Is this the first Death Valley murder in modern memory?

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Death Valley National Park.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Authorities say they have arrested a suspect in a shooting death that may be Death Valley National Park’s first murder in years.

Park officials said the shooting happened along the eastern edge of the park near the community of Amargosa Valley, Nev. The suspect is Zachary Salyer, a 34-year-old resident of Amargosa Valley, the National Park Service said.

The NPS reported that Salyer called the Nye County, Nev., sheriff’s office on Sunday at 7:15 a.m. to say that he had shot someone.


Salyer told authorities the victim was on a dry lake bed in Amargosa, the NPS said.

The inyo County Coroner’s Office identified the victim as Charles Cherrier, 58, of Amargosa Valley, Nev.

Arrested by the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office, Salyer was charged with first-degree murder and taken to the Inyo County Jail., with bail set at $1 million, the NPS said. An Inyo Sheriff’s spokesman Carma Roper said the investigation remains open and that the victim and a car were found at the scene.

Named for the hardships that westbound settlers suffered in the 19th century, the thinly populated, 3.4-million-acre Death Valley National Park reaches across the California-Nevada border. Park spokeswoman Abby Wines said most deaths in the park are attributed to car accidents, medical events, heat exposure or suicide.

As for homicides, Wines said, “we haven’t had any since we’ve been on digital records. Basically, no one can remember the last time we had a homicide in the park. I’ve been here 15 years.”