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48 Hours Live to Tell: Full Moon

Full Moon
Full Moon 41:05

Produced by Chris Young, Joan Adelman and Richard Barber
[This story originally aired on Dec. 4, 2010]

What if someone wants you dead... but you live to tell? Yvette Rodier gives a firsthand account of a random act of violence 15 years ago that claimed the life of her friend... and left her fearing for her life.

Yvette Rodier: It was a stunning summer night. The moon was out. Beautiful full moon.

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

On Aug. 28th, 1996, I went out on a date with my Zach.

It was the very first time he'd asked me out on a date. And a part of me just thought, "Why would I go on a date with you? You're my Zach. You're my friend." But then, I thought, "Absolutely."

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

Zach Snarr... made me laugh. And that connected us from the very beginning. In high school, we just really - it seemed like we had every class together... and he'd always have some smart alec remark to make when I walked in the classroom. And I think I started to look forward to those comments. To see, well, what would he say about me today?

While we're driving, 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."

And then he pulled out his photography equipment. Zach was gonna teach me how to take pictures. He loved black and white pictures and we were gonna get pictures of this full moon tonight.

We went down a cement pathway. ...we went down probably 100 yards. And I think it was about that time that a white truck pulled up. And in Utah, at 9, 8:30 at night, cars pull up in the mountains. You don't think anything at all.

The man in the truck started walking toward us.

And he asks me, "Do you know where this path goes?"

And I answered back saying something like, "Oh, I don't know. We've never been here." Or, "I'm not sure." And that's when I turned my back. And I don't know if Zach turned his head, too. But I hope that Zach turned away. Because that's when the man pulled out a gun and just open fire.

He aimed at us and let every single bullet out of his gun. Yvette Rodier: I screamed - a loud shriek... bright, bright lights... pungent, acidy smell in the air and my ears just started ringing. I don't know where the first bullet hit me, but my body just fell down. Then it's silent for a minute.

And then I remember thinking," This is over now. This is over." And it turns out that the man is reloading his gun. And he's getting bullets out of his pocket and putting them in his gun.

When, then, three or four more shots...

And they feel really close. And I can feel the speed - and almost just wind brushing by. Then he stops, finally. I don't dare move at that point.

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.

When he touched me on my hips, that was the first time I was really afraid. That's when I thought, "Well, he's gonna rape me." And that terrified me much more than what he had just done to us.

Because I didn't have a concept of what being shot was. But everybody's afraid to be raped.

But he didn't. Instead he was looking for money, I assume. And he reached in all my pockets.

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

And then the man ... ran up the mountain. And I know he's gone for sure when I hear Zach's car start up.

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

Well, I couldn't walk. I couldn't stand. But my arms were moving, and my left leg was moving. And I realized the closest way to get to the road was up the mountainside.

It felt so vertical that I just felt like I kept climbing up and then I'd fall back down. I could feel cars driving by. I could feel the - the wind brushing against my face. I knew I was so close to the road. But I have no idea how I got to the top.

And I kneeled on the side of the road and waved my arms ... to the first car, and it didn't stop.

Boris DeGranda, Hiker: Our plan was to get there in time to watch the moon rise.

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

It was like a horror movie, but much worse. Because it's real.

Polly Wirum/Hiker: She was - in shock. But she was able to hold a conversation.

The victim told me her name was Yvette Rodier and that she and her friend had been shot. I wanted to help the person below ... but I was afraid to go down there.

Boris DeGranda: At this point, it was getting a little scary because we didn't know if the person who had shot her was still lurking in the area. She was in and out of consciousness ... and every once in a while she kept saying. "When is the help coming?" And we kept saying, "They're coming, they're coming."

Photos: Deadly first date
Video: Yvette reunites with the hikers who saved her
Video: Life Flight paramedic recalls rescue

Yvette Rodier: I remember getting in the helicopter - on the gurney, you know, facing straight up to the sky, and one of the first things this paramedic in the helicopter says is, "Well, you know, this is a beautiful night, and we've got a pretty short flight. So let's just enjoy this."

And it was a beautiful night, and 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.Yvette Rodier: I was shot at least four times, and then several bullets grazed my head. One of the bullets came and hit [my right] shoulder and just dug a chunk of skin out. One of them came to my side - expanded and opened up this entire left side. Then one came in behind it, up higher, and came all the way through my torso to my inner thigh, and that's where it got lodged. And the fourth came right across my head. After the surgery, a social worker came in and she asked me for Zach's parents' number.

