The Justice Files: The document that unveils an alleged killer Pt.2

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – It was a confession of a 1986 murder but it’s been collecting dust after all these years.

In 1996, Forest Whittle went to prison for up to life for the 1986 murder of Lisa Strong.

She was shot to death while walking in a Salt Lake City neighborhood.

Back then, Greg Chase was a crime scene analyst for Salt Lake City’s homicide unit.

“He is in prison for killing Strong, using a gun that matches the murders of other girls,” Chase said.

Months earlier, Carla Maxwell was shot at a Layton convenience store, and in Salt Lake City, Christine Gallegos was shot and stabbed to death in 1985. Their murders remain unsolved.

“Take Gallegos, it wasn’t a random thing that killed her,” said Chase. “He knew her completely.”

At the time of her murder, Gallegos was an underage dancer at a nightclub in Salt Lake City. Whittle was the bouncer.

But the gun that was used in the three murders was never found.

Jason Jensen, a private investigator discovered a witness who got rid of the gun.

“He said Forrest Whittle came to us and said ‘hey I just killed some (expletive) downtown with this gun and I need to get rid of it,'” Jensen said.

A jury convicted Whittle of murdering Strong but apparently, there was not enough evidence to charge him with murdering Gallegos and Maxwell.

It surprised Chase who during that time period, was part of a task force for unsolved murders in Salt Lake City.

In the case of Maxwell, he said Whittle was near the convenience store in Layton when she was shot.

“You can start by putting him in the same location and start looking at the same gun ballistically,” Chase said. “I think that’s a pretty good place to be starting and working from.”

But Jensen discovered an investigative document that was part of the Salt Lake prosecutor’s evidence in the strong murder.

It read in part: “witnesses stated that Whittle talked about shooting after seeing it on tv. He knew Strong and Gallegos. The document also said “he shot at (Strong) and she fell” and “shot at her some more.”
Regarding Gallegos, “the witness stated (Whittle) shot a girl near the area of 13th south.”
That was the location where Gallegos’ body was found. “He stabbed Gallegos and the blade broke off,” according to the witness.

“We have prosecutorial notes that he confessed to a bunkmate in prison and then, later on, tried to have that bunkmate murdered,” Jensen said. “Forrest Whittle admitted, knowing Christina Gallegos and described the murder scene, including using a knife blade that had broken off in the crime scene.”

But following his 1996 conviction, Whittle told an ABC4 reporter that he was innocent.

“Tthey don’t have a weapon,” Whittle said to the reporter. “They have nothing to tie me except for a couple of guys. What do I have to do to prove I am innocent.”

But Jensen said he has found a Ruger, similar to the actual gun that was used in the murders. He claimed tests by the ATF showed similar ballistic traits.

And now they have an alleged confession that was in the hands of the prosecutor in 1995.

“That document came from a lot of information that we had obtained, that we had gathered,” said Chase. “We got photos of the knife blade that was broken off right at the handle.”

Why wasn’t the information pursued? That’s a million-dollar question according to Jensen and Chase.

“Why is it 35 years later that we’re still looking at this,” Chase said. “We’re still waiting. Why?”

Thursday, Salt Lake City Police offer a response and it surprised Christine Gallegos’ mother.

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