Patricia Blanchard in an undated family photo.
Murder is not a typical occurrence in upscale, outdoorsy Park City. This cozy burg’s 8,000 mostly-transplanted, year-round residents are a tight-knit bunch who have worked hard to make a place that’s insulated from big city crime. The ski season and events like the Sundance Film Festival swell the population to as many as 60,000, but even then, the worst offenses are typically drunk and disorderly conduct or fender benders.
In the 1990s, however, the successive murders of two local women shook this neighborly town to its base. Rather than sweeping these horrors under the rug, the community mobilized to address an issue crossing social and economic lines that is often ignored even in the most progressive communities: domestic violence.
A Jarring Wake Up Call
The very public murder of Samak resident Nadalee Noble occurred over President’s Day weekend, 1990. Her husband, Donald Allan Noble, shot her twice in the head at point-blank range as she walked through the parking lot at Albertsons grocery, now Fresh Market. She had served Donald with divorce papers just 90 minutes earlier.
Teri Orr, then editor of the Park Record newspaper, wrote a four-part, front-page story chronicling the emotional and physical abuse Nadalee suffered at the hands of her husband throughout their nearly 23-year marriage. The pieces, which included interviews with the Noble children, Nadalee’s mother and excerpts from Nadalee’s journal, were met with mixed reviews. “I was really [criticized] for putting that story on the front page,” Orr says. “At the time, Park City was just beginning to emerge in a big way, and people thought Nadalee’s story was bad for business.”
The second tragedy hit even closer to home. Late in the evening on Sept. 19, 1995, John Blanchard slashed his ex-wife Patricia’s tires and broke into her Park Meadows home. He then raped and strangled her while their children—then age 13 and 11—slept down the hall. “Patty’s death was a real turning point for the community,” says Detective Mary Ford, a 28-year Park City Police Department veteran. “Patty was from here and well liked, and her death was a real wake up call.”
Domestic violence is hardly Park City’s dirty little secret—statistics in the 1990s and now are on par with national averages—but how Park City dealt with this issue was, by necessity, secretive. “There was a group of women here that I equate to the Underground Railroad,” Ford says. Any time Ford or other police officers received a report that a man had committed or was threatening to commit violence against his wife or girlfriend and often children, this group would be called on to provide transportation, a place to stay, child care—pretty much anything—to protect and support domestic violence victims. “These local women were brave in recognizing that and provided what victims needed when they had nowhere else to turn,” she notes.
A Community Takes Action
In 1992, ecumenical leaders, law enforcement and other concerned community members including Orr came together to form the Domestic Peace Task Force. In 1995, with a land donation from Deer Valley Resort and building services from New Star construction, the group opened Peace House, a refuge for victims of domestic violence. “Peace House provides a place where families can create self-sufficiency and make choices without the threat of fear,” says Jane Patten, Peace House executive director.
Peace House accommodates up to 15 people at a time and last year provided refuge to 100 women and children. The shelter’s address is unpublished, and services are free of charge. Outside the shelter, Peace House outreach activities include domestic violence prevention education in local schools, training for health care providers to recognize signs of abuse and an annual candlelight vigil at City Park in October.
Jane Patten, Peace House executive director
Susan Graham, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, credits the Peace House for giving her the emotional and financial support she needed to leave a violent and controlling relationship in 2006. “When I finally went to the Peace House, for the first time in a very long time, I could rest and just be,” she says. Like many abused women, Graham has a child with her abuser, making severing ties extremely complicated. Peace House staff put her in touch with the Legal Aid Society of Salt Lake and provided safe childcare, allowing her to attend the numerous meetings and court appearances typical of a custody battle. “All the steps you have to take when you have a child and you finally decide to leave are very overwhelming,” Graham says.
Where They Are Now
Orr, who revealed her own history as an abused woman in the Park Record’s Nadalee Noble series, continues to advocate for domestic violence prevention in her current position as Park City Performing Arts Foundation executive director by hosting annual presentations of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, of which 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Peace House.
Both Nadalee and Patricia’s convicted murderers—Donald Allan Noble and John Blanchard respectively—are now residing at the Utah State Prison. The State Board of Pardons and Parole recently decided Blanchard will not receive a parole hearing until 2020. He will be 76 years old. In 2009, the same body denied Noble additional parole hearings, ruling that he will remain incarcerated for life.
There is little doubt that Nadalee and Patricia’s deaths continue to impact their children and extended families. But perhaps they can take some comfort in knowing that, because of their mothers, Park City now has a sanctuary to help women regain the courage, self-esteem and resources to begin again.
A Tour For Peace: The Peace House is funded in large part by the Park City Board of Realtors' annual Luxury Home Tour. "We feel the funds we raise are very well spent on a very worthwhile cause," says Jim Lea, president of the Board of Realtors' Philanthropic Foundation. This year's Aug. 11 tour features homes in The Colony. Tickets are $45 in advance or $50 the day of the tour.