Sy Snarr, Zach's mother: We were all in bed. It was quarter to one in the morning, and our doorbell rang.

My daughter got up and answered the door, and she came in the bedroom and she said, "There's two detectives here and they want to talk to you guys."

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.

So, I think - at that instant - I knew something was wrong. But - I went in there, and I - first thing I said was, "What's happened to my son?" And they said, "Well, your son was involved in a shooting tonight." 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: I remember her leaning in and just hugging me and feeling her arms around me... And I'm pretty positive the first thing out of Sy's mouth was, "We are so glad you lived." And that's still hard to think about, because 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.

Photos: Deadly first date

Sydney Davis, Zach's sister: It was a couple of days after Zach was murdered ... I remember sitting on the porch... And my dad came out and said, "They caught him, they caught him." And we all ran inside.

The news was on. There were all these reporters and all these flashes going off.

Local news report: "...for allegedly shooting and leaving the two young people for dead at Little Dell Reservoir ... the 19-year-old murder suspect was taken off to jail. Investigators say George Benvenuto developed a fascination with death in recent weeks..."

There's Jorge Benvenuto, a total stranger. ...I remember just looking at him, thinking, "Who is this?" You know, "Why?"

Jorge Benvenuto was an immigrant from Uruguay. From what we've learned about him, he was just a loner.

It took the police a couple of days to find him. ...they knew immediately who it was. Because he had taken my brother's car and left his car behind. He also had my brother's wallet.

Local news report: "They believe he abandoned his truck at the scene and took Snarr's Ford Bronco."

The afternoon that they caught him, Benvenuto had gone to a gas station and was buying cookies with the last of Zach's money. The gas station attendant recognized him, because his picture had been all over the news. The police arrested him just behind the gas station. He was sitting ... eating the cookies.

Sy Snarr: He just looked like this normal kid, you know, this young kid. And I just would stare at his picture for hours.

The policemen told us that - he was 19 years old. They told us he had come from Uruguay, he was living - he lived in New York for a while and then moved out to Utah, and that he had bought a gun a couple of weeks before. And apparently somebody had robbed his house and it made him very angry...

Det. Keith Stephens, Salt Lake City Sheriff's Office: On the way to the interview, I was trying to understand - what type of individual I would be talking with.

During my conversation with Benvenuto, he began offering... his reason for shooting these two young people. And part of his explanation 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.

When I described to Benvenuto that he had only completed killing one of the two individuals ...the surprise was visible on his face. He was almost - disappointed that this gun that he treasured and thought so highly of let him down.

Sy Snarr: He had told them, "I just wanted to watch someone die... I wanna see what it feels like to kill someone." I mean, they could've taken a knife and run it through my body. I don't think it would've been as painful, because that's when we realized it was a thrill kill. It was a totally random thrill kill.

Sydney Davis: I remember he was smiling and just looking into the camera... It just made you sick. It just made me sick just to see him. In a way, I wish they would have just shot him right then and there. Sydney Davis, Zach's sister: I remember the next morning waking up in my room. And it was a beautiful morning. And I remember the sun coming in through my window. And the house was just silent. And I remember thinking, "Oh, it was - it was a dream. What a horrible, horrible nightmare." And then, my bedroom door opened, and my friend came in. And she was just bawling. And I - that's when I knew that, oh my word, this really happened. And it just seemed so impossible that Zach could be gone. Because honestly, Zach was just bigger than life. He had such a light about him, that there was just no way that anyone could have taken him from us.

The funeral - I remember being in our church. ... just the amount of people there was staggering. I mean, just there - it was standing room only. It was a beautiful tribute for Zach.

Sy Snarr, Zach's mother: Yvette was there... I remember she could barely walk. She got out of the hospital just long enough for the funeral, and then she had to go back. But she was very weak. And I remember just - she felt so bad, she felt so guilty. And here we are. We just looked at her, and she was just such a beautiful miracle for us. We were so grateful that she had survived.

Photos: Deadly first date

Yvette Rodier: Walking out afterward behind his casket was - painful, was really when I just wanted to crawl up in a ball and hide from everybody and just not be the girl that lived. I didn't want to be that person right then. I just wanted to hide and be Zach's friend.

Sy Snarr: Our house was so full of people. And, one day, all of a sudden, people quit coming. And it hit me so hard one day. He's really not coming home.

