Investigators say they have no suspects in the killing of a woman who was found beaten to death in her home Saturday afternoon.
The body of Lucile Johnson, 78, was discovered by her daughter Saturday afternoon in the hallway of Johnson's home, 4284 S. Holloway Drive (1960 East).Johnson's death becomes the fifth unsolved homicide of elderly women killed in their homes in Salt Lake County during the past nine years. There is no evidence, however, to suggest any or all of the crimes are related.
Salt Lake County Sheriff's Capt. Bill A Van Wagenen said he believed Johnson was killed between 10 p.m. Friday and 1 a.m. Saturday.
Van Wagenen said the victim has been struck in the head with a blunt instrument several times. No weapon has been recovered.
A petite woman under 5 feet in height, Johnson would have been defenseless against any intruder, said neighbor Marian Astle.
"She was beat up pretty bad," said Shirley England, the victim's daughter, to neighbors who tried to comfort her. "I can't believe something like this could happen, that someone could be so cruel."
England had tried to call her mother Friday night about 11 p.m. but no one answered. After failing to reach her by phone Saturday, England went to her mother's home about 1:30 p.m.
"When I came up the driveway and saw the lights still on, I knew something was wrong because she never leaves them on."
There were no obvious signs of theft or forced entry, Van Wagenen said.
"We're still looking around, and it's possible that we'll find a forced entry. . . . I don't see anything in the house that has been ravaged. Either I've got a neat suspect or he knew what he was after. Or maybe the motive wasn't burglary."
Van Wagenen said they have not ruled out sexual assault as a motive, although the victim was fully clothed.
None of the neighbors witnessed anything unusual Friday around Johnson's home, which is secluded on a slight hill behind evergreen shrubbery and large spruce trees.
One woman, however, told police that earlier in the week, two men - a black and a Caucasian - came to her home at night, saying they were drumming up business for a Mexican restaurant they were opening up the street. The woman became afraid and slammed the door, police said.
Johnson was described by relatives and friends as active and energetic for her age.
"She's the most outgoing, go-getting person I knew," said Astle. Another friend said Johnson spent much of her time caring for elderly neighbors on the street.
Residents in the quiet, upper-middle-class neighborhood were shocked to learn of the homicide. Two elderly women who stopped at the crime scene expressed fears for their own safety.
Though this is the first homicide in the area, the neighborhood has not been immune from crime. Three years ago, an elderly woman who lives directly across the street from Johnson was tied up during a bur-glary.
Johnson had lived in her home alone since the death 11/2 years ago of her husband, Howard Johnson. The couple had five children, four still living.
The killing is the fifth unsolved homicide of elderly women during the past nine years:
- In May 1982, a burglar raped and viciously beat Bertha Hughes, 81, in her home near Granite High School.
- Two months later, Wilhelmina Reid, 72, was found dead in her Salt Lake home. She had been beaten about the head, robbed and sexually assaulted.
- In July 1985, Drucilla Ovard, 83, was strangled in her home for no apparent reason.
- In October 1989, Flora Rundle, 71, was found stabbed to death in her home near 3500 South and 300 West.