The Justice Files: New law offers victims of major crime hope

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – It’s been nine years since Alice Griegos was found murdered.

His family has grown frustrated her killer has yet to be found.

Now, Frankie Sisneros, Griego’s son said a new law may breathe new life into a case that has gone cold.

Sisneros is referring to House Bill 15 which was passed and signed into law by the governor last month. It’s designed to give victims of violent crime a second chance at justice.

“That’s the question a lot of us are having is, we don’t know why,” said Sisneros.

His mother was found dead in a home that belonged to Ralph Salazar in White City.  Both died after the home they were sharing was set on fire. Unified Police Department has yet to make an arrest.

The new law which takes effect next month allows families to seek help from a different police agency.
 
“If it’s been a year and it’s not been resolved then maybe you don’t know what’s happening or worried that nothing’s happening, then you have a chance to ask for a review,” said Karra Porter with the Utah Cold Case Coalition.
 
It’s something that Alice Griego’s son wants to pursue.

“Anything we can do,” said Sisneros. “It’s been seven years. Anything we can do to try and get it solved.”

Nine years ago, Sherry Black was murdered at her business along 700 East in South Salt Lake.
Despite a composite of a possible suspect, no arrests have been made.

In 2017, Black’s daughter offered a public plea to help with the case.

“It’s been way too long,” said Heidi Miller. “We need to catch that person before he hurts somebody else.”

A spokesman for the Black family said they won’t comment whether they’ll seek a second opinion.

Here’s how House Bill 15 works:

  • Anyone who is a victim of a first-degree felony, a murder or missing person investigation can request a review of the investigation.
  • The investigation must be a year old and the police department has yet to have the case screened for charges.
  • After receiving a request to transfer the case, a police department has 30 days to develop a plan to either close the investigation, continue with the investigation or submit the case to the prosecutor for possible charges. 
  • If the investigation continues, but no charges have been filed within 90 days, the family can request the county attorney seize all of the evidence of the case.
  • Police have 15 days to transfer the evidence files to the county attorney.
  • The county attorney has 30 days to evaluate the case to decide if it should be closed or develop a plan to continue with the investigation or decline the transfer request.
  • After 60 days the county attorney shall send notice to the family about its intentions.
  • If the county attorney declines to transfer the case, it has 30 days to return the evidence to the police department. 
  • If the county attorney agrees to close the case, families can submit a request to the attorney general’s office to review the case.
  • The attorney general has 60 days to decide if it will re-open the case and submit its intentions to the family.

During a legislative hearing this year, House Bill 15 had the support from law enforcement and prosecutors.

At a committee hearing, the head of the Utah Chiefs of Police said detectives work tirelessly to solve these crimes.

“It haunts them and it hangs over them because they desperately wish and desire to be able to bring closure to families,” Bountiful police chief Tom Ross said in the hearing.  “This is not driven by a lack of desire or interest or putting effort.  Often times it is driven by the lack of being able to find answers that we all want.”

A spokesman for Salt Lake City police which has numerous unsolved cases, said they’re not opposed to this.

“When we have a case that is a difficult case, we’re often looking for those experts that can help us out there in the field and this bill is a step towards that,” said SLCPD Detective Greg Wilking.

House Bill 15 is an attempt to give new hope and perhaps closure to families hurt by violent crime.

“For my family you know, for my brothers and sisters, we just want to know why,” said Sisneros.

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