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UNSOLVED CASES: Detective piecing together 31 year-old murder puzzle

“It happened in July of 1979, actually July 24th. It was pioneer day." Unified Police Detective Todd Park recites details of the case as though he were reading them from a page.
KEARNS, Utah (ABC 4) - “It happened in July of 1979, actually July 24th. It was Pioneer Day."
Unified Police Detective Todd Park recites details of the case as though he were reading them from a page.
"My victim went to work at the Taco Time in Kearns,” he says. “My victim was shot to death as she left work.”
And he speaks of the victim as though she were his sister.
“I know a lot about Louise." "You care about Louise it seems,” I observe. "Well of course I do," he says matter of factly.
“I have a lot of stock in this case,” he says. “I have a lot of blood, sweat and tears in this case. I own this case. I've worked on it for a long time."
Park picked up the case file on Louise Cottle Valdez more than a year ago. Now, he says he’s close to finding her killer.
"I get very passionate about my cases I investigate because the victim can't speak anymore,” Park explains. “I feel like I need to come up with some kind of conclusion for the family of the victims.”
He is tireless in his pursuit. Park works the case around the clock, seven days a week, sometimes, he admits, even in his sleep.
“I keep a small recorder on the bed stand at night, just in case I wake up with an idea.”
Here’s what Detective Park knows:
It was July 24, 1979. Louise Valdez went to work at the Taco Time restaurant in Kearns. It’s not there anymore. Neither is much else from 31 years ago. That’s one of a cold case detective’s handicaps – most of their evidence is either outdated, lost, forgotten or people just don’t care anymore.
During the day, Louise got a visit from her husband. Detective Park doesn’t want this reporter to name him. There is much he has to protect to preserve the integrity of his case – things only he and the killer would know. He can’t show his cards in this game of high-stakes poker.
Witnesses said there was an argument between Louise and her husband. Non one could say what the two were arguing about. Shortly after 5:00 p.m. on that evening, she clocked out of work, taking a bag of tacos.
She got in her truck. The evidence suggests she had no idea she was in a death trap.
"The suspect came form this direction – north,” says Park, as he stands on the spot where Louise was killed.
Making the motion of holding a gun, he recounted the deadly incident.
“He came up and came up on her and shot her and killed her, right here."
Forensics photos reveal powder burns on Louise’s shoulder and face. They tell police the execution style killing happened at close range.
"He was very close,” says Park. “He was within, I would say, less than about a foot was the distance between the end of the barrel and her."
There were plenty of witnesses that day. It was a Utah holiday. Park has tracked down and interviewed most of the people who heard the shots. Many remember the killer wearing a yellow or orange ski mask or knitted cap, just like those found in the suspect's truck.
"One of the witnesses’ statements is that he was parked here on the south end of the parking lot," says Park as he walks to the spot where witnesses said the killer got into his getaway vehicle - a grey, step-side pickup truck.
“There are few little leads that if this story or further investigation produces that charges will be filed in this case," says Park.
The puzzle is missing two critical pieces. Part of one popped up in the form of an anonymous e-mail.
"Somebody has left us a tip,” says Park as he holds it and reads it again. “It gives us some very specific information."
The writer claims she went to school with Louise Valdez's brother-in-law. She writes that he was drinking one night shortly after the murder and confessed to killing his sister-in-law as she was leaving her place of employment because she had been giving his brother problems in his relationship.
The tipster writes, “It has always bothered me that he probably did shoot his sister-in-law."
"I think this is very legitimate," says Park. “I feel that I'm very close to solving this case for this victim, the family and for these friends."
Detective Park is hoping that by putting this case in the spotlight the writer of the e-mail will come forward and talk to him. He’s also hoping someone names Chrissie Brady (The spelling may be incorrect.) will also come forward. Park can’t say exactly why he thinks she holds a piece of the puzzle. He doesn’t want to compromise the case when he hands it over to prosecutors. And he’s confident he will.

You can contact Detective Park during the day at this phone number:
(801) 743-5850.
In the evening, call the Unified Police Department dispatch:
(801) 743-7000.
You can also contact him via e-mail by going on his cold case web page:
slsheriff.org
Just click on “Solve a Crime” then click on “Cold Cases.”
And to see all the cold cases throughout the state of Utah, go to the Attorney General’s website:
utah.gov/coldcase





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