Questions remain about student?s death, torched car

By By Michael McFall

By Michael McFall

Six months after a rancher found Zach Ru- ble’s body in a torched car, there are still unan- swered questions.

It took the state medical examiner sev- eral days to determine through DNA test- ing that the body was 19-year-old Ruble, a freshman in bioengineering, who’d been missing since April 1. A rancher, out on a morning patrol of his land near Zion National Park, spotted Ruble’s Kia Sorento en- gulfed in flames.

At the time, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office didn’t know why Ruble was 300 miles from the U in the middle of a school week. The sheriffs didn’t know why he was found burned inside his car on a remote dirt road in the middle of Utah desert. And still, no one’s found the answer.

“His roommate said it’s really strange,” said Todd Zol- ka, a sophomore in business and Ruble’s friend.

Ruble was a U honors student and was constantly or- ganizing outdoors trips for the other students who lived on the same floor. By all accounts, he was the happiest kid in the world, his friends and family said.

“I’ll always remember that smile,” said his father, James Ruble.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office hasn’t an- nounced whether Zach Ruble’s death was homicide, sui- cide or accidental. It remains the one death left unsolved in a series of similar blazes around Utah that raised sus- picions of serial homicide.

Law enforcement closed the book on former Daily Utah Chronicle News Editor Lorin Fischer, 28, and Greg Nelson, 35. Fischer and Nelson were alive when they were incinerated inside their cars, which were found in a remote Big Cottonwood Canyon campground March 9, and off the highway near Saltair on March 20, respec- tively. The

Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office ruled them as suicides.

But there have only been five cases of suicide by fire in Utah from 1999 to 2007. Ruble, Fischer and Nelson would make three in a month’s time. Lt. Don Hutson of the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office admitted to The Loveland Reporter-Herald, upon hearing that more torched car vic- tims were found in Colorado last May and two others in Massachusetts within about a week of Ruble’s death, that there seems to be a pattern. On top of that, two months ago, 40-year-old Brian Adams was found in his torched car on a remote California desert road. None of the agen- cies have officially tied any of the incidents together. For now, Ruble’s death remains an isolated tragedy that his friends and family live with together.

“While it’s very troubling not knowing what happened, I think those of us who were very close with Zach are doing our best,” said Matthew Carey, a junior in English, and Ruble’s friend.