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Utah’s Unsolved Mysteries: Can the Public Help Solve Utah’s Cold Cases?

There are now 413 cases, 251 unsolved homicides, 128 missing persons and 41 unidentified person cold cases recorded in Utah.


Years after Cody Lynn Dodge was found dead in his West Valley City home, who shot him remains a mystery.

Investigators say there was no forced entry into the residence, indicating the 27-year-old knew his killer. However, nothing that has been learned so far about the Sept. 21, 2008 slaying has led to an arrest and the case has gone cold.

Jimmy Gerald Barney never left his dog behind until Feb. 7, 2017, when he walked away from his home and his car in Escalante. A search by law enforcement and community members, which included the deployment of drones and the use of a helicopter, failed to find the 57-year-old, who took a pistol with him.

On July 16, 1965, two park rangers in the Cedar Breaks National Monument in Iron County discovered the remains of a man estimated to be 50 or 60 years old on the edge of cliffs near Sunset View. The body of an infant girl, along with a plastic bag containing placenta and an umbilical cord, were found in Beus Pond in Ogden on Sept. 15, 1974. Neither person has been identified.

These Utah cold cases are listed in a statewide database designed to make it easier for law enforcement agencies to share information. The centralized database currently lists 413 unsolved cases.

Senate Bill 160, which was sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, and passed unanimously during the 2018 legislative session, requires homicide, missing persons, and unidentified bodies cases that are more than 3 years old be entered into the database. 

The legislation is called Rosie’s Bill, after Rosie Tapia, a 6-year-old girl who was kidnapped from her ground-level bedroom in Salt Lake City on Aug. 13, 1995. She was sexually assaulted and drowned in a nearby canal. The crime remains unsolved.

The Utah Department of Public Safety was provided funding for the database and a fulltime cold case analyst and it spearheaded the effort through four of its divisions the DPS crime lab, the State Bureau of Investigation, the State Information and Analysis Center, and the Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI).

After a case is entered in the law enforcement database, an entry is made in a BCI database that members of the public can access, cold case analyst Kathy Mackay said. That database, which was launched in February 2019, does not contain sensitive information that would jeopardize an investigation.

There are now 413 cases, 251 unsolved homicides, 128 missing persons and 41 unidentified person cases listed in the database. Seven homicides and two missing person cases were removed previously after being resolved.

The oldest missing person case is that of Everett Ruess, who set out alone into the desert in Garfield County on Nov. 20, 1934, taking two donkeys as pack animals. In February 1935, a search party found the donkeys in Davis Gulch, a canyon of the Escalante River, and a corral Ruess made at his campsite there, but no body.

The oldest unidentified person case dates back to  Sept. 8, 1944, with the discovery of a man’s body in Davis County four miles northwest of Kaysville.

The slaying of Tanya Weber on June 26, 1965, is the oldest cold case homicide. The 17-year-old Logan High School senior was found strangled less than two blocks from her home, and her partially clothed body had been hidden in bushes at a neighbor’s home. A suspect was found dead in Logan Canyon from suicide, but the slaying is still considered unsolved.

Mackay estimates there are a total of 550 to 600 cold cases in Utah.

“I am working with the agencies to continually get the cases entered,” she said.

The cases can be viewed at here, and information can be passed along to law enforcement on the Cold Case Tip Hotline at 833-DPS-SAFE (833-377-7233). 

The database was developed through a collaborative effort by, among others, DPS, the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office, Salt Lake City Police, Unified Police Department, the Utah Chiefs of Police Association, the Utah Sheriffs’ Associations, the Utah Cold Case Coalition, Statewide Association of Prosecutors, and Rachel Walton, an expert in cold case homicides.

The number of viewers who access the database increases whenever it is mentioned in the media, Mackay said. In addition, a DPS report says more members of the public were sending in tips after the COVID pandemic began.

In some entries, only a few facts are known or publicized, while other descriptions are more extensive.

One of the few details about the unidentified man whose body was found in Cedar Breaks National Monument is that he would have worn an 8.5 D shoe.

The entry about the badly decomposed body of a woman found floating in a canal east of the Salt Lake City Sewage Plant on Sept. 3, 1986, provides a number of clues that could help identify her. 

The woman was wearing a long sleeve white blouse and jeans. She had a watch with a round, black face and an off-white checker pattern with the design of a swimmer on the bottom and a ring with a black stone and “sterling” stamped on the inner rim.

Among the items found near the woman, believed to be 20 to 40-years-old, included a pink comb, pink toothbrush, a purple bracelet that unclicks and turns into a pen, and a blue-and-white dress that appeared to be homemade and had a cardboard tag with #10 written on it. 

Karra Porter, co-founder of the Utah Cold Case Coalition, said only a few states have a public cold case database. She said the public can be helpful by, for example, doing internet searches to find slayings committed in the same manner as a homicide on the database, or to match the information about the discovery of an unidentified person to someone who has been reported missing.

“It’s a very good use of time,” Porter said.


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