The Justice Files: Who murdered Michelle Halling?


SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) –  Michelle Halling’s death was horrifying.

In 1990, she was found in her bedroom after her home caught fire.  It was considered an arson.  Twenty-nine years later her family is still waiting for an arrest.

“We had a television in our bedroom,” recalled David Halling, Michelle’s father.  “We turned on the morning news and we saw a fire.”

The Hallings were living in American Fork at the time and David Halling kept looking at the house.

“I turned over to Joyce (wife) and said ‘that’s Michelle’s apartment that’s on fire,'” he recalled saying. “That was a very shocking discovery.”

It was 2 a.m. when firefighters were called to a house fire in Cottonwood Heights. Neighbors heard screaming coming from the home. The 28-year-old died from smoke inhalation.  The doors into her home appeared barricaded.

“We’re not sure if it was things that had collapsed as a result of the fire in the burn or whether it was something that was deliberately placed there,” said Lt. Sid Elliot back in 1990.

Authorities had been to the home before on calls of domestic violence between Halling and her boyfriend. The fire was ruled an arson.

“They did find the hotspots where the accelerant had been placed around her bed,” said Joyce Halling, the step-mother.  “We thought she was murdered.”

Her boyfriend at the time was questioned but released.

Halling’s case has the attention of a cold case detective with the Unified Police Department.
“We’re asking the public that anybody that has any information to come forward and give us that small piece that we’re missing and we’re really close to charging in this case,” said Ben Pender.

“We believe we’re missing a small piece of evidence that we believe somebody out there has.”

For 29 years the Halling family has been waiting for justice.

“It’s somewhat frustrating that we have not been able to find any answers to Michelle’s death,” said Michelle’s father, David.

Halling was a mother of three: two girls and a boy.  Emily Brainich was in grade school when she lost her mother.
“It’s been really difficult,” said Brainich. “You know I just imagine like all the things that a mother does for a child and knowing that I never had that in my life has been really hard.”

The family would like nothing better than to turn on the news again.  This time, to learn of an arrest.

“It doesn’t bring her back, it doesn’t erase all that sadness and sorrow and heartbreak,” said Rachelle Valdez, Michelle’s step-sister.  “But maybe it will help … our family to move forward a little bit.”

Detective Pender said if anyone has information to contact him directly at 385-468-9816.

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