Legos help solve 23-year-old Salt Lake County murder cold case

Posted at 12:01 PM, Aug 28, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-28 23:33:06-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Police have cracked a 23 year-old cold case murder thanks, in part, to a Lego.

Unified Police announced an aggravated murder charge filed against John Sansing in the 1991 murder of 78-year-old Lucille Johnson.

John Sansing - Arizona Department of Corrections

John Sansing - Arizona Department of Corrections

Sansing is currently on death row in an Arizona prison for a 1998 murder.

"When you hear the details of this particular case, you will see that this individual is barely human," Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder said at a news conference Thursday.

Johnson was beaten to death inside her Holladay home in 1991. At the time, police recovered some Legos. Winder said it was an unimportant detail at the time, but now has become a central piece of evidence in the case against Sansing.

"While in that home, it is clear Mr. Sansing bludgeoned Lucille to death, leaving his 5-year-old apparently in the living room to play with Legos. On those Legos were the fingerprints of Mr. Sansing's juvenile son."

Johnson's daughter, Shirley England, told FOX 13 she believes Sansing used his son to get into her mother's home. She does not believe her mother knew him at all.

"He had a child with him. He probably had some kind of story, I'm just speculating," she said.

Lucille Johnson

Lucille Johnson - family photo

UPD detectives said Sansing's wife recently admitted her husband had told her he killed an elderly woman in Holladay around the time of the murder. Police said they had questioned Sansing and his family.

Detectives on Thursday refused to reveal a motive for the murder, but said jewelry was missing from Johnson's home.

Johnson's children were grateful for the arrest.

"I wasn't sure that it would ever be solved," said her son, Jerry Johnson. "Because of the length of time that was going on."

England hugged the detective who worked the case, Sgt. Mike Ikemiyashiro, thanking him for his work. Unified Police said cold cases have been solved with more frequency thanks to a grant giving them more resources.

While prosecutors are expected to extradite Sansing to Utah to face the murder charge, police told FOX 13 they were looking at him in connection with other unsolved murders.

"It's not outside the realm of possibility," Ikemiyashiro said. "We know there's similar homicides that occurred in that time frame, 1989 to 1991. So he's definitely someone we're looking at."