The Justice Files: Family feels 50-year- old cold case is going nowhere

Justice Files
THEY WANT TO SEE POLICE RECORDS IN ORDER TO SEE WHAT IS AND ISN'T BEING DONE.

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – It’s been fifty-years since Johanna Leatherbury was murdered.
Her killer has never been found and it’s turned into a cold case.

Despite Unified Police claiming the case is still “active”, the family doesn’t believe there’s anyone investigating.

Leatherbury’s murder began in August 1971 just months after she had graduated from Olympus high school.

“The kids from Skyline and Olympus high school all hung out at this area,” said her brother Jack Leatherbury. “They played games and do what teenagers do.”

The gathering area was at a vacant field near 2500 South State Street and West Temple. Leatherbury was seen mingling with others. But she never made it home that night. The next day, her older brother heard a bulletin on the radio that alarmed him.

“It was a bulletin on the radio that said there had been a body discovered in the surplus canal out by the Great Salt Lake,” Leatherbury said.

The Leatherbury’s would later learn it was Johanna. She had been raped, brutally stabbed, and shot.

Authorities found her car abandoned just off State street and 2100 South.

They soon found her purse and wallet on the roof of a nearby motel. Police questioned two juveniles linked to the purse and wallet. Also, a brown International Harvester scout was spotted at the time Leatherbury’s body may have been dumped.

“It was seen in the morning,” Leatherbury said. “He was the night watchman at Morton Salt company and he saw the scout come out of there and it was about 5 am.”

The investigation was on a fast track and police were certain there’d soon be an arrest. But months later it all fizzled. The two juveniles and the driver of the brown scout were cleared. A reward was offered. And soon the sheriff called the investigation “a dead end.” Weeks turned into years, then decades.

“My mother and father went to their graves totally changed people,” said Leatherbury. “Totally changed.

Johanna Leatherbury’s murder turned into a cold case. Her killer was still out there and frustration took over.

“I am so angry and frustrated because there was a door being slammed in our face all of the time,” said Sandy Leatherbury, Johanna’s niece.

In 2010, the Leatherburys turned to ABC4 for help. it was the first time they’d spoken publicly about Johanna’s murder and her life

“She was a good kid,” said her sister Roxanne Brough in 2010. “She tried hard to please other people, help us all. I don’t know. I miss her a lot.”

And it got authorities to open up about the case. But eleven years later, Johanna’s family feels like they did in 1971, helpless.

“We just didn’t have any follow-through there was no follow-through,” said Sandy Leatherbury. “(It was) nothing just put up on the shelf and left.”

But a spokeswoman for the Unified Police department disagreed. She said the case is still active.

“We have a full-time cold case investigator and he has actively been working this case including right now,” said Melody Gray.

But the Leatherbury family isn’t convinced. Wednesday, as the story continues, their next course of action which could include legislative changes.

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