How to Catch A Criminal: The Best Kept Secrets Are Mine

Aug. 25, 2023
This month, decades after getting away scot-free, a pair of killers find out loose lips can still sink ships.

Every officer with a decent amount of time on the job knows the unexpected turns an investigation can take. Seeing a major case through to completion often involves giving up on a theory and taking your investigation in a different direction as new information becomes available. In How to Catch A Criminal, we look at the many ways not-so-perfect crimes are solved. This month, decades after getting away scot-free, a pair of killers find out loose lips can still sink ships.

The best way to keep a secret a secret is to keep it. This sounds obvious, but many people can’t help but let a confidant in on their secrets. Besides, it’s no fun to know something others don’t unless they know you are privy to something they aren’t. As soon as that secret is shared with one person, it is no longer safe. If that person shares the information, the odds of your secret becoming public knowledge have grown exponentially. Benjamin Franklin once stated “Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.” In this case however, one proved to be too many to keep a secret, and the snowball effect led from one case to another.

This article appeared in the July/August issue of OFFICER MagazineClick Here to subscribe to OFFICER Magazine.

On August 27, 2013, a barrel containing the skeletal remains of a male was discovered in mine shaft in Laramie, Wyoming. This wasn’t by chance. Law enforcement had searched for these remains in 1994 after a tip led investigators to the area, but that attempt did not uncover anything. In 2005 the search began again, this time including the farm land on which the mine shaft was located. Once again, the search was fruitless. In 2013 however, a renewed push by the Wyoming Division of Criminal investigation finally resulted in this much sought after discovery. DNA testing would soon confirm the remains were that of Ronald Holtz, a man last seen in Sheridan, Wyoming, in late December 1974. Finally, this cold case had its most major break in nearly 40 years, but simply finding Richard Holtz did not explain his disappearance, or the .22 caliber sized hole in the back of his skull, or the matching bullet found within

The tip given to investigators in 1994 came from a man named Todd Scott. Scott told police his mother, Alice Uden, confessed to him many years prior she killed Ronald Holtz, her third husband, as he slept using a .22 rifle. After shooting him, she stuffed his body into a barrel and dropped the barrel into the mine shaft. Over the years, Alice had told this same information to several people, and even gave specifics about which mine shaft Ronald was in. Alice married Ronald in September of 1974 and filed for divorce the following February. The divorce was eventually granted because, thanks to his December disappearance, Holtz could not be served with filings or subpoenas, and of course could not attend any hearings. Alice had been interviewed about Holtz’s disappearance in 2005 when the case was reopened, but she insisted her confession to her son Todd was not as it seemed. Alice told the detectives who interviewed her she told that story as a cautionary tale, perhaps to help instill in her son the importance of avoiding toxic relationships. Alice stated she gave Holtz the boot after she became fed up with his abusive behavior. For 39 years, Holtz’s whereabouts were unknown, but now with his body recovered, in the same place and condition Alice told her son, investigators could properly grill her and hopefully obtain a confession

Alice had remarried in 1976 after meeting Gerald Uden, who had also been divorced multiple times. Alice had five children and Gerald had two sons whom he adopted from his last marriage; however they lived with their mother. The pair lived on a farm in in Wyoming, raising the children and making a life for themselves. They eventually moved to a large piece of land in Missouri in 1982 where they would carry on their lives, with Gerald working as a truck driver up to 2013, when Holtz’s body was found.

In September of 2013, 74-year-old Alice Uden was arrested, charged with the first-degree murder of Ronald Holtz. She was questioned and informed nobody was buying her story about making up a story. The evidence matched her supposed “cautionary tale” perfectly. Alice finally broke down and confessed to killing her third husband, but only as an act of defense, changing her story yet again. She claimed Holtz was trying to harm one of her children and she shot him in the head to save the child. This didn’t jive with her confession to Todd about shooting Holtz in his sleep, or the trajectory of the bullet. The truthfulness of her changing story would be a matter for a judge and jury, as would be the forensic evidence now available thanks to Holtz’s remains.

Upon Alice’s arrest, Gerald, her husband of over 35 years, felt the need to help clear her name, and take the fall. Remarkably, Gerald’s attempt to dive on the grenade, so to speak, allowed investigators to kill two birds with one stone. Since Sept. 13, 1980, Gerald and Alice had been suspects in another crime. That crime was the disappearance of Gerald’s ex-wife, Virginia Uden, and adopted sons, 11-year-old Richard and 10-year-old Reagan. They were reported missing by Virginia’s mother, who informed police their last known location was with Gerald, who had invited Virginia to take the boys bird hunting. When questioned at the time, Gerald stated they never showed up for the hunt. A search was conducted and Virginia’s blood soaked vehicle was eventually located as well as .22 caliber shell casings, and some items belonging to the mother and sons. Gerald and Alice were initially questioned, but both denied involvement in the disappearances. Now, with Alice arrested for the murder of Ronald Holtz, Gerald seemed to misunderstand the circumstances of her arrest. Gerald explained to detective’s they had the wrong person. Alice had no involvement in Virginia, Richard and Reagan’s murders; he was the man responsible for that.

Likely perplexed by this unprompted, if not misguided, confession, investigators listened as Gerald explained. He and Alice grew tired of Virginia’s demands for child support payments from them. Gerald stated he did not want to kill them, but he wanted to end the child support. He used the hunting trip invitation as a ruse, and shot the mother and her sons one by one, dumping their bodies in a mine shaft. Months later he retrieved the bodies and disposed of them in a lake, something he probably wishes Alice did with Holtz’s body. Thanks to his forthcoming nature, Gerald Uden was charged with three counts of first-degree murder.

Seventy-one-year-old Gerald Uden plead guilty to all three counts, receiving three life sentences. Alice Uden went to trial and in August, 2014 and was convicted, receiving a life sentence as well. Alice Uden died in 2019 at the age of 80. Shortly after Alice’s death, Gerald filed an appeal, looking to overturn his conviction and rescind his confession, insisting it was Alice who killed Virginia and her two sons. The appeal was denied in 2020. After almost 40 years, Alice Uden’s secret became public knowledge, justice finally caught up with not only her, but her husband.

About the Author

Brendan Rodela is a Deputy for the Lincoln County (NM) Sheriff’s Office. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice and is a certified instructor with specialized training in Domestic Violence and Interactions with Persons with Mental Impairments

This article appeared in the July/August issue of OFFICER Magazine.

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