The Justice Files: A botched cold case murder investigation?

Justice Files

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – New information about a 1985 cold case murder may lead to an arrest.

“Why is it 35-years later that we’re still looking at this,” said Greg Chase, a former Salt Lake City crime analyst. “We’re still waiting. Why?”

Chase has since retired but during that time period, he was also a member of Salt Lake City’s unsolved homicide task force unit.

In 1985, Christine Gallegos was murdered in Salt Lake City.

She was found dead in an alleyway near 1300 south and West Temple. She had been shot and stabbed to death.

“She was my daughter (sobbing),” said Christine’s mother Leah Gallegos in 2019. “They had no right.”

About the same time period, two other women, Lisa Strong and Carla Maxwell were also found murdered. They too were shot to death.

Ten years later, Forrest Whittle was found guilty of shooting Strong near her home in Salt Lake City.

“The pawn slip showed that it was an RC .38 special, chrome with a black handle,” said Jason Jensen, a private investigator. “But the ballistics for that type never matched and police knew that.”

But there was enough other evidence from eyewitnesses to help convict Whittle of the Strong murder.
Years later, he still maintained his innocence during ABC4 interview from his prison cell.

“I have never hurt anybody,” he told the ABC4 reporter. “I never killed anybody. I am not that kind of guy. I don’t believe in violence. I made mistakes when I was a kid and I am sorry.”

But police and prosecutors had no evidence linking Whittle to the murders of Gallegos and Maxwell.

Over the past three years, Jensen investigated the unsolved murders. It’s his belief that Whitaker was involved with Gallegos’ murder.

Through forensic testing, he learned a gun that he found, a 1979 Rueger .357 fires .38 rounds, similar to the bullets used in the women’s murders.

He also found an eyewitness who claimed Whittle told him to get rid of the gun.

“He said Forrest Whittle came to us and said ‘hey I just killed some [expletive] downtown with this gun and I need to get rid of it.'” the witness told Jensen.

Strong was the last of the three women murdered and the gun according to Jensen’s witness cut the gun in pieces and threw it into the Jordan River.

In 1985, Chase said he gathered evidence that linked Whittle with the Gallegos murder.

“We got photos of the knife blade that was broken off right at the handle,” Chase recalled. “Right at the handle, the blade is broken.”

And there was also a confession that was forwarded to the Salt Lake district attorney. Details about those findings will be discussed in Wednesday’s Justice Files story.

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