A prosecuting attorney has officially dropped a murder charge against a Salt Lake man accused in the 1972 death of Gregory Nickell.
Willard Dale Taylor, 52, was charged with the 20-year-old slaying but was released last month from the Uintah County Jail after lab tests revealed he was not the man who killed Nickell.Uintah County Attorney Harry Souvall dismissed the charge without prejudice before 8th District Judge Lynn Payne on Friday.
Souvall said charges against Taylor could be refiled if new evidence is uncovered. But he does not anticipate that happening, although the murder still is under investigation.
The case was reopened earlier this year by Uintah County Sheriff Lloyd Meacham after an unnoticed file containing a statement from Taylor's stepdaughter was discovered.
She testified Taylor had told her he burned a man in his car after shooting him to death.
In 1972, Nickell, then 21, had just returned from the Vietnam War and was parked on an overlook outside Vernal with his girlfriend when a man approached them.
He said his car was broken down and then fired a barrage of shots, hitting Nickell in the head, neck and torso, Meacham said.
The woman was later pulled from the car and raped by that man and a second man who had been following the killer. The men then set the car on fire with Nickell's body inside.
The woman's pants, bearing semen stains, had been held in evidence for two decades. Prose-cu-tors took blood samples from Taylor, but the genetic material from the blood did not match DNA in the semen.