The Wasatch County sheriff's office has its first major break in the execution-style slaying of a hitchhiker who was found dead in Daniel's Canyon seven years ago.
His death has been linked to a similar killing in Pennsylvania.Wasatch County Sheriff's Detective Stevan Ridge and agencies in other states are looking for a serial killer who has traveled across the country, killing and sexually mutilating young men.
No suspects have been identified, however.
Marty James Shook, 22, hitchhiked out of Sparks, Nev., on June 12, 1982. Two days later, a fisherman found Shook's body - clad only in socks - dumped in some trees 30 feet from U.S. 40 in Daniel's Canyon 15 miles east of Heber. He had been sexually mutilated.
Last year, Ridge placed the homicide on the FBI's Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (VICAP) list.
Pennsylvania State Police trooper Steve Toboz noticed the entry and began comparing it to one of his cases.
A ballistics test, the results of which were released last month, revealed that the same gun fired the copper-jacketed bullets that killed Shook and Wayne Leigh Rifendifer, 30, Bridgeport, Conn. The gun is a .38-caliber revolver, possibly a Charter Arms brand, Ridge said.
"We got real lucky," Ridge said. "Of course, computers are really starting to pay off in this business."
Rifendifer, a hitchhiker, was found Aug. 19, 1981, in a densely wooded area about six miles from I-80, 15 miles south of Jersey Shore, Penn. He was nude, had been shot in the back of the head and had been sexually mutilated.
"Oddly enough," said Ridge, "our victim and theirs looked an awful lot alike. They both had basically the same build."
The fact the victims were found along well-used truck routes leads detectives to believe the killer is a truck driver or possibly a traveling salesman.
The FBI is piecing together a psychological profile of the suspect.
Detectives are also comparing the Utah and Pennsylvania cases to similar killings in Natrona County, Wyo., northern Connecticut and Georgia.
Ridge said detectives believe the killer started in Pennsylvania then committed the murder in Utah and "then got more strange and started doing more mutilation. It might be that some other kook is doing this too," Ridge said.
In the Wyoming case, which occurred in August 1980, the victim, a 27-year-old man known to hitchhike, was found dead alongside a highway 20 miles southwest of Casper. The man had been shot 10 times with a .38-caliber handgun in the head and torso.
In the Georgia case, which occurred in July 1983, the victim was found with only a swimsuit on and had been shot multiple times. Tests are being conducted on the bullets.
In November 1986, the headless body of a male was found at a Connecticut rest stop that is a known homosexual hangout.
The fact that there have been no new cases since 1986 doesn't mean the killer has stopped, Toboz said.
"He could still be doing it and the bodies just aren't being found. He could be burying them. We were lucky we found our body."