On July 12, the body of 25 year old Cody Lee Johnson was discovered at the bottom of The Loop in Glacier National Park. His newlywed bride, Jordan Linn Graham, is accused of murder. But 30 years earlier, a New York man was murdered by a hitchhiker from Idaho in nearly the same location.
NBC Montana dug through court documents and archived newspaper articles at the Flathead County Library and learned that in the summer of 1983 a man name Frederick Pongrace picked up a hitchhiker named Scott David Steele on his way to Seattle. On July 13, the pair drove into Glacier and separated. According to the Hungry Horse News, Pongrace was found dead on July 14 at the bottom of an area known as Crystal Point, located a mile above The Loop.
Court documents show park authorities issued a bulletin for Pongrace's Volkswagon van, which Steel took and drove to Los Angeles where it was abandoned. Steel surrendered himself to police in Utah in 1984. A second look at Pongrace's body that same year revealed several stab wounds. A medical examiner concluded Pongrace had died before his body fell off the cliff.
Steel's trial began in August 1984 in Missoula. The Hungry Horse News reported he was found guilty of murdering Pongrace, theft, and interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle. US District Judge Russell Smith sentenced Steel to life in prison in September 1984.
Steel and his attorney, Michael Sherwood, appealed and argued for a new trial in April 1985. That decision was rejected. Steel, however, was paroled after serving just 16 years of his life sentence.