The Justice Files: After 36-years police ‘actively’ investigating cold-case murder Pt.3

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – After 36-years, the family of Christine Gallegos may soon get justice.

Salt Lake City Police confirmed they are “actively” investigating the 1985 cold case and will soon send their findings to a review board.

“I just want them to get this handled before her birthday if they can, December 22nd,” said her mother, Leah Gallegos.

That’s been the hope, Leah Gallegos has each year. But for the past three decades her wish has gone unanswered.

In 1985, her teenage daughter was found in an alleyway. Christine Gallegos was shot and stabbed multiple times.

Her murder has never been solved.

“I don’t know how to feel,” said Gallegos upon hearing the latest development from Salt Lake police. “I’m really, really .. it’s emotional.”

A new document discovered by private investigator Jason Jensen points to a suspect in her murder. Forrest Whittle is already in prison.

In 1996, Whittle was sent to prison for up to life for murdering Lisa Strong in 1986.
Gallegos and Carla Maxwell were also murdered during the same time period.

Both of those cases have gone unsolved.

“We have prosecutorial notes that (Whittle) confessed to a bunkmate in prison and then later on tried to have that bunkmate murdered,” said Jason Jensen, a private investigator. “Forrest Whittle admitted, knowing Christina Gallegos and described the murder scene, including using a knife blade.

Back then, a former Salt Lake City police crime scene analyst got involved with the murders of young women, including Strong and Gallegos. Greg Chase was also appointed to a task force of unsolved homicides.

“We got photos of the knife blade that was broken off right at the handle,” he said.

Based on their intel, Chase and another associate knew it was Whittle and his gang called the “Vario Chosen Few” that were behind the murders.

He said detectives disregarded their findings and went after someone else in Idaho. The suspect in Idaho was serial killer Ezra Rhoades. In one newspaper headline at the time, a police detective told reporters he was “100%” certain it was Rhoades. It turned into a dead end.

Chase said detectives finally get it right, followed their information and a jury convicted Whittle of the Strong murder.

But the Gallegos case was tossed aside. According to Chase, detectives buried it after the public embarrassment of going after the wrong man.

“They weren’t interested in hearing about this and it became a rift,” said Chase. “There’s enough (evidence) and nobody is doing anything, nobody’s doing anything.”

In January, Jensen presented his findings to the attorney general’s office.

“We want Forrest Whittle to be prosecuted for these murders,” Jensen said. “We belive he is responsible for the murders of Lisa Strong, Christine Gallegos, and Carla Maxwell.”

Jensen believed the AG office turned over his findings to investigators with Salt Lake City police who originally handled the case.

The department apparently is now interested in these latest developments.

In a statement sent to ABC4, police said the following: “The homicide investigation into Christine Gallegos is currently an open and very active investigation. We will be reviewing the homicide with the state of Utah cold case review board in the near future. We are also looking at the investigation with new DNA technology. Again, this is still a very active investigation, and we cannot at this time comment further on this case.”

It took 36-years for Leah Gallegos to hear this.

“I am angry and I am relieved,” she said. “I don’t know how to feel about it because they’ve had all this information for all this time and didn’t have to put all of the families through what they are putting them through.”

Chase also said the investigations were shelved by city hall officials. He claimed they arrived at his office and was told to discontinue using the word “gangs.”

“We had somebody from the mayor’s office came over directly and talked to myself and John (an associate) and were told ‘you can’t call them gangs,” Chase said. “From now on we’re told to call them informal youth associations.

Chase said he and his colleague refused and were terminated.

“It should be handled and I’d like to see somebody step forward and do the right thing and take care of these cases and do it for these families.”

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