I found out through experience, there is such a thing as a broken heart. You know, you hear of a broken heart, but it is a physical pain. I never realized that. It hurt me to breathe.

And I would look around and see all these people getting on with their lives, and I would think, "How can they walk? How can they do what they're doing and how can they laugh, and how can they be happy?" Because, for me, life was basically over. I felt like it was over.

Yvette Rodier: Before the shooting, I would say I was a very trusting person. I was someone who really thought everyone else in this world was kind and generous and giving. And after the shooting, I was terrified of everyone, didn't trust. I didn't want to socialize... didn't want to leave my house. My mom made sure that someone was with me 24 hours a day in my room. I was so afraid that this man was going to come and finish the job.

Sydney Davis: I remember one night just feeling so desperate for help. And I went and I just became so angry. All of a sudden, Benvenuto had the power to make me, who I've always been a happy person. I couldn't even smile, and I remember, I went and I kicked a hole in my wall in my apartment, because I was just so angry.

Sy Snarr: 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.

Bob Stott, Salt Lake City Prosecutor: Well, it was pretty obvious that the Snarrs' thought the appropriate sentence was the death penalty.

And they made that very clear to us.

Sy Snarr: Bob Stott came in our home. And I just looked at him, and I said, "Kill him."

Bob Stott: ...We understood that. And we told them, of course, that's what our goal was. Our object was to seek the most appropriate punishment. We certainly felt that the death penalty would be an appropriate punishment. We were going after that.

Yvette Rodier: I always knew I would have to testify at some point. And it scared me to get ready for it. But there's no way you can really prepare to be in the same room as the man who shot you... FIVE MONTHS AFTER THE SHOOTINGS

Sy Snarr, Zach's mother: I will never, ever forget that day in court. ...Just knowing I was gonna see Jorge Benvenuto for the first time scared me to death.

Yvette Rodier: At the beginning of the case, we had a preliminary hearing which is like a mini trial. And that's where I had to testify. The courtroom was packed.

Sy Snarr: When they brought him into the courtroom, I just felt like he sucked the air right out of there, kind of [laughs]. It's like, I'm looking at the person who - who murdered my son. He didn't look at us. I was like, "Look at me," you know. "Look at me." This boy had a mother, this boy had a family who loved him. And he just didn't even look at us.

When I saw him in the court room, I realized ... he has no soul. And he stood there and pleaded not guilty.

Yvette Rodier: I don't remember actually walking to the stand. But I do remember sitting there and having to point him out and lifting my finger. And I remember watching my finger. And it just shook while I'm pointing at him that this is the man who did it.

Sy Snarr: She looked so afraid and she was trying so hard to be brave. I was amazed that she could get up there and look at him after what he had done to her, but she did it. She did it.

Yvette Rodier: I imagined a lot what Zach would've done. And he would've been so strong and so brave during it. And so I just tried to be as strong as Zach would've been.

Sy Snarr: ...afterwards, she just fell and she was just sobbing.

Sydney Davis, Zach's sister: I wanted him to get the death penalty. He didn't have the right to live.

Prosecutor Bob Stott: We were ready to go to trial. We were ready to ask for the death penalty. And we had a good case. This is the kind of case that we would have won.

But on the other hand, it's a very difficult process. We have to convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt - 12 jurors. Even if one disagrees, the death penalty is not given.
And... there will be countless appeals, countless habeas corpuses. They'll have to appear at different hearings. They'll see it in the newspaper. They'll see it on television.

Local TV report: "Benvenuto said he shot them because he wanted to see what it felt like to watch them die."

And it won't be over for another 20 to 25 years.


Sy Snarr: Jorge did not wanna die. So, that is why Jorge Benvenuto decided to ask for a plea bargain. He said that he would accept - a sentence of life without possibility of - if he was not given the death penalty in a trial.

Sydney Davis, Zach's sister: My family was very torn about it ... would it be giving up on Zach if we - if we took this plea bargain?

At the time, there was an execution going on in Texas. And I remember that the crime had happened 20 years before. But these protesters were protesting the fact that they were gonna - you know, end his life. And that he had changed his life. And that he was truly sorry. And I remember just thinking I don't want that to happen to Zach. I don't want 20 years from now... protesters out there talking about what a great person Jorge Benvenuto is... I couldn't stomach the thought. And so, that's why we decided, as a family - to take the plea bargain.

