SALT LAKE CITY — After 20 years of waiting, the pieces to solve a murder fell together in just two months.
It started with an episode of "Dateline," followed by an Oct. 2 press conference by Utah law enforcement detailing the 1998 death of a woman known only as the "Maidenwater victim."
Completely independent of what officials in Utah were doing, police in Youngstown, Ohio, at about the same time were updating their missing persons files. One of the cases they updated was that of Lina Reyes-Geddes, 37, who disappeared after allegedly leaving on a trip from Ohio to Dallas and then to Mexico to visit her family. It is unknown if she ever made it to Dallas.
As part of her file update, police were able to obtain a picture of Reyes-Geddes from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It was the first picture police had ever received of the missing woman.
"Had that not occurred, we wouldn't be here today," said State Bureau of Investigation Agent Brian Davis at a press conference on Thursday to announce the identity of the Maidenwater victim.
But it wasn't a detective or private investigators who linked the two cases.
Instead, a private citizen in California, who Davis described as someone fascinated with true crime stories, happened to compare the unsolved cases. On Oct. 14 — less than two weeks after Davis' press conference — that citizen called him and suggested he compare the Maidenwater murder with the missing person in Ohio.
Davis said as soon as he saw Reyes-Geddes photo, "It looked quite good to begin with."
After contacting police in Youngstown, Ohio, investigators were eventually able to make contact with a family member of Reyes-Geddes in Mexico. Two of her family members agreed to travel to the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey, Mexico, on Nov. 9 where DNA swabs were taken. A Utah-based company then compared their DNA with the Maidenwater victim and confirmed it was Reyes-Geddes, Davis said.
But who killed Reyes-Geddes remains a mystery.
Still considered a suspect is convicted serial killer Scott "Hannibal" Kimball, 52, currently serving a 70-year prison sentence for murdering four people, including his own uncle. But investigators believe he could be responsible for up to 21 more deaths across the nation, including the Reyes-Geddes. In October, Davis called him the only person of interest in the case.
On April 20, 1998, the body of a woman now confirmed to be Reyes-Geddes was found wrapped in several layers of plastic and duct tape and rolled in a sleeping bag and piece of carpet on the side of state Route 276 about 40 miles north of Lake Powell in Garfield County near Maidenwater Spring. The woman died of a gunshot wound.
Investigators were unable to compare fingerprints to any database because the victim's fingers had been cut off. Kimball, Davis noted, chopped off the hands of one of his confirmed victims. Police were never able to identify the Maidenwater victim and the case went cold.
Despite a Facebook post by the Garfield County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday announcing, "the suspect of this murder committed suicide in Nevada in the early 2000s," Utah state officials on Thursday said they did not agree with that information.
"From our standpoint … we don't consider him a suspect at this time. There's a misunderstanding there," said Davis, who has investigated the case extensively over the past couple of years.
The deceased individual Garfield County Sheriff's Office referred to was Reyes-Geddes' husband, Davis confirmed. He was also the person who reported his wife missing in 1998. Davis said the husband was not even a person of interest on Thursday for his office or Ohio authorities.
Now that investigators know who the Maidenwater victim is, Davis said they can start retracing her steps to figure out how she ended up in Utah from Ohio, and possibly who killed her and whether it was Kimball.
"Those things that have led us to believe it was Kimball, those facts haven't changed. Our hope now is to backtrack through Ohio and see if we can find any connections there, or anyone else involved," he said.
The remains of Reyes-Geddes will now be flown to her family in Mexico to give them closure. The Utah Office of Crime Victim Reparations will pay for her remains to be returned.