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A woman from Ohio was murdered in 1998, then somehow transported and dumped in the deserts of Utah.
She remained unidentified for 20 years.
Her killer was unconfirmed for 24 years.
But thanks to dogged determination from investigators, support from her family, new technology and help from the community, we now know her name is Lina Reyes-Geddes.
She was a fun-loving, wonderful woman who immigrated from Mexico, and lived in Youngstown, Ohio with her husband of two years.
Then, on April 20, 1998, the 38-year-old’s’ body was found near Maidenwater Spring in Garfield County, Utah, off State Route 276 in a remote area about 45 miles north of Lake Powell. Despite extensive investigations by the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office and the Utah State Bureau of Investigation, due to a number of complications, including the husband never reporting her missing, authorities were unable to identify the body. The case went cold.
Lina Reyes-Geddes’ killer spent a good amount of time trying to conceal his merciless deeds. After shooting her in the head and removing her fingertips, he covered Lina’s body in plastic bags, then wrapped in duct tape, tied with rope and placed inside a sleeping bag before being rolled into a carpet. Then he transported her, potentially from Ohio or Texas, all the way to the middle of Utah. Because of that, for almost 20 years, Lina remained unidentified and was instead referred to as the “Maidenwater victim.”
Over the years investigators sent various pieces of evidence to the state crime lab for analysis, including DNA from the rope, but with no actionable results. The Utah State Lab simply didn’t have the tools they needed to help solve the mystery. The frustration of another unsolved case languished on.
Theories popped up, including the potential of serial killer Scott “Hannibal” Kimball being responsible, but he was eventually ruled out as a suspect. Lina’s killer was yet to be found.
Then, in 2018, the Utah SBI released a post-mortem picture of Lina. An alert citizen in California matched the picture to one that had been released by the Youngstown PD of missing person Lina Reyes-Geddes, and the break investigators had been hoping for finally happened.
Once Lina had been identified, then the hard work of identifying her killer commenced in earnest. But 20+ yr old evidence, especially evidence that had already been sent to the lab on multiple occasions, has its challenges. But Detective Brian Davis had an ace in his corner, and her name is Kathy Mackay. Kathy is an expert researcher and had found the M-Vac system as a new, more aggressive forensic DNA collection technology, and brought this to Brian’s attention. And, as fortune would have it, they also knew a senior CSI at West Jordan PD named Francine Bardole, and Francine was (and still is) an expert with this new collection system.
Detective Davis asked Francine for help and they got to work. Francine used the M-Vac to sample multiple items, but what yielded the best results was the rope that was used to tie Lina’s wrists and legs.
But wait, how was that possible? That rope had already been sent to the Utah State Crime Lab for testing, and their results were negligible. Based on their testing Detective Davis was led to believe there wasn’t a half of a nanogram of DNA material on that rope, which is what is necessary to produce a viable DNA profile.
By using the M-Vac Francine was able to collect 117 nanograms of DNA material from that rope, which is 234 times more than what is needed. Everyone involved was ecstatic!
Then, Detective Davis was able to send the M-Vac filters to Pure Gold Forensics in Redwood, CA for analysis. Using the latest in lab processing and analysis techniques, the experts at Pure Gold Forensics were able to identify two DNA profiles from that rope. One was eliminated as a knot expert who had examined the rope years before, the other was Lina’s husband, Edward Geddes.
The 24 year old mystery of who killed Lina Reyes-Geddes was solved!
Our congratulations to all those involved in helping Lina receive justice. But most importantly our hearts go out to Lina’s family. Contrary to what some might think, most victims and their families never really get full closure. Yes, life goes on, and some are able to put the murder of a loved one in a place that doesn’t affect them in a dramatic way, but some cannot and it literally destroys the loved ones left behind. In that light we also pray for all of Lina’s family and hope they can now not only lay Lina to rest in a sacred place for their family, but also now be able to find peace knowing what happened to their beloved Lina.
For more details and a in-person accounting of his efforts, tune into the video and podcast All Things Crime in the near future!