donaldson

Written by Amy Donaldson and Andrea Smardon

Production and sound design by Andrea Smardon

Mixing by Trent Sell

Special thanks to Nina Earnest, Becky Bruce, KellieAnn Halvorsen, Ryan Meeks, Ben Kuebrich, Josh Tilton and Dave Cawley.

Main musical score composed by Allison Leyton Brown

With KSL Podcasts Executive Producer Sheryl Worsley

For Lemonada Media, Executive Producers Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs

And Executive Producers Paul Anderson and Nick Panella with WorkHouse Media.

The Letter is produced by KSL Podcasts and Lemonada Media in association with WorkHouse Media.

Surviving a barrage of bullets is just the start of what Yvette Rodier will have to do to reclaim her life. The emotional damage will take far longer to heal than the physical bullet wounds. She gets married, has a child and chooses a career that allows her to use her past to help others.

Despite the looming shadow of the shooting, her life is one of beauty and generosity; of resilience and hope.

Get more information and photos on our website, theletterpodcast.com.

Researched and reported by Amy Donaldson

Written by Amy Donaldson and Andrea Smardon

Production and sound design by Andrea Smardon

Mixing by Trent Sell

Special thanks to Nina Earnest, Becky Bruce, KellieAnn Halvorsen, Ryan Meeks, Ben Kuebrich, Josh Tilton and Dave Cawley

Main musical score composed by Allison Leyton Brown

With KSL Podcasts Executive Producer Sheryl Worsley

For Lemonada Media, Executive Producers Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs

And Executive Producers Paul Anderson and Nick Panella with WorkHouse Media

The Letter is produced by KSL Podcasts and Lemonada Media in association with WorkHouse Media.

The Letter is sponsored by Hunt a Killer, immersive mystery games where you get to be the detective. Get $10 off at huntakiller.com/theletter with code THELETTER.
For a full list of current sponsors and discount codes for this and all other Lemonada series, you can visit lemonadamedia.com/sponsors
See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.



Sy Snarr, Drew, Ron Snarr, Amy Donaldson, Sydney, Yvette Rodier

Amy Donaldson  00:01

A warning to listeners. This podcast includes descriptions of gun violence and associated trauma. Please take care when listening.

Sy Snarr  01:33

I sit in my living room and everywhere I looked, I would see Zach, sitting on the couch playing his guitar or walking through the door, saying mom, I’m home you know, and I was sobbing I was just sitting there sobbing and this was quite a while just missing him.

Amy Donaldson  01:56

In the months after Sy Snarr son was murdered, grief saturated every moment.

Sy Snarr  02:04

I remember looking up, and my oldest son was standing there. And he just looked so sad. When I looked at him, he just walked out of the room. That was the kick in my gut, I think that I needed when he saw me. So upset and he looked so sad and just turned around and left the room. I realized I had let the death of one child become more important than the lives of three more that I loved every bit as much as that. And it just brought me up short, like what am I doing? What am I doing to my family. I just knew that I had to change but I didn’t think I could towards my feelings for Jorge Benvenuto.

Amy Donaldson  02:56

From KSL podcast, I’m Amy Donaldson. And this is THE LETTER, Episode Five, Putting Down The Rocks. The snares hoped that the sentencing of George Benvenuto would bring closure that he would be locked away for the rest of his life, and that they could somehow forget about him. But George’s legal team threw a wrench into that plan. They wanted to withdraw his guilty plea. That meant the families involved would be left in legal limbo for years. The idea that the Snarr’s could put this behind them turned out to be a mirage. In the meantime, so I had to go on living. But how do you sit through a parent teacher conference or consider what to make for dinner? When everything reminds you of what you’ve lost?

Sy Snarr  03:50

I didn’t want to leave the house I didn’t. I just would curl up in the fetal position. Honestly, it was just so painful and just that pain and then the anger or anger at everything and everybody I was angry at him. Obviously I was angry at God for allowing this to happen to my son. I would see other 18 year olds out there and I think why are you here and my son not and I know that’s totally irrational. But that’s where I was at that time. I’d see people out, running and laughing and I think how can they do that? Was I ever that way and I thought I’ll never be happy again. I really, truly believed I will never be happy again. I can’t smile, I can’t laugh. It was just so devastating.

