SALT LAKE CITY— Salt Lake City Police have solved a 42-year-old cold case.
In 1979, Sandra Matott disappeared without a trace, leaving behind several children, including her son Darrell Haymes.
“I gave up hope like two decades ago that we're getting closer,” Haymes told FOX 13 Friday. “What I remember most is she was really a good mom.”
There had been no trace of her for nearly 33 years — until 2012 when the Millard County Sheriff’s Office entered the description of a body found with no teeth, as well as a watch and a ring, into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) which matched Matott's description.
Millard County had never solved the case but was looking for new details on some of their oldest cold cases as well.
It took nine more years of investigating, DNA testing and technological advancements to finally match the "Jane Doe" to Matott.
That conclusion, 42 years later, makes it the oldest missing persons cold case that has ever been solved by the SLC Police Department.
“I'm thinking, finally, closure… Because without a body or remains or something, there’s always that question,” Haymes said. “So I'm glad they didn't actually close the case.”
SLCPD Detective Micheal Ruff was in the room when they told Haymes and his sisters the news.
"It's a special moment,” Ruff said, adding that detectives don’t always get to see their cases come full circle like this.
The question of who murdered Matott is still unsolved, however.
In 1984, infamous serial killer Henry Lee Lucas confessed to killing Matott. However, Salt Lake Police said, “his claims were vague, and detectives could not verify his confession.”
Lucas later recanted hundreds of confessions and was known to take ownership of murders he did not commit.
Salt Lake City Police and the Millard County Sheriff's office believe Matott's husband Warren also knew more than he ever told police, especially because after announcing she was missing, detectives couldn’t get ahold of him again.
"She was reported missing back in 1979 by her husband… Our detectives tried to contact him and they couldn't, so the case was closed for a time,” Ruff said, adding that, shortly thereafter, the case “was reopened, but there was not much to go on.”
Police never could link enough evidence to convict Warren Matott but believe he was somehow involved.
Both Warren Matott and Henry Lee Lucas have since died.
While justice can’t be served in this case, Haymes just feels like closure is what his family needed.
"At the police station, I shed a tear, and I hadn't cried about my mom in years,” he said. He added that his sisters, who were much younger, got a lot more emotional finally knowing the truth.
Haymes candidly admitted that not having a mom drifted the family apart because there’s “no one’s house to go to for Sunday dinner,” adding that “without a mom to hold you together, I think siblings all grow apart when you grow up and have families of your own.”
But in a way, their mom, even 42 years after she was gone, is bringing their family back together.
Haymes says he, his sisters and his aunts are on the phone more than ever now that there is closure, even talking about when their families can meet back together.
“I am more happy I have closure, and I am talking to the sisters and stuff like that," he said. “She was missing for all this time and grew apart, but now with the closure, we’re coming back together.”
Matott’s remains are still at the medical examiner's office and can now be released to the family, who plans to cremate the remains and make jewelry with them in order to carry a piece of their mom with them now that the case has finally been closed.