SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – Suzanne Tate has lived nearly all her life wondering what happened to her younger brother.
In 1964, Reed Jeppson, a 15-year old sophomore at East High School left home to feed his dogs. He never returned.
57 years later, Jeppson’s disappearance remains one of Utah’s longest cases involving a missing person.
“You just keep thinking what happened to my little brother,” Tate said. “What did he go through?”
Those thoughts still haunt Tate in 2021.
She was one of the older siblings. Her brother Reed was part of the younger group of Jeppson siblings.
“We knew something have had to happen because this was not Reed,” Tate said.
On that day in 1965, the family began searching the area and made phone calls to his friends. He wasn’t found. They turned to the Salt Lake City Police and filed a missing persons report.
Alerts in three states were issued for Jeppson who was an eagle scout at the time. Ten days passed and there were “still no leads,” according to news accounts at the time.
By late November, police said there was no indication of foul play.
It turned into a cold case and took its toll on Tate and her family.
“You’re suspended in the unknown,” she said. “There’s no resolution. Year after year, there’s no closure. “
In 2010, police re-opened the case to remind the public that Jeppson still had not been found.
“Somebody out there in the community knows something about this case,” detective Cody Loughy told reporters in 2010.
They also released an aged enhanced image of what Jeppson could look like after 45-years.
Police collected DNA from members of the family to compare it with unidentified bodies found in the system.
But no leads developed.
Two years later, there was a tip that brought police to a gulley near the Jeppson home.
Someone found animal bones. Thinking it may be dog bones, police searched for Jeppson in the area.
The man who found the bones destroyed them, but took pictures and gave them to police.
“(He said) it looked like two dogs, a large one and a small one,” Tate recalled. “We believe they were Reed’s two dogs.”
But police found no evidence of Jeppson buried in the gulley.
Months later, the FBI analyzed the pictures of the bones and concluded it was animal but ruled they were those of a dog.
So what caused his disappearance? Some family members thought he fell into a cave in the mountains. Tate had her own theory.
“I had told my mother ‘I believe a pedophile got a hold of him,'” she said. “It had to have been a pedophile.”
In a police report, they questioned a known pedophile who lived nearby.
Here’s part of their questioning:
Man: “I’ll tell you one thing, I would appreciate your finding out who killed him.”
Police: “How does (man) know Reed was killed instead of running away?” Most of the gossip said that Reed was a runaway.”
Man: “Well, I know that this length of time, they’re never gonna find out”.
In the police report, police claimed the man was somewhat laughing as he said that.
But in the end, they found no evidence that tied him to the crime.
57 years have passed and Reed Jeppson’s disappearance still remains a mystery. The family did have a headstone made for him and placed it at a Salt Lake City cemetery. It bears his name, birth date, and the day he went missing: October 11, 1964.
“We just feel like our family has been robbed of a wonderful addition to the family,” Tate said. “His chance for life was stolen from him.”
A detective for Salt Lake City police said the suspected pedophile was not known to be violent and was ruled out.
Cordon Parks, a cold case investigator for the department said they are interested in talking to his classmates. Jeppson was a sophomore at East High. Parks said if anyone heard something that may be connected to his disappearance, he’d like to talk to them.