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Cold cases in Utah could warm up, including 40-year-old case with key evidence missing

Posted at 9:35 PM, Nov 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-20 00:06:12-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- For 40 years, the murder of Anthony Adams has stumped investigators with the Salt Lake City Police Department.

“If we went back to that day, the day of his murder right now, we would do things a lot differently,” said Detective Greg Wilking with SLC Police Department.

Adams was found stabbed multiple times in the chest and neck, inside his apartment on First Avenue, just a block from Temple Square. Police collected a bloody knife, but in 1978, DNA testing was not an option. Blood testing at the time focused on identifying blood type. Police say the knife was sent to a lab at the University of Utah for testing but whether during the testing, the transfer or the return to police, that knife is no longer in evidence.

“We don’t know. That knife went missing,” said Detective Wilking.

The missing knife isn’t the only question police have been asked about the case.

“There was a lot of people who said this was a hate crime or this was a political hit even,” said Eric Peterson from the Utah Investigative Journalism Project.

Peterson has been looking into the Adams murder for more than a year. He, and others question if police at the time were motivated to solve the case.

“Here was a person that was black, gay, socialist activist,” said Peterson. “No one, no one knows what happened.”

Detective Wilking, who was only six-years-old at the time of the murder, doesn’t shy away from questions about the department’s history.

“We know that there was bias back then, a lot,” said Detective Wilking. “We know how gay people were treated.”

No one really knows if investigator bias influenced the murder case. But some argue now, forty years later, it’s no longer the point.

“We don’t spend a lot of time criticizing what police did 30 years ago, it’s not productive,” said Karra Porter, Co-Founder of the Utah Cold Case Coalition.

Porter’s group believes around 200 murders, missing persons and unidentified remains have gone cold in the state of Utah.

“I believe in a case like Anthony Adams, there should be a lot more transparency because it hasn’t been solved for forty years, let the public try,” said Porter.

The public will soon get its chance. Over the past year, a law was passed to create a statewide database of all existing cold cases. Portions of the database will be available for the public to view online.

“Most people probably think that the number one key to solving a cold case is DNA testing. And that’s important but I would say even more important than that is public awareness,” said Porter.

She points to a case Salt Lake Police call their most asked about cold case, the murder of six-year-old Rosie Tapia. Tapia was abducted from her apartment window in 1995 and sexually assaulted. Her body was found the next day in a canal. Porter’s coalition has been working on Tapia case for free.

“I believe the Rosia Tapia case is going to be solved within the next few months,” said Porter.

For now, new details on the Tapia case are being kept under wraps while the coalition finishes their work to be handed off to police.

“The Rosie Tapia family desperately wants to know who did this to their little girl,” said Porter.

More eyes on more cold cases could be a key to generating more leads. Leads police and families waiting for answers, hope will lead to closure.

“People continue to call about these cold cases and we encourage that because that’s how we are going to bring closure to these families,” said Detective Wilking.

To read more background information on the Anthony Adams case, follow the links below to our news partner the Salt Lake Tribune.