Sy Snarr: I know a lot of people were really shocked, the fact that we plea bargained. It was on talk radio. We had phone calls. The media. "Why would you do this?" I said, "I do not want my son's trial turned into a freak show. He deserves more dignity than that."

Yvette Rodier: Having him just spend the rest of his life in prison is fine with me. And I can know he's there in prison... forever.


Local news report: "High drama in a Utah courtroom today as a killer is sentenced to life in prison without parole. George Benvenuto killed a teenage boy and injured his friend..."

Sy Snarr: It's like, finally it was really over.

Yvette Rodier: When we walked out of the courtroom the day the man that shot us - the day he was sentenced, I was sure I was never going to see him again. I was never going to have to be in the same room as him again.


Yvette Rodier: And then, the man that shot us filed an appeal that said he was depressed when he made that deal and because he was depressed when he made that deal, he should get out of it. I remember thinking of all the people to claim you're depressed and you should get out of consequences, "How dare you." Sy Snarr, Zach's mother: The good thing about the appeal is I got to make a victim statement. And I wanted Jorge Benvenuto to hear me. I wanted him to know what he had done to us.

And I turned right to him and looked at him, and I said, "Jorge, what was it like watching someone die?" And I just stopped and waited, and he looked up at me for one brief second and then dropped his head again. That is the only time he's looked at me. And then I said, "Was it worth it?" I didn't get an answer, surprise, surprise [laughs].


Sy Snarr: It was like being kicked in the stomach so hard. It's just... indescribable, how that felt. I could not believe that he could do that to us again.

Yvette Rodier: I know the name of the man who shot me and who killed Zach, but I don't say it out loud. I refuse to give him that power or respect. And I've never said his name out loud, and I never will.

I've had five operations total.

It took about three years for me to officially be out of hospitals.

The most painful part has actually been the nerve damage. To not have sensation on the right side of my body can be really painful sometimes.

I would much rather have a surgery every other week than have to feel the survivor's guilt.

Sy Snarr: I would go over to the cemetery and there would be the sweetest notes and little things on Zach's grave from Yvette and - and you could read her pain - that she felt so guilty for having survived.

I didn't wanna intrude. I didn't want to force her to be part of our lives. I thought maybe it was too painful for her, but I really wanted her in my life and our - my whole family felt this bond towards her. ... Whenever I'm with her, I think: "You were with my son and he was happy that night with you."

Yvette Rodier: Today, Sy is the most consistently loving person that I could ever ask for in my life. And she's a person that knows how I feel.

I feel selfish about it, but I really value when she tells me that she's happy that I'm here. I don't deserve it. But I appreciate it [crying] a lot.

I tried for so long to be that girl I was when I was 18. And it was actually my mom who finally one day said, you know, "You're going to just need to mourn the Yvette you were. She's gone. And you won't ever be her again. But you have the chance to be someone a lot different and a lot better."

I went to college to be a news anchor. And I thought that was gonna be my happy ever after. But after the shooting and going through the court process, I realized that the law is where a lot of good can happen for people. And I decided to go to law school. And am now able to help people in the law side of the criminal justice system.

I work entirely with victims of crime. And while I don't tell my story with them, and they don't know what's happened to me, I do feel like I'm able to give them a sense of compassion that maybe other people can't. And that means the world to me.

Today I'm 32 years old. I have a darling 7-year-old daughter.

I was married at one point. My ex-husband and I tried really hard to have that work, and it didn't, unfortunately. But it - he is the father of my daughter. And together I think we're raising a pretty good kid. So, I feel really lucky in my life.

Sydney Davis, Zach's sister: I miss Zach. And I think about him all the time. Like all the time. But, I don't dwell on his death anymore. I dwell on his life.

I have three children. My oldest is Zachary Taylor Davis. I wanted to name him after Zach.
Sometimes it just brings tears to my eyes cause, you know, not only is he named after him, but I think he looks a lot like him.

Sy Snarr: Every time I look at the moon, I think of Zachary. He's the man in the moon to me. And I can never look at the full moon without thinking of that night that he saw the beauty in that full moon.

Yvette Rodier: It's been 14 years since I was with Zach last. And I think of him every single day. I can imagine his laugh. I would love to see him again and just run to him and hug him.

And it's interesting... I think all I wanna say, "Wasn't that night so scary?" And have him look at me and say, "Yeah it was." And he would know what I was talking about.

Jorge Benvenuto lost his most recent appeal in 2007... it is probably his last.

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