1 of 3
Laura Seitz, Deseret Morning News
The Murray residence where a woman was found dead Tuesday.

MURRAY — A convicted murderer out on parole is now wanted for questioning in the slaying of a Deseret Morning News employee found dead in her home.

James William Tolbert, 41, has been declared a suspect in Ann Poulson's slaying, authorities confirmed.

"He is a person of interest wanted for questioning the homicide of Ann Poulson," Murray Police Officer Jeff Maglish said. "We are very interested in speaking with him."

Friends close to the family have said that Poulson befrended Tolbert while she did church work at the Utah State Prison in the 1990s. He was paroled in April 2006.

Tolbert was convicted in the May 1987 murder of his wife, Janie Heller-Tolbert. Deseret Morning News accounts from the time indicate he testified in his trial that he strangled his wife during a fight at their home. The couple was in the process of getting a divorce.

Heller-Tolbert's body was found hidden in some debris near the Jordan River.

Poulson's body was found Tuesday night at her home after concerned neighbors called police saying she hadn't been seen in a couple of days.

This afternoon, the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole issued a warrant for Tolbert's arrest. It stemmed from an Oct. 6 fight at a Woods Cross home.

"They have informally told us that he is a person of interest in this homicide," parole board spokesman Jim Hatch said.

The Utah Department of Corrections posted Tolbert's picture on its Most Wanted list this afternoon. Corrections spokesman Jack Ford declined to comment on Tolbert's connection to Poulson.

Poulson was an eight-year employee of the Deseret Morning News who worked in accounting. She was remembered Wednesday by co-workers as a person who never got angry and would go to great lengths to help people.

Poulson worked part-time for the newspaper. The last time she was at work was Oct. 3. She was not scheduled to work again until Tuesday, but she did not show up.

Neighbors became equally concerned when they noticed they hadn't seen her "in a couple of days," said Maglish. Officers went to Poulson's house, 5200 S. 820 East, about 4 p.m. Tuesday. When they were unable to get anyone to answer the door, they forced their way inside, where her body was found, Maglish said.

Few details were being released Wednesday about what investigators found inside the house. Maglish would only say, "There was evidence within the house that led us to believe this is a homicide."

An autopsy was expected to determine when Poulson died. Police were not commenting on a possible cause of death or if there was any obvious sign of trauma.

Investigators initially put out a request for the public to help find Poulson's missing car, a white Honda Accord. That car was found Wednesday morning by Salt Lake City police, abandoned in Sugarhouse Park.

Friends remembered Poulson as a person with an extremely kind heart.

"(She) was always willing to help out anyone down on their luck," said co-worker Sharon Johnson. "She was a person with no guile and didn't judge people or make any unkind remarks. She is going to be deeply missed by her colleagues and friends."

That kindness extended outside the Deseret Morning News. Poulson also did volunteer work at the Utah State Prison, working with inmates.

"She knew some of the inmates," Utah Department of Corrections spokesman Jack Ford confirmed Wednesday.

Poulson also kept in touch with some inmates once they were released from prison.

Corrections officers have been working with Murray police in tracking down some of those ex-convicts she may have been helping.

"We've been contacted, and we're looking into a few things," Ford said.

Maglish said Murray Police were "aggressively" working leads from neighbors and Corrections officials who were aware of Poulson's connection to former convicts.

At the Deseret News building Wednesday, co-workers shared their memories of Poulson.

Teresa Shackleford, who sat next to Poulson for the last three years at work, said she almost never lost her temper.

"She willingly and gladly helped out anyone in any way she could," Shackleford said.

Other co-workers recall how Poulson was never shy to brag about her grandchildren. Poulson, who celebrated a birthday just two weeks ago, was also known to have a Pepsi and chocolate addiction as well as a knock-knock joke handy to ease an otherwise stressful day.

A statement released by News CFO Mike Todd also fondly recalled Poulson's favorite saying when asked to perform a difficult task. "It all pays the same," she would say.

"One could not ask for a more pleasant employee and co-worker. She had an angelic nature and a gift for kindness," Todd said in his statement.

"Ann was the sweetest, nicest, most genuine person who always had a smile for you, even when you were making her job difficult," said Jeff Haney, an editor at the paper.

Lee Benson remembered Poulson as " ... a calming influence in the chaos that can otherwise permeate a newspaper office."

E-mail: [email protected]; [email protected]