Drew  04:47

I personally had never seen anyone with such a physical manifestation of grief.

Amy Donaldson  04:54

Sy’s neighbor and close friend Drew […] witnessed the worst of it.

Drew  05:00

Just when you hugged her you could just broken. I mean just distraught.

Amy Donaldson  05:04

Yeah, but you could see that she was in pain? 

Drew  05:07

Oh, absolutely feel it. See it. 

Amy Donaldson  05:10

Drew moved into the neighborhood back in 1978. The year Zach was born.

Drew  05:14

I remember him especially as a little boy in overalls, just a darling, darling little child.

Amy Donaldson  05:23

She admired how the Snarr’s raised their children. And Drew was there when I gave birth to their youngest son, Levi.

Drew  05:30

I remember that well, because I was pregnant with my first child, and I was watching her intensely. And they were a great role model about how to raise a family. All the kids knew how to work, how to get things done, but they also knew how to have great family times and fun.

Amy Donaldson  05:54

Zach’s older sister Sidney, says it was fun growing up a Snarr.

Sydney  05:59

I grew up in a really happy home. My childhood was ideal. I loved my brothers. They love me. My parents were excellent. We just had so much laughter and joy in our home. And really, we were a family that truly loved and enjoyed each other. So after Zach died, my parents just we were changed. No more family pictures, no more family vacations, no more family dinners. Because how could it be called that, when we were missing. You know, our heart.

Amy Donaldson  06:39

Sydney didn’t just lose her brother. She lost the larger than life woman who raised her. She lost her prank pulling joke telling dad.

Sydney  06:48

My was she was always such a fun, energetic, passionate person who just loved to grab life by the horns. You know, everything was ah, oh, you know, everything. Nothing. Was never like if a taco was good. She wasn’t like this is a good taco. She was just like, oh, it’s to die for. Oh, this is the best taco and you know, everything was in caps and exclamation points and emojis. My mom before. And suddenly she just she lost that sparkle. For a long time. She was so, she just became quiet. And she just was so into her grief that I think for a while she just had to withdraw from all of us. Which, which I get. And then my dad, he was beforehand he was just this fun loving big laughter You know, we he laughs with his whole body and just this fun magnet for people. Right and afterwards, he was so sad. We had a dog that we had for about a year before Zach died and my dad wanted nothing to do with it. And then Zach died. And after that, I’d look outside and see my dad sitting on the porch with the dog just sitting next to him and my dad would just have his arm around our golden retriever and would just be crying into his neck. That he just, he was so alone.

Amy Donaldson  08:34

Their individual heartbreak somehow isolated them from each other in ways they’ve never experienced.

Sydney  08:42

I knew I needed help. We all did. But I would go home and I’d see how traumatized and depressed and anguished my parents were. And I was like, I can’t add to that. And Trent did the same and leave I did the same. And we all just suffered on our own. I knew my family was there for me. And they knew I was there for them. But it’s like you just how can I add to your burden.

Amy Donaldson  09:21

I desperately wanted to change for the sake of her living children. But she didn’t know how to live and love was such sadness and rage. She sought help from a counselor.

Sy Snarr  09:33

What I liked about it was that she let me yell and scream and say how I was feeling and didn’t tell me you can’t feel that way. You know, so many people right from the get go. You have to forgive him. And it made me so angry. Like I don’t have to forgive him. I will never forgive him. I don’t want to ever forgive him. You know and even my own sister Do you have to forgive him? 

Amy Donaldson  10:02

Were you even able to discuss forgiving him? 

Sy Snarr  10:08

And I said, it’s not gonna happen. I don’t want to, you know, I hate him. I said that so many times I hate him. Never had I felt that amount of hatred towards another human being where I was literally obsessed with it, and it overtook who I was.

