The Strangest America's Most Wanted Capture

Karen Neoh via Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Karen Neoh via Flickr // CC BY 2.0 / Karen Neoh via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

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The Green Parrot Cafe, according to the cover of its menu, was "a private club" in Salt Lake City, Utah, open seven days a week for the benefit of "members and their guests." Early in the morning of May 17, 1992, a few visitors entered who did not fit that description. A foursome known as the "Preppie Bandits"—so named because of their clean-cut attire and penchant for coffee shops—was menacing the city, and the Green Parrot was, as police would later charge, next on the list. According to the allegations, some mix of the quartet decided to knock off the cafe, but something went wrong and a cook named Merritt Riordan was shot and killed during the attempted heist. Two members of the group, brothers Adam and Aaron Galli, were charged with the robbery and murder. But Adam Galli didn’t stick around. He skipped bail and fled Utah before he could be brought to trial.

Galli was captured two years later in Minnesota, thanks in part to a television show called America’s Most Wanted. The popular program featured cases of people wanted for serious crimes, and it asked the public for tips or clues as to the whereabouts of the fugitive. Each 60-minute episode featured the re-enactment of at least one crime. Adam Galli’s story was featured on America’s Most Wanted a few times during his two years on the run, and on July 29, 1995, Galli was arrested after a tipster who had seen his story on AMW called the show’s hotline.

But, Galli's debut on AMW occurred in March of 1993, nearly a year after the robbery and murder. The entire staff and many patrons of the Green Parrot tuned in to watch the episode. After AMW showed their Galli segment and moved on to the next case, many people went on their way, and some televisions were switched over to a local basketball game. But a few people hung around to watch the rest of the AMW episode.

Those who watched the rest of the show started calling the police shortly thereafter.

The second re-enactment AMW aired that evening described the crimes allegedly perpetrated by a guy named Kenneth Lovci, a former Texas police officer. Lovci, AMW explained, had a warrant out for his arrest for molesting a child in Rollingwood, Texas, a 20-hour drive southeast from Salt Lake City. America’s Most Wanted and the police had no idea where Lovci was. But patrons and staff at the Green Parrot did: He was in the kitchen, flipping burgers. Kenneth Lovci had recently taken a job as a cook at the same cafe where Merritt Riordan had been murdered just a few months prior.

The Cafe’s manager, Brad Summerhays, told the Deseret News that the realization was surreal:

After we watched the segment on the Galli boys, we turned a couple of the sets to the U. game and left the other on "America’s Most Wanted." When Lovci’s segment came on, we joked around and said, "That looks like our cook in back." After a few minutes, we said, "Wait a minute, that is him."

The bartender called the police while management made excuses to keep Lovci at the cafe (his shift was ending) until the authorities could arrive. Lovci was arrested and extradited to Texas where he was convicted and served seven years in prison. So, though it would take another two years to dole out justice in the Green Parrot Cafe murder, the restaurant was able to serve up one America's Most Wanted fugitive that night.

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