The Justice Files: Composite of suspect in Rosie Tapia murder goes viral

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – Gustavo Ibarra thought he was looking at a doll floating in the water.

But it wasn’t. It was the body of Rosie Tapia.  In 1995, the 6-year-old was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and dumped into the Jordan Channel near 1500 West and 1700 South in Salt Lake City.  Her killer has never been found.

In 1995, Ibarra liked going on long walks along the Jordan Channel which borders his neighborhood.  

It was a Sunday morning in 1995 that he noticed something odd in the water.

“That day I noticed there was something floating in there,” Ibarra said.  “It wasn’t too far away to see it.  I thought it was a doll, a large doll with dark hair.”

But as he got closer to the water, he knew this was no doll.

“It was a human and it was darker complected that was the only thing I could see on her back,” recalled Ibarra.

Salt Lake City police arrived after his 911 call and they confirmed it was the body of a child.  It was Rosie Tapia.

She was 6 years old and the night before she was taken from her bedroom.

Ibarra didn’t know her at the time.  But after 24 years he knows of her murder which remains unsolved.

He’s curious about a composite which ABC4 first released Tuesday.

Ibarra knows his neighborhood having lived there for more than two decades.

But the composite didn’t spur any memories of anyone in his neighborhood.

“No and I knew everybody back that time,” Ibarra said.  “But I don’t know him. I don’t recognize him at all.”

The composite was developed at the ABC4 studios in March.  A witness who wants to remain anonymous claimed he saw a 17-year-old Hispanic male leaving the Jordan Channel hours after Rosie was kidnapped.`

A professional police sketch artist who first saw ABC4’s story in January with the witness, composed it.  After it was completed, the witness approved of the finished product.

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

Salt Lake City police are now using it as part of their investigation.

“If anybody has any recollection of somebody matching that description in that area and may be able to help us, hopefully, that tip comes to us,” said Detective Greg Wilking with Salt Lake Police Department.

For Ibarra, he understands the need to get this case solved.

“I feel horrible, I mean I had two kids, a daughter her age at that time,” Ibarra said.  “I can imagine the pain of this family going through this.”

The Utah Cold Case Coalition is offering a $3,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and/or conviction.

And Salt Lake City police has an anonymous tip line for anyone who can supply them with information about who this person may be.

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