SALT LAKE CITY — Before Anna Palmer was found dead on her front porch, she was "like a little socialite," her mother said, spending time with all of the children in the neighborhood.
On Sept. 10, 1998, she called her mother, Nancy Palmer, around 5 p.m. and asked if she could play with friends. Her mother returned at 7 p.m., later than usual, and found her lifeless daughter.
"I looked at her and I knew she was probably gone," Palmer testified Tuesday in 3rd District Court. "Her face was a waxy, pale, yellowy color, like there was no blood flow."
Palmer testified in a preliminary hearing for the man accused of killing her daughter, Matthew John Breck. DNA evidence led to Breck, 32, being charged in January 2010 with aggravated murder, aggravated sex abuse of a child, both first-degree felonies, and child abuse, a second-degree felony, in connection with Anna Palmer's death.
The 10-year-old girl was found stabbed to death on the front porch of her home, 1633 S. 300 East. Nancy Palmer spoke of how she touched her daughter's hand and found she was cold to the touch, prompting her to immediately call 911.
"(Dispatchers) instructed me to do CPR, and I told them it wasn't working because she had a hole in her throat," Palmer said. "They told me to put my hand over it and try it that way."
She testified that paramedics arrived within minutes, but that "it seemed to me like a long time." They transported the girl to the hospital where she was pronounced dead.
The case went unsolved for years and quickly became one of the Salt Lake City Police Department's highest profile cold cases.
Investigators at the time were frustrated by the lack of witnesses, despite the fact that the killing took place during the day near a busy intersection. An $11,000 reward turned up numerous leads, but none led to an arrest.
It wasn't until advances were made in DNA technology that investigators made a major breakthrough in the case, leading to charges being filed against Breck, who was 19 and living in Palmer's neighborhood at the time of the slaying.
Two separate witnesses, now in their 20s, took the stand Tuesday to testify about a man in his teenage years they saw walking near Anna Palmer when she was heading home from her friend's house that day in September.
Loxane Konesavanh said she and Anna were "pretty good friends" and that the girl often played at her house after school, while Nancy Palmer was at work. She recalls very little of the night her friend was killed.
"These aren't the memories I want to recall," she said. "It was a very emotional time so I probably tried to suppress them."
But prosecutors played a videotaped interview with the then 10-year-old Konesavanh just days after Anna Palmer was killed. In it, she said she and Anna spent the afternoon swinging in her backyard. When the clock neared 7 p.m., they went to the corner of 300 East and Bryan Avenue, hugged and went their separate ways — as they often did.
"When we're at 3rd East (on Sept. 10, 1998) there was this guy behind us," the girl said in the videotape. "I thought he might kidnap us or grab us from behind … he looked kind of strange or something."
She said she called to Anna to let the man pass them and, as he passed, he looked at Anna, who, in turn told Konesavanh to run home.
"I started running and looked back and he was gone," she said in the interview. "I kept looking back to see if (Anna) was getting home safely. I didn't think anything would happen to her."
Konesavanh testified Tuesday that she didn't have any reason to believe she would have lied back in 1998.
Amie Johnson was 14 at the time and knew both Anna and Konesavanh as friends of her younger sister. She was showing off a new kitten to the neighbors when she saw the girls walking.
Johnson had also noticed a man wearing an unbuttoned baseball jersey "bouncing from one side of the street to another" across 300 East, attempting to hitchhike. Soon after, she noticed the man trailing Palmer.
"He creeped me out, personally," she said. "I looked back and Anna was walking home and he was still walking behind her like a crazy person. I looked again (about a minute later) and no one was there."
Konesavanh described a man in his teens who was bald in a white tank top. Johnson said the man she saw was wearing the baseball jersey with two tattoos on his chest. She said he had dark, stringy hair. Witnesses said Breck was known to wear baseball jerseys and white tank tops.
Todd Clark said he met Breck and his brother, Tom, while living in California. When a good turn led to steady employment and a home in Utah, Clark said he wanted to return the favor and "pay it forward." He invited Tom Breck to come to Utah, which he did, with his brother Matthew Breck arriving soon after.
"He carried himself like he was 6 foot 6, 300 pounds," Clark said of Matthew Breck. "If he was walking down the sidewalk, he wanted everybody to know he was there."
Neighbor Rudy Velasquez said that the night Anna Palmer was killed, though, he saw Breck in an alley near the girl's house "ducking and hiding."
As many as a dozen witnesses are expected to take the stand for prosecutors throughout the course of the preliminary hearing, which is expected to run through Thursday. Defense attorneys have indicated they will also call witnesses, but potentially at a different date. At the conclusion of the hearing, 3rd District Judge Judith Atherton will determine whether there is enough evidence to order Breck to stand trial.
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