The Justice Files: Composite sketch of possible suspect in Rosie Tapia’s murder

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – A new composite is being released of a possible killer in the murder of Rosie Tapia.

And Lewine Tapia is hopeful it will help solve the 1995 murder of her daughter, Rosie.

In January and again in March, ABC4 reported about a witness who claimed to have seen a young man walking away from the canal where Rosie’s body was found the next day.

The witness claimed the possible suspect walked by him in dripping wet pants.

In 1995, there was a breakdown in communication between the witness and Salt Lake City police and a composite was never developed.

In March, 24 years after Rosie’s murder,  the witness met with a professional sketch artist from southern California and ABC4 was there when the composite came together.

The final sketch was not revealed in March.  Salt Lake City police were given an opportunity to review it first before it was released to the public.  Tuesday, ABC4 was given the authorization to release the composite.

“The image always stuck in my brain because every year she’d (Rosie Tapia’s mother) be on TV and it reminded me of it,” said the witness who did not want his identity revealed.

He claimed to have been at the crime scene when Salt Lake City police removed Rosie’s body from a canal near Redwood Road and 1700 South.

The 6-year-old disappeared late that night leading to a frantic search.  The next day, her family learned Rosie had been sexually assaulted and drowned after her body was recovered from the canal.

In January, ABC4 caught up with the witness who claimed a young man whose pants were wet walked by him in the early hours after Rosie’s disappearance.

He claimed he told police of that person, But said no one helped him put together a sketch.

That is until March when a national sketch artist saw ABC4’s original story and volunteered to build the composite.

For nearly two hours they worked together drawing and erasing eyes, changing the jawline, adding and removing hair.  Finally, it was done.  But the composite was not released then until Salt Lake City police had a chance to review it.  Nearly 40 days later, they authorized its release.

But those who first viewed it in March were impressed with the image.

“I would say that’s around an eight out of ten,” said the witness.  “So it is, that’s really close. I don’t know how we could do any better than that, to be honest with you.”

Also watching were Rosie’s parents and their private investigator.  She’s anxious to get the composite out in the public.

“I am because hopefully somebody will come forward and identify this person,” said Lewine Tapia.

The composite is of a young man back in 1995, that’s nearly 24 years ago.

“I think it takes it into a bold new direction where we can look at somebody that matches the description from old yearbooks,” said Jason Jensen.  “We can check with old witnesses that lived in that apartment community and see if they recognize that individual.” 

The witness said the encounter with that young man years ago, never left his memory.

And he said it was all because Rosie’s mother never let the public forget about her daughter.

“Whenever she’d come on TV I’d think about it,” said the witness.  “It’s just always bothered me that the police department 23 years ago didn’t want to help me do this before.”

If anyone has information about who this person is, contact Salt Lake City police or the Utah Cold Case Coalition which is offering a $3,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and/or conviction.


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