Police are exploring a theory that the death of Rachael Runyan, a 3-year-old Sunset girl who was abducted from a playground in August 1982, may have been recorded on videotape and is being sold through underground channels nationwide.
They hope a re-enactment of the abduction, taped by NBC's "Unsolved Mysteries" last week, will turn up new leads in the case. The program is scheduled to air Wednesday, Nov. 8."New information and leads have led us to believe the motive for Rachael's killing was murder for money in the sickest manner imaginable," Sunset police detective Lt. Phil Olmstead said during the taping of the show Thursday.
One theory, which Olmstead originally discounted, was that the child's murder was part of an occult ritual. Shortly after Rachael's body was found on Sept. 19, 1982, police jeep patrols found some of her clothing nearby. The clothing appeared to have been burned.
Mysterious black roses have been found lying on the child's grave on two occasions by her father, Jeff.
Two and a half years after her death, police found a hand-drawn message in black ink on a wall in an all-night a laundry a few miles from where Rachael was kidnapped. The message read: "I'm still at large . . . I killed the little Runyan girl! Remember Beware!!!!" Below the message was an occult symbol. Olmstead said a psychologist said the message could be a prank or could have been left by the real killer.
Police investigators are again exploring the theory due to a new lead that developed in April, when a woman came to Salt Lake police and claimed her brother was the man who killed Rachael. During subsequent interviews as a paid informant, the woman told detectives that the killer sexually violated the child and tortured her, recording the acts on videotape, before Rachael was killed in an Ogden house.
The woman has since said that she lied. She was charged with obstruction of justice and theft by deception and served 40 days in Weber County Jail during August and September.
Some of the information the woman provided correlated with other informants and evidence in the case. Other information did not, Olmstead said.
"Unsolved Mysteries" became involved when the program's researchers asked the FBI what its biggest unsolved cases were.
During taping of the television program, Olmstead appealed for anyone who has seen the videotape or possible still pictures to send a copy of the evidence, no questions asked, to the police station in Sunset. "We're offering the chance for someone to act in total anonymity - guaranteed - no questions asked," said Olmstead.
Olmstead said he is excited about the national coverage. "We'll probably get dozens of leads, and then we'll sift through them. Maybe one will be the right lead we're looking for.
"I hope one day we'll be sitting there and a big envelope shows up. If it does, you'll know. You'll hear me scream.
"If we look at this lead and it's valid, it could mean there are other movies like it . . . being networked throughout the country," Olmstead said.
Officials are investigating a lead that a Utah State Prison inmate serving time on an unrelated charge of aggravated assault was involved in the Runyan case.
The "Unsolved Mysteries" segment will include a re-enactment of the Runyan kidnapping, an interview with Olmstead and visits to the laundromat where the writing on the wall was found, Rachael's grave and the area in Trapper's Loop where the body was found.