The Justice Files: Who murdered Mona ‘Heather’ Ulibarri?

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – For four decades the family of Mona Ulibarra have been waiting for answers.

On April 17, 1979, she disappeared from her home in Salt Lake City.

“She never came home. she left early to get her car fixed,” said her brother Frank Ulibarri. “And that’s the last time my mom seen her.”

Her family and friends knew her as “Heather.” She was 24-years old and living with her mother. She enjoyed shooting pool and socializing at local taverns.

That night, her family became worried when she didn’t return home.

Mom said ‘she would have contacted me that day or the next to say she wasn’t coming home,'” said Ulibarri. “My mother said ‘there’s something wrong’ and so she called the police.”

Ulibarra was considered a missing person as far as Salt Lake City police were concerned.  But it changed a week later. Police got a call about a possible body floating in the Jordan River on the west side of Salt Lake City.  

They found a female body that had become stuck in some branches. An autopsy determined it was Ulibarri. The medical examiner also found evidence of a homicide.

“The cause of death was asphyxiation which the analysis said she was killed before she was thrown into the river,” said Amy Baldwin an investigator for the Utah Cold Case Coalition.  “She was also raped and had several bruises around her neck.”

The coalition is now investigating Ulibarri’s unsolved murder and is offering a $10,000 reward for information that can lead to an arrest/conviction.

The same day Ulibarri’s body was recovered, police also found a burned-out Volkswagon Bug on Jeremy Street in Salt Lake City. They later learned it belonged to Ulibarri.

“Somebody that was responsible for her death also burned out the interior of Mona’s car,” said Jason Jensen with the cold case coalition.  “And the suspicion for that would be that they were probably trying to burn away any evidence that would link them to her death.”

The developments in 1979 disturbed Ulibarri’s family and they immediately began searching for information.

“It was devastating,” said Ulibarri. “Then when we realized (police) weren’t doing anything since the time she was missing we started with (close friend) and she started giving us information.”

Ulibarri’s friend told them that she was last seen at a tavern once called Billy O’s. They learned she had been playing pool with at least three men the night she disappeared. She even offered the same information to the detectives.

“I am angry and upset,” said a woman who lives in the area.  “(I am) angry that they have not followed up on her case.”

Wednesday, the Justice Files will continue with the investigation into the murder of Ulibarri. ABC4 learned that there are two groups of persons of interest. They are not related to each other but police and Ulibarri’s family believe that one of the group murdered Mona Ulibarri.

Marcos Ortiz
Emmy award winning journalist and producer, reporter of the Justice Files seen nightly on ABC4, begining his career in Blythe California with stops in Green River and Cheyenne Wyoming. He was hired to be KGGM’S political reporter in Santa Fe, New Mexico before arriving in Salt Lake City in 1992 as a general assignments reporter before moving into the crime beat.
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