SALT LAKE CITY — As motorists travel past the 600 North ramp off I-15, a picture of Kerry Arbon is displayed prominently for all to see, accompanied by the caption: "Who murdered me?"
In September of 1991, Arbon, 40, of Orem, was found dead on the side of the road behind Memory Grove. A biker discovered his body in the brush near the Gravity Hill section of Bonneville Road, about 1000 North on the canyon's west side. An autopsy would later show that Arbon, shot multiple times, had been dead for up to 24 hours before his body was found.
There was very little evidence at the scene, and the case remains unsolved today.
Now, Salt Lake police are hoping to spark new leads and interest in the case by putting Arbon's photo on a billboard.
The use of billboards to try and generate new leads in cold cases is not new, but it's been used only sporadically in the past. Salt Lake police detective Greg Wilking said the department recently decided to refocus federal grant money that it receives for such cases and increase the use of billboards for cold case investigations.
"We’ve seen these billboards out in other communities and we thought, ‘Let’s give this a try,’ maybe pique some people’s interests, keep it out there,” he said.
Wilking said a billboard that people pass daily seems to have an impact on the public.
"Having an image out there sticks longer in the public’s mind” than a news story, he said.
Other billboards the department has put up recently highlight the cases of:
• Gustavo Jarquin, 18, who was found shot on a Glendale street corner on Sept. 18, 2014. His body was found lying face down on the grass on the northwest corner of Indiana and Pueblo streets.
His family called Jarquin a role model for other Hispanic youths, particularly those battling attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and made a public plea in 2014 for witnesses to come forward. Police do not believe Jarquin was in a gang and have no motive for the killing.
In 2016, Nathan Andrew Johnson, 37, pleaded guilty to two counts of obstructing justice, a class A misdemeanor. Police say Johnson claimed to not know Jarquin, when in actuality he did. Jarquin was believed to be in Johnson's car the night before he was found dead, according to court documents.
• Christian Gutierrez-Marquez, 33, of Salt Lake City, who was gunned down by an unknown man at a car wash, 1075 S. Redwood Road, on Oct. 21, 2016, in what police believe was a completely random shooting.
Marquez, who had just purchased a dark-colored 2015 Toyota Avalon, was at the car wash about 10 p.m. when police believe two people approached him: a man in a gray hoodie who investigators consider the gunman, and a woman who may have been driving a stolen car.
Marquez's car was recovered a few hours later. He is survived by his wife and an 8-year-old son from a prior relationship.
• Rosie Tapia, 6, who was abducted through the bedroom window of her Glendale bedroom, sexually assaulted, murdered and dumped in a Jordan River surplus canal in 1995. The case remains one of the department's most high-profile cold cases. As of Sunday, there has never been an arrest in the case.
Lewine Tapia keeps her daughter's case alive by reminding the public about it every August and January, on the anniversaries of Rosie's death and on what would have been her birthday.
The latest billboard for Arbon brings attention to what Wilking called a "very difficult" case. No physical evidence was found at the crime scene. Arbon's missing car was found about a month later abandoned in a Salt Lake parking lot.
Memory Grove was known as a pickup place for gay people in the ’90s, Wilking said. Arbon, who was gay, told his family in Orem that he was going to Greek Fest in Salt Lake City. Detectives believe Arbon went to the Memory Grove area and someone may have taken advantage of him. Knowing that single men often went to that area, someone may targeted Arbon and lured him to an isolated spot with the intent of robbing him, Wilking said.
When the cold case unit decides what cases to highlight on a billboard, Wilking said sometimes it comes down to tips that detectives have recently received or tidbits of information they hope to expand on, or sometimes it's simply an effort to generate new leads.
"They look at it and decide if there’s value in putting this out. Could we spark some interest at this particular time in regards to this case? Is there an alliance that has changed? Maybe someone has bragged about killing this gentleman or bragged about another crime associated with a cold case murder?” he said.
"The reality is (all cold cases) are workable. They’re all at some level workable. If somebody changes their mind and somebody has a deathbed confession or someone makes a comment that stands out suddenly, or somebody recalls an individual being in the area at that time … any little thing could break a case. We don’t know where that’s coming from. So putting (billboards) out there and reminding people that we have these cases is a good idea."
Currently, Wilking said there is no proof that a billboard has directly cracked a cold case. But the use of billboards has been used in the past for other cold cases that were later solved.
In 1998, Reagan Signs donated six billboards to advertise a reward to help solve the murder of 10-year-old Anna Palmer, who was stabbed to death on her front porch. The case was finally solved more than a decade later thanks mainly to DNA evidence. Matthew John Breck pleaded guilty to murder in 2011.Comment on this story
In 2012, friends of University of Utah scientist Uta von Schwedler bought two billboards with the caption, "Help solve the mystery of my death." Von Schwedler's body was found in an overflowing bathtub in her house in 2011. At the time, police could not determine if her death was the result of murder or suicide.
One of the billboards purchased was located less than two blocks away from the home of von Schwedler's ex-husband, John Brickman Wall. Wall was later convicted in 2015 of killing his ex-wife.