The Justice Files: Lost opportunity in cold case murder

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – Did prosecutors botch the case of Dan Peterson in 2007?

A local attorney thinks so and now wants additional charges filed against Peterson.

In 2007, Peterson was charged with the cold case murder of 14-year-old Tiffany Hambleton, but a jury acquitted him of the charges.

In 1986, Hambleton’s body was found in a field on the west side of Salt Lake City. She had been stabbed multiple times.

“Tiffany Hambleton’s case was such a total outrage,” said attorney Rocky Anderson who worked the case on behalf of the family. “(It) was not investigated more thoroughly.”

The case remained unsolved for more than a decade. There were no suspects, not even a person of interest. Fed up with Salt Lake City’s police department, her mother went before the city council in 2003 pleading for help.

“Because of egos and politics within Salt Lake’s police department my daughter’s case and others haven’t been solved,” said Vickie English.

But still, there were no arrests in Hambleton’s case. Anderson later became Salt Lake’s mayor and ordered a task force look into the many unsolved murders involving young women.

“I created a cold case team as a mayor,” Anderson said. “My duty was to find these perpetrators.”

Hambleton’s body was exhumed and DNA was found on her clothing.

The DNA belonged to Dan Petersen who eventually was charged with Hambleton’s murder.

Petersen told police he drove Hambleton home from a party but she left him when his truck ran out of gas.

“He told the police repeatedly there had been no sex,” Anderson said.

But during his trial, Petersen admitted they had sex in his pickup truck and she left afterward. A jury found him not guilty of her murder.

The DNA proved there was sex, but some of the jurors told the media it didn’t prove murder.

But something still bothered Anderson.

“They never charged him with obstruction of justice or lying to police officers,” he said.

The statute of limitations doesn’t apply in Petersen’s case because he’s moved out of state. As a result, there’s no time limit to file charges.

But Salt Lake’s district attorney said they still can’t charge Petersen because it was all part of one crime.

“The subsequent acquittal then precludes us from going back and find additional things we might have looked at and say well ‘we should have charged him'” said Sim Gill. “You don’t get a second bite of the apple.”

Gill wasn’t in office when Petersen was charged with only murder and not obstruction as well.

“I don’t know what their thought process was,” Gill said.

But he said the time to file all of the charges is during the initial filing.

Meanwhile, Anderson blames police for bungling the murder investigation. To this day, Anderson said Peterson did more than just obstruct justice.

“He’s gotten away scot-free,” Anderson said. “He was with an underage girl, obviously had sex with her. I strongly believed he raped her and killed her.”

The Utah Cold Case Coalition continues to investigate the murder of Tiffany Hambleton. The non-profit group is offering a $6,000 reward through August for any information leading to an arrest and conviction.

MORE THE JUSTICE FILES:

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