SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Police have now closed a decades-old murder case dating back to 1974 in Salt Lake City.

The Salt Lake City Police Department (SLCPD) says the suspect in the case, George B. Toone, 75, has since passed away from natural causes.

Toone, who died in 2001 in California, is accused of shooting and killing 39-year-old James Bednarik on the night of February 28, 1974.

Detectives say Toone allegedly waited for the victim to return to his home located near the 500 block of East First Avenue before shooting and killing him. Police describe the murder as an “execution.”

While investigating, police say the victim, Bednarik, had stirred up trouble after allegedly selling stolen gasoline at the time. 

“The year prior to his murder, he shot and injured a gas station owner after the two got into an argument over stolen gasoline,” says SLCPD investigators. 

In 2018, SLCPD utilized “new forensic technology” to test evidence collected in 1974 but unfortunately yielded no new leads.

Authorities later discovered that in 2001, Toone confessed to killing two men in Salt Lake County, including Bednarik, at the request of the gas station owner who was shot by Bednarik. Using this new piece of information, officials conducted forensic testing on “two latent fingerprints collected at the scene from 1974.”

Police say the fingerprints were positively traced back to Toone. Based on this new discovery, authorities say they’re now confident Toone is responsible for murdering Bednarik.

“In recent years, DNA and other technology has greatly aided in solving cold cases along with new cases,” said SLCPD Chief Mike Brown. “This is a great example of the continued dedication, professionalism, and care both active and retired officers have in these cases. I’m proud of our detectives. They never let up in their pursuit of justice.”

Police say Bednarik’s family has been notified of this new update.

Although Bednarik’s case may be closed, detectives are still actively investigating the claim of a second person killed by Toone in Salt Lake County.

Police are asking anyone who may have information regarding this case to contact Salt Lake City Police at (801) 799-3000.