Forty-year-old murder investigation reopened
When Carbon County Detective David Brewer heard a couple of years ago about the unsolved murder of a friend's mother that occurred in 1970, it ate at him. How could such a thing happen and the perpetrator not be caught?
For the last 12 months, Brewer has been digging into a horrible crime that shocked Price and the county, in which a suspect was arrested and the trial process begun. But before the year the Beatles broke up ended, the case was for the most part dropped.
Now, because of Brewer's hard work, the cooperation of a number of law enforcement agencies, and witnesses who are still around, there reportedly may be enough to take the case and a suspect to court.
Like the "Cold Case" crime series on television, Brewer stuck with it, looking at old records, testimony and even old issues of the Sun Advocate for clues. The new probing is tough because the original investigators have now passed away.
"We looked for the evidence files but over the years they have been lost," said Sheriff James Cordova. "In those days a lot of files were kept in investigators' homes and as they retired many of those records have evaporated. We checked every building in the county for information on this case."
Brewer, however, was able to find some short court transcripts and of course the newspaper stories. Working day after day on the case, some key witnesses began to appear.
It all began the night of July 30. 1970. A young girl was accosted by a man in the 400 S. and 700 E. block of Price. He ran away after she screamed. She then went home and told her parents about what happened. They called police and an investigation on that case began. Her brother had also witnessed the attack.
The next day, Loretta Jones' daughter, Heidi, was peering through a keyhole from her bedroom into the living room of a house located not far from where the young girl reported the attempted assault. The three-year-old saw her mother lying on the floor with blood around her. She ran out of the house and encountered a neighbor boy that was searching on his lawn for nightcrawlers to go fishing. She said, "I think my mommy is dead."
The boy went to the house and looked through the door and saw a woman laying on the floor. He ran home and told his mother who also came over and looked and then she went home and called the police.
Investigators found Jones with few clothes on, laying in a pool of blood with 20 stab wounds. It had been a savage murder/rape and both county (Sheriff Al Passic) and city (Chief Art Poloni ) were involved in the investigation from the beginning. Police combed the house for clues and began to question everyone in the area.
The murder had been done with a thin bladed small knife and the woman had been stabbed 17 times in the back, twice in the chest and a gash across her neck. The murder weapon was never recovered. Reportedly there was no forced entry into the home.
As police began to piece things together, the description that the young girl that had been accosted the night before of the man who approached her started to fit in with someone Jones had known. However, before local authorities began to act on that direction, police in Provo had heard the description and arrested a man there first, thinking he might be the one that the Carbon authorities were looking for. The young girl was taken to Provo, but she said that the man arrested was not the man she had seen.
As the investigation progressed some people of interest developed in the case. The biggest lead came from an anonymous phone concerning a young man that lived in Helper at the Newhouse Hotel.
It was then that Tom Egley, 30, became the focus of the investigation. He was brought in for questioning. He reportedly admitted that he had been in Price that night and in the area where the young girl was accosted. Then he asked for a lawyer and further questioning resulted in no information. Police did not have enough to hold him so he was released. He was also questioned again a few days later and the result was the same.
At the time four other suspects were apprehended, but cleared of the crime. Egley remained the main suspect in the slaying. After some other interviews and the return of some of the evidence examination reports from the FBI, Egley was arrested on August 31 by Passic and Poloni. The suspect was taken before Price City Judge Tom Platis that afternoon for preliminary arreignment At that time the court deemed Egley indigent and appointed a defense counsel for him in the person of Thorit Hatch, a Helper attorney who had served in the House of Representatives in the Utah State Legislature for a period of time. He had also been the lawyer who had advised Egley not to say anything to police during the original questioning. That arraignment hearing was then continued until the next day. Egley was remanded without bail. Hatch asked that he be assisted by another attorney. Arraignment was then continued again until Sept. 4. That day the court set Oct. 8 as the preliminary hearing for Egley.
But on Oct. 8, county attorney Dan Keller asked the judge to postpone the hearing because of three distinct reasons. First, some persons of interest that knew both the suspect and the victim had just recently been located in Kansas and police had not yet had a chance to speak with them. Secondly, some of the reports from the FBI had not been returned by that date. Finally Poloni was not available to tesitify because he was attending a law enforcement school in New York.
Hatch protested the continuation, saying that his client's civil rights were being violated due to the long length of the incarceration without a preliminary hearing. He stated that the police had been on "fishing expeditions" concerning the guilt or innocence of his client and that they "had not succeeded."
"If the state has not prepared its case by now, my client should be released," Hatch told Platis.
However Platis granted the continuance, providing that the prosecution file an affdvit setting forth its reasons for the continuance to serve as part of the court record. Keller agreed to that. Egley was not granted bail and a new date for the hearing was set on Nov. 5.
When that day came the prosecution pleaded with the judge to formally charge Egley, but the judge decided the next day that there was not enough evidence to to hold him for trial on the charge of murder. The judge then ordered Egley released.
Over the years the murder case has reemerged at least once with some more investigation done, but as the case has grown colder and colder, now almost frozen in time as witnesses drifted away and some died, things never got past the investigation stage. Hatch, who passed away a few years ago in Sunnyvale, Calif. took anything he knew with him. Keller is now retired and lives in Price but is not in very good health.
Still people remain who remember the murder. Jones' daughter Heidi still remembers what she saw. Her story is supported by others who were around her and claim the details she related that day when they ran into each other a year ago at the Helper Arts Festival are correct.
The boy who was next door hunting for worms on the lawn still lives in Price as does the young girl who was accosted on the street the night as the murder.
Egley now lives in Kansas. Carbon County detectives have interviewed him as well.
Some new witnesses have emerged as well.
"Sorting through the stories and tales is difficult," said Brewer. "We want the truth of what happened. We need people who know information we could use; real information."
And Loretta Jones' mother still lives in Price too, waiting and hoping that something will come of this latest investigation, and that justice will be served.
Anyone who has information of what happened on that summer night so long ago is urged to contact Brewer at 435 636-3281.