SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – The composite of the suspect in Rachael Runyan’s disappearance was always that of an African-American.
It wasn’t until recently that a second composite of a lighter-skinned man, perhaps Hispanic, was publicized on ABC4.
It got the attention of a woman who claimed the second composite appeared to resemble her uncle.
She wanted to remain anonymous but spoke to ABC4 about her uncle.
In late August 1982, Rachael Runyan was kidnapped from a playground near a school in Sunset.
About three weeks later, her body was found in the mountains in Morgan county.
At the time, a composite of an African-American was considered the suspect in her murder.
But the second composite created by a young witness was seldom seen.
“Over time, we completely forgot about the one like the Hispanic individual and all the emphasis has always been, for 39 years, this looked like an African-American,” said Jason Jensen, a private investigator.
Jensen has been investigating the murder of Rachael for several years and recently met with the woman who claimed her uncle murdered Rachael.
In the 1980s, Melvin Reeves was once considered a possible suspect but police could never prove it.
Reeves drove a blue-colored sedan resembling the getaway car. But according to Jensen, it didn’t fit the description.
He said the getaway car had wooden side panels and at the time only the Pinto Esquire had those.
“Yes I slept in that Pinto many times,” said the woman. “When you stayed at Grandpa and Grandma (name) you grabbed a sleeping bag and pillows and slept in the back of the car. It was fun.”
She said her uncle who often stayed with his parents, drove the blue pinto quite often.
And amongst the family, she said he was a known sex offender.
“(Name) had hurt little girls before,” she said. (Name) had hurt one of the babysitters and did time in jail. That’s why when he was around, we were kind of banned from going over there.”
Her attention to the case came after she learned of the second composite, a possible Hispanic man. And she was startled to learn that Justin Runyan, Rachael’s brother who witnessed the abduction, remembered another feature of the Hispanic man.
“I’d tell the composite drawing artist that it needs a gap in his mustache,” Runyan told ABC4. “Certain little criticisms on what I thought the composite had wrong.”
He said his composite of the Hispanic man wasn’t taken seriously because he was young and the police didn’t take it seriously.
Two years ago, ABC4 re-created the same composite of the Hispanic man with a gap in the mustache.
“(Name) could never grow that,” she said. His mustache was always divided. Right there, that was a big red flag for me because I remember him never having that centerpiece of his mustache.”
Jensen said the woman is credible and believes they are on the right track in solving the case.
“I do with my whole soul,” Jensen said. “I bet my entire estate on it that this is the guy. He has the right background. He has the right profile. He looks like the sketch.
For the woman behind this revelation, turning in a family member wasn’t easy to do.
“But in the end, my heart said you have to do this because if you don’t you won’t be able to live with yourself beyond this,” she said.
The man’s name is not being released at this time. The Sunset police chief said Reeves has always been their suspect.
But he said this latest information is worth pursuing. DNA samples have been collected and police are awaiting those results.