Amy Donaldson  10:24

And so I wasn’t alone in her hatred. It consumed the entire family.

Sy Snarr  10:30

My youngest son, Levi, who was only 15. At the time, I think I saw the biggest change in him. He just plummeted. And he was so angry. And he would pick he was a big kid. He was 6’4. I was calling my gentle giant because he was so sweet to me that he would pick fights. And that was his outlet, unfortunately, and he’d come home, sometimes with big bruises. And I worried because he said so many times I want to kill him. I’m I want to kill him. And I kind of got it because for a long time, I did too. But it scared me to hear my youngest son say that.

Amy Donaldson  11:11

But over time, says something shifted for Levi.

Sy Snarr  11:17

He just went out of the blue one night said You know; I wouldn’t kill him. I wouldn’t kill him anymore. I might still hurting bad, but I wouldn’t kill him. And that was huge. He did a total turnaround. He started exercising and he was happy again. And that made me so happy to have him back is sweet. Because he was so sweet. My protector I was calling my protector because he had always put his arm around me. I’ll protect you mama.

Amy Donaldson  11:52

Gradually, Drew says she started to see glimpses of the friends that she knew and loved. She tried to plan out into a sigh and Ron to pull them back into some semblance of normal life. One of those was taking Sy to a movie. 

Drew  12:07

I can’t remember the movie. It was kind of a comedy and she laughed hysterically. And it’s like, this is great. She’s laughing. I didn’t watch the movie. I was more watching her reaction.

Amy Donaldson  12:18

While the heaviness of grief was always there. Sydney said there were moments of joy. Just over a year after Zach’s death. Sydney got married.

Sydney  12:28

I remember when I got married, my mom was like we need to have make this a party. Because we need something to celebrate. We have to have something to look forward to.

Amy Donaldson  12:37

And then came the first grandchild. Zachary Taylor Davis, born in October of 2000. They called him Taylor. But he would carry Zach’s name.

Sy Snarr  12:53

And my life changed. I was like so in love with this boy. And I remember, they lived in New Hampshire at the time, and I was up in his nursery rocking him. It was just him and me. And I started just talking to him. And he was an infant, a newborn. And I just start talking to him about Zack, and I’m not making this up. And I’m not kidding. He looked right at me. And he just started just like trying to say something I know he was it’s like he knew what I was saying. And I thought he you know him. You know, Zack, I know he did. And it’s like he couldn’t communicate. That’s always been such a split. I don’t think I’ve ever told Taylor about that. But it was really special to me.

Sydney  13:43

I think with my parents, the burden really started to lighten with the birth of their grandkids. Being a grandparent for my parents brings them like so much joy. My parents took on that role with […]. Like they ate it up. And so that was when things started to kind of lift.

Amy Donaldson  14:11

Sydney had four children, Trent got married and had three. his firstborn son was also named Zachary, Zachary Snarr. So, Sy and Ron refer to them as the seven wonders of the world.

Sydney  14:29

However, I will say that my marriage, the birth of all four kids, all of their little milestones that they’ve hit all of their accomplishments, all of the joy that we’ve had. There has always been that dark shadow there with us. I’ve carried this rage on my shoulders and my parents have and my brothers have for a long time and

Sydney  14:57

 every good thing that happened that ugly sludge of hatred and anger and rage and sadness was there with us. You know, I, the birth of my child, I was 99% happy. And then there was that, you know, it was there. It was always there.

Amy Donaldson  15:23

Motherhood gave Sydney unique insight into her own mother’s pain.

Sydney  15:27

I remember the very first time my eldest son, Taylor, when he was born, the doctors put him in my arms, and I looked down at him. And I just started crying. And I looked at my mom who was in the room. And I just said, how did you do it? Like I can’t imagine I it was so hard to lose a brother. And I look at my children. And I can’t even, I won’t allow myself to imagine because it’s too painful, it’s too overwhelming.

Amy Donaldson  16:14

After the break, Sy offered the chance to meet with her son’s killer. As the years went by, Sy I couldn’t help wondering if Jorge Benvenuto ever thought about Zach. Jorge had never spoken in court. And she wanted to know if he was sorry. Then in 2003, seven years after her son’s murder, she met someone who worked for a restorative justice program. And she was offered the chance to meet with Jorge.

Sy Snarr  19:46

And I said yeah, I’d like to do that because I thought surely.

Amy Donaldson  19:52

Sy attended training to prepare for the experience.

Sy Snarr  19:56

And so I went through all the training and I didn’t tell my family because I thought they would not agree with me that I should do this, but I just did it.

Amy Donaldson  20:06

She didn’t want to go alone. So she asked a friend to accompany her. They both had to undergo background checks, and they did everything they were asked to do. What I didn’t know, however, was that no one had talked to George about the program. No one had asked him if he wanted to meet with the mother of the man that he’d killed. So Sy and her friend, were all ready to go to the prison.

Sy Snarr  20:32

Then they went and approached him after I was ready to go and they said, they were talking to him, you just sit there kind of nodding. And then afterwards, he said, no, I’m not really interested and got up and left.

Amy Donaldson  20:45

After all, that, they told her Jorge did not want to speak to her.

Sy Snarr  20:50

And it’s like, what? I was so angry, I thought, How dare he deny me this?

Amy Donaldson  21:01

The failed meeting sent her into a tailspin. She went through all of this expecting to learn something that might help her understand why her son was murdered. She hoped for an apology instead, Sy I felt her suspicions that George had no regard for Zach or his family, or confirmed.

Sy Snarr  21:24

So it kind of set me back, you know, it set me back and I was really angry.

Amy Donaldson  21:37

A decade after Zach’s murder in 2006, there was a court hearing, where Jorge Benvenuto attempted to withdraw his guilty plea, Sy was allowed to speak. And at one point, she addressed him directly asking the questions that had tortured her for years.

Sy Snarr  21:53

What did I say? Yeah. I probably wasn’t very nice. I’m sure I wasn’t. I talked a lot about Zack and how amazing he was and what this had done to my family. I had always just wanted to know why. And I said, I guess the only person who can answer that is Jorge and I looked right at him. I said, So was it worth it? To watch someone die? And I just did there and he, he looked at me for one brief, split second looked back down and never said anything. He never said anything in court. They gave him the chance and he never did.

Amy Donaldson  22:33

The district judge turned down George’s request to withdraw his guilty plea, saying his claim lacked merit, and it came too late. But his legal team appealed once again, and he went all the way to the Utah Supreme Court. In July of 2007, the court ruled the plea could not be withdrawn, because it was made due to overwhelming evidence of guilt. Jorge Bienvenidos life sentence without the possibility of parole would stand.

Sy Snarr  23:04

Then I thought it’s really over. And it was but it took 11 years.

Amy Donaldson  23:12

Waiting so long for justice felt unfair to Ron.

Ron Snarr  23:18

took 11 years and it’s a done deal. You know, there’s an eye witness. And I witnessed the crime and 11 years in court. But what you know there’s something wrong with the justice system. I still think.

Amy Donaldson  23:31

Just a few months before the Supreme Court put an end to legal battles live dealt the Snarr’s another devastating blow. Their youngest son, Levi, Sy’s gentle giant, her protector, was diagnosed with cancer.

Sy Snarr  23:52

He had a very rare cancer, epithelioid sarcoma, which is they told us from the get go, there’s no cure. I said you just treat him because there’s someone with more power than you because I truly believed I would not lose another son.

Amy Donaldson  24:13

In the wake of Zach’s death both Ron and sigh shower their youngest son with more attention and affection.

Ron Snarr  24:20

Levi is the baby boy and after that he died. He was never told no, you know, brand new truck after a year.

Amy Donaldson  24:28

Ron said he’d go on trips to the Snake River in Wyoming Levi and a group of his friends and Levi would drive the pack truck with a kind of recklessness that sometimes scared Ron.

Ron Snarr  24:39

You know we going up the canyon 90 miles an hour we go River Run and 6-8 eight guys in the truck and it was rain and he’s going 80 miles an hour up the canyon. You know, we live please slow down. He says Dad is my driving driver I want

Amy Donaldson  24:54

then when Levi got sick, he had to go to chemotherapy twice a day and Ron took the wheel.

Ron Snarr  25:00

and now the shoes on the other foot and I’m bringing him home from the hospital and he’s dying. He’s just deteriorating in front of me. And he said, Dad, you’re even with me,  he says […] you deserve. 

Amy Donaldson  25:21

The teasing was their way of beating back more heartbreak.

Ron Snarr  25:25

In his truck and everything. And he said, Dad, when I pass, he says sell my truck.

Amy Donaldson  25:35

Why did he want to sell it?

Ron Snarr  25:40

Too hard on me.

Amy Donaldson  25:43

Eventually, the treatments became too much for Levi. Before the cancer, Levi had a goal to visit all the seven continents with his mother. They had been to six when he began his treatment. Only Africa remained on the bucket list.

Sy Snarr  25:59

And he just said, you know, I’m gonna quit my treatments. He says I want to, I’m gonna quit my treatments and I want to go to Africa and I’m gonna go live with my brother. And that’s what he did.

Amy Donaldson  26:16

Six weeks after they got home from Africa, Levi died. He was buried next to his brother. The two sons occupy the plots that were originally intended for sigh and Ron. the cruelty of losing both of their boys was debilitating.

Sy Snarr  26:36

Yeah, I wanted to die for a long time. I used to think why would anybody want to die? Just how could anybody be that depressed? You know, I never understood it. I get it. I get what it’s like to be that depressed, where you literally do not want to get out of bed. I did not want to get out of bed. I did not want to go on with my life. I wanted to die.

Amy Donaldson  27:00

While sigh was drowning in despair, Ron was consumed with rage. This time, there was no one to blame.

Amy Donaldson  27:08

When Levi died, it was I say like the straw that broke the camel’s back with him to lose two sons. He just was angry. And I know one time there was a bad lightning storm and he was up the University of Utah, out on the baseball field, I believe. And he just put his arms up and said, come and take me God, take me, you know, strike me down. I mean, he was like me, it’s like, what, you know, what is going on here? We’ve lost you know, these two amazing sons different, totally different ways. But both were so painful. And you’re just trying to get over, you know, get on with losing one and kind of getting to where you think, Okay, I’m surviving this day by day, you know, and then we lose another one and it was just too much.

Amy Donaldson  29:19

After the break Sy decides it’s time for change. Sy says the five years after Levi’s death were hell. She was tired of grief. She was talking tired of being angry. Her rage turned her into a person she didn’t recognize. She knew she wanted to change. But she did not know how.

Sy Snarr  30:10

When you have that much hatred and anger, you become that you are angry and hateful. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like what I’d become.

Amy Donaldson  30:22

Then Sy got a call from a woman at her church who wanted to give a talk about forgiveness. The story she wanted to tell was about a victim of a murder. And the woman was worried that if she spoke at church, it might upset Sy.

Sy Snarr  30:37

Actually, I’d kind of like to hear it, you know, I’d be interested to hear it. She just gave us most amazing talk about that. And it just hit me, I thought, I want to be like that. I want to feel that I want to be able to forgive him. You know. And it was a process, I’ve likened it to backpacks full of rocks, that you have to let go a little at a time.

Amy Donaldson  31:08

You may have heard of this backpack full of rocks. It’s a common analogy used in the mental health field. That helps people visualize how anger, stress and shame can create an emotional weight that we might not even be aware we’re carrying with us. The idea is to take out a rock, acknowledge what you’ve been carrying, and then put it down. The goal, eventually, is to empty the backpack.

Sy Snarr  31:41

It doesn’t happen overnight. It did not happen overnight for me.

Amy Donaldson  31:46

Sy, says it took about 15 years until she was able to finally let go. It was a slow and deliberate process.

Sy Snarr  31:55

You know, I just quit thinking about it. I quit thinking about him, I quit hating him, quit dwelling on him. And I just thought, you know, I’ve got to go on.

Amy Donaldson  32:09

It was a matter of shifting her focus from the way her son was killed, to the way her son lived.

Sy Snarr  32:17

When every time I found myself thinking about it, which was often because I thought about every day for years, you do you know, it’s something hard to not think about that I would just make I’d force my mind to go somewhere else. And after a while I realized, you know, I’m not thinking about Zach’s death. I thought about his life. I still do every day and celebrate it, you know, just how grateful I was to have him for 18 years and how awesome he was, you know, but I just couldn’t dwell on his death.

Amy Donaldson  32:55

Ron followed his wife’s lead, eventually realizing that the hatred he’d harbored was only hurting him and those he loved.

Ron Snarr  33:04

And the only one I was hurting or killing was myself. And I saw sick of it. You know, I said, I’ve been destroyed. I’ve destroyed myself and everybody around me. You know, nobody likes me. And I can see their point.

Amy Donaldson  33:18

Ron says It took him about 18 years, the length of Zach’s life. He remembers talking to a woman from church, a full time missionary. They were riding together in a truck for several hours to make a delivery at a girls camp in Wyoming.

Ron Snarr  33:34

She rode with me the girls camp and I said you know what I’m doing I’m gonna forgive Jorge, the pain of it all is killing me. You know, it’s destroyed me. And so Jesus is right, love one another. He taught us the whole Gospels about love. It’s just not love. The people you love is love everybody, even those who wronged me. Because Jesus can forgive them, we all can.

Amy Donaldson  34:12

Once Ron decided to let go of their anger, they found it opened up possibilities that had been close to them for years.

Ron Snarr  34:20

the weight of the world lifted off my shoulder and I can be nice and I can smile and I can laugh. Everybody’s got their own problems, you know, and I’ve got to live with mine and I’m going to do better with it. I’m going to change me first, and then try to help everybody change themselves to you know if I can do it, they can do it. You know, I’ve gone through a lot. I carried the hatred for so long.

Sy Snarr  34:49

I had total forgiveness for him. And it changed my life for so much better. So much better just to let go of that burden this way. Eat, it’s on you all the time. It was like this huge weight lifted from me.

Amy Donaldson  35:09

Sy I thought she had made it to a good place. As good as it would get in her lifetime. She began to feel lighter, happier. Although sometimes she’s still yearn for the chance to talk to her son’s killer.

Sy Snarr  35:26

I wish I could tell him I forgiven him; I’ll never get that chance.

Amy Donaldson  35:35

But Sy was wrong, she would have that chance. She and Ron had no idea how things would change with the arrival of a letter. Before we tell you about that letter and the impact that it had on the Snarr’s, we’re going to find out what happens to the survivor, Yvette Rodier, The fact that she lived and Zach didn’t haunts all of her decisions, and she struggles to reclaim her life. Next time on the LETTER.

Yvette Rodier  36:28

There must be a reason I’m here, right? I still, I need to do something. There’s got to be some sort of purpose.

CREDITS  36:54

THE LETTER is researched and reported by me, Amy Donaldson. It’s written by myself and Andrea Smardon, who is also responsible for Production and Sound Design. Mixing by Trent Sell. Special thanks to Nina Earnest, Becky Bruce, KellieAnn Halvorsen, Ryan Meeks, Ben Kuebrich, Josh Tilton and Dave Cawley. Main musical score composed by Allison Leyton Brown with KSL Podcasts Executive Producer Sheryl Worsley. For Lemonada Media, Executive Producers Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs And Executive Producers Paul Anderson and Nick Panella with WorkHouse Media. If you’d like our show, please give us a rating and review. It helps people find us follow us at the letterpodcast.com and on social at @theletterpodcast. The letter is produced by KSL podcasts and Lemonada Media in association with Workhouse Media.

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