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Summit focuses on solving cold case homicides

Published: Tuesday, April 26 2011 2:07 p.m. MDT

SOUTH SALT LAKE — There are more than 200 unsolved homicides in Utah, some dating back to the 1960s.

Some of the victims have become familiar to Utahns because of attention in the media. Names like Rosie Tapia and Rachael Runyan have stayed in the spotlight, while others have faded away from public view.

But a group of homicide detectives meeting this week in Salt Lake County want to make sure that none of Utah's cold case homicides are forgotten.

Detectives and homicide investigators from across the state have been meeting the past two days at the Unified Police Department's headquarters in South Salt Lake to share notes and compare information on unsolved murders throughout the state.

This is the second cold case summit organized by Unified police and detective Todd Park, considered one of the top cold case detectives in the state.

"I've felt strongly over the years there may be people responsible for more than one homicide," he said.

But until last October, when the group met for the first time, there had never really been a meeting among all state law enforcement officials to talk about the similarities of certain cases.

It helps to get a fresh set of eyes on an old case, Park said. The first summit the group had resulted in a "very solid lead" in one of his own cases.

In February, Park was selected to become a member of the prestigious Vidocq Society, an exclusive organization of just 82 members from around the world who are considered the experts in solving cold case crimes.

Among the cold cases Park and his unit have solved: The stabbing death of 14-year-old Chris Mosier in 1993; the 1974 murder of BYU student Barbara Jean Rocky, a cold case that was 34 years old; and the 1991 killing of Kennecott security guard Bryan Patrick Ruff.

Monday and Tuesday, more than 40 people from several agencies around the state met to compare notes on current unsolved cases.

The public was not invited to sit in on those meetings, and Park declined to talk about which cases were discussed. But he said the summit should send a clear message to people who think they have gotten away with murder.

"I have a passion for seeing cases solved. Families deserve to have their cases looked at," he said. "They deserve some kind of justice. I want the suspects who did these cases to worry we may end up knocking on their doors one of these days."

e-mail: preavy@desnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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