The Justice Files: Victim’s family grateful for an arrest in 1982 murder

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – Three years ago, Natalie Ferguson hoped for answers to a cold case murder.

Her great aunt Wilhelmina Reid was murdered in 1982 at her Salt Lake City home on California Avenue. All leads dried up and it turned into a cold case.

But last December she learned police took up her request and made an arrest.

“I was like what?” Ferguson recalled that moment. “They found somebody? So I was really excited.”

Ferguson was 15 years old and living in Salt Lake when the murder happened. Reid lived by herself and Ferguson would sometimes visit her home.
She grew up calling her Aunt Billie.

“I remember being over at my aunt’s, watching TV and going shopping with her and helping put her groceries away,” she said.

But in August 1982, their lives were shattered to learn Aunt Billie had been found lying on the floor in her home. She had been bludgeoned to death.

“Oh it’s horrifying,” Ferguson said. “I mean to know, to even imagine how frightened she was and she knew him.”

In December, the Salt Lake district attorney filed murder charges against Bryan Reed who was living in Nebraska.

The 55-year-old Reed lived on the same street as Ferguson’s aunt. In fact, she said her Aunt Billie would visit her neighbor and have coffee. The neighbor was Reed’s step-mother. According to court documents, Reed who was 17 years old at the time, fled to Nebraska on the same day as the murder.

“It’s hard for me to think that a 17-year-old committing a crime as horrific as this and then not doing it again, is kind of shocking to me,” said Ferguson.

In 2017, Ferguson wrote a letter to the Salt Lake City Police Department requesting they re-open the cold case.

Last year, they used a search warrant to obtain Reed’s DNA. It matched the DNA found on the elderly woman’s clothing according to the charging documents.

Ferguson said her Aunt Billie had a lot of jewelry at her home. But for now, prosecutors and police are unsure of a motive.

But the charging documents claimed Reed confessed to police. He said he entered through a bathroom window and went into the woman’s bedroom and used a bat to hit her multiple times.

Ferguson said the news of the arrest was too late for Aunt Billie’s last living sister. She died last year never knowing the mystery was near its end.

But for the living, they may soon get justice.

“I am so glad to have closure and once this man gets convicted and behind bars, we’ll really have that closure,” said Ferguson.

Reed remains in the Salt Lake County jail. He made a brief appearance in district court Friday. His attorney is requesting a lower bail in an attempt to be released from jail. A hearing on the request will be held on February 21.

Meanwhile, Reed’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 11.

MORE OF THE JUSTICE FILES:

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