The Justice Files: ‘Composite of a killer’

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News)   It’s a composite drawing of a possible suspect in the murder of Rosie Tapia

And it may now be in the hands of Salt Lake City police.  ABC4 has a copy of the composite but will not reveal it.

In 1995, the six-year-old girl was kidnapped from her home and later found dead in a canal near Redwood Road and 1700 South.  Her killer has never been found.

In a new development, a witness ABC4 first reported on met with a professional sketch artist to create the image of Rosie’s possible killer.

It means a lot to both the family and community, everybody that’s involved in the case, said Michael Streed.

Streed is a former police sergeant and according to his bio, is an internationally-recognized forensic facial imaging expert. The so-called sketch cop has been featured in stories across the country helping law enforcement find bad guys.

His sketch of Alejandro Avila let to his arrest in the murder of five-year-old Samantha Runnion in California.  In 2002, he was convicted and sentenced to death but remains imprisoned.

Streed also created a composite for America’s Most Wanted in the Salt Lake City murder of Anna Palmer.  He read ABC4’s initial report in January with the witness and contacted ABC4 about meeting the witness.  Streed is creating the composite at no expense to the Tapia family.

The witness who wants to remain anonymous said he saw a young man in wet clothes leave the canal about the time Tapia was murdered.  Her body was found in the canal near 1700 South and Redwood Road. The witness told ABC4 he contacted police back then, but they never met with him.  Months later he visited with police to create a composite but became frustrated when he claimed law enforcement wouldn’t help him in creating a drawing.

But this week, Streed and the witness came together via the internet at ABC4’s studios.

And for nearly two hours, they created a nose, eyes, cheek bones, ears, and hair.

How does that look? Streed said as he sketched a jawline.

That looks pretty good, the witness said. Can you make it where like the cheeks are a little more….

Inside the room were the parents of Rosie, along with the family’s private investigator Jason Jensen. He arranged for everyone to come together.

Like this? Streed asked.

The witness continued to suggest improvements to the image. 

Yeah, yeah like that, he said.

Finally, Streed and the witness were satisfied with what they had created.

I’d say that’s around an 8 out of ten, the man said.  It’s really close.

Afterwards, Streed said the witness had a memory that could help police if the sketch leads to an arrest.

The man is very sure of about what he saw, Streed said.

And for Rosie’s mother, she’s hopeful this is the break they’ve been waiting twenty-four years for.

I’m hoping that this is the year that we solve this case and hopefully this person in this picture will help do that, said Lewine Tapia.

As part of the agreement beforehand, ABC4 will not show the composite.

Friday, the Utah Cold Case Coalition handed the sketch to Salt Lake City police.

We’ve decided to deliver the composite to (the cold case detective), said Jensen who is also a member of the cold case coalition. We plan to give the police a month to do their investigation with it.

After that, Jensen said the coalition plans to make it public.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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