With investigators working around the clock on a murder case with no solid leads, Salt Lake City police on Saturday asked for the public's help and offered a $5,000 reward for Anna Palmer's killer.
"We're committed to do anything we can. Cost is not a factor. Obviously, we are looking for a very vicious killer here," said Police Chief Ruben Ortega.Ortega stood on the front lawn of a home just a few blocks away from where Anna was found Thursday evening with multiple stab wounds to her throat. At first, police speculated a dog could have caused the 10-year-old's death, but an autopsy performed by the Utah State Medical Examiner's Office concluded she had been murdered.
Robert Skraznas, chairman of the neighborhood's community council, hosted a hastily called meeting Saturday afternoon. The intent was to give police a forum for explaining to concerned residents what they were doing in response to the slaying.
"We will follow any and all leads we get," said Police Sgt. Jerry Mendez. "We're looking for anyone to come forward with anything. A lot of times people see things, but they don't call the police because they think it's too silly. But there is nothing too minute, too silly or too stupid."
Detectives have gone door to door in a frustrating attempt to come up with witnesses to the slaying, but their efforts, thus far, have been fruitless.
It confounds the police, Mendez said.
"This happened around the 7:30 p.m. hour. Sunset was at 7:46 p.m. that evening. It happened on a porch and no one saw anything? I don't believe that."
Ortega said police are investigating reports of a dark blue vehicle in the area about the time Anna was killed, reports of a man exposing himself to children and a suspicious man walking along the road. None of those reports may be directly linked to the attack, police said, but nothing is being discounted at this point.
Police are stepping up patrols in the neighborhood, and efforts are afoot to solicit volunteers for mobile citizen patrols during the time when school lets out, said Police Sgt. Kyle Jones.
"We just want people to become more actively involved in keeping their communities safe," Jones said.
Both Jones and Ortega urged residents to keep a close eye on their children.
"Those of you who have children, certainly don't let them out alone in the evening. None of the children should be left home alone. The suspect knew she'd be home by herself, or he may have stalked her, we don't know," Ortega said.
"As much as we'd like to believe we live in a totally safe world, we don't," Jones said. "I want to encourage people to teach their children about strangers, about unwanted touches, things of that nature."
The murder, by Saturday afternoon, had cast an unnatural pall over the neighborhood.
One father yelled after his son as he rode his bicycle down the street.
"Call me when you want to come home. Be sure and call me."
Skraznas said parents are frightened.
"Parents are going to be walking their kids to school. They're going to be picking them up. They are going to be nervous about an 11- or 12-year-old latchkey kid. All we can hope is that this person is caught, caught soon."
Tracy Maxfield, whose own 10-year-old daughter was in Anna's fifth-grade class, said there is a general feeling of shock and disbelief in the neighborhood.
A neighbor had remarked that it was "eerie" to be out on a Saturday afternoon and not hear the sounds of children laughing and playing.
Anyone with information that could lead to Anna Palmer's killer is urged to call 799-3000 or 799-3730.