Tagged a serial rapist, a Midvale firefighter could be sentenced to die if convicted of the 1994 slaying

of a Payless Shoe-Source worker in West Jordan.Michael S. Decorso, 26, was charged Monday in 3rd Circuit Court with aggravated murder, a capital offense, after police matched his fingerprint to one left on duct tape used to bind the legs of 50-year-old Margaret Ann Martinez.

A mother of two and seven-year employee of the store, Martinez was found dead Feb. 15, 1994, smothered and strangled and her body dumped in a rear storage room of the store, 7915 S. Redwood Road. She was partially unclothed.

"This is a case that, in my opinion, cries out to be a capital offense," Salt Lake District Attorney Neal Gunnarson said. "If, in fact, he did the crime as alleged - and we believe he did - it's a very serious, heinous crime. We intend to pursue it fully."

Decorso became a suspect in the slaying after his arrest Feb. 10 for allegedly attacking and running down a female hitchhiker three days earlier in Salt Lake City.

Another woman also came forward, identifying Decorso as the man who raped her in October 1992 while they worked together at the Old Mill Haunted House on Big Cottonwood Canyon Road. Decorso was employed there as a volunteer EMT, court documents state. On Monday, Decorso was also charged with rape and forcible sodomy, each a first-degree felony, for the 1992 incident.

"We have reason to believe that he is a serial rapist, and there's no way of telling how many he has been involved in," Gunnarson said. "We feel very good to have him off the streets, and we intend to keep him off the streets."

Gunnarson declined to indicate if Martinez had also been sexually assaulted.

The road to a solid suspect in the West Jordan slaying has been lengthy for those working the year-long case. Their break came when officers tipped them of Decorso's arrest and his potential as a suspect in the slaying.

"Due to the nature of the offenses committed by Mr. Decorso, he was simply another one who deserved to have his fingerprints checked against the latent fingerprint we had at the crime scene," West Jordan police Capt. Rand Johnson said. "We had several phone calls from other investigators in other agencies stating, `You ought to look at him as a potential suspect.' "

Scott Spjut, a criminologist at the state Crime Lab, deserves much of the kudos, according to West Jordan police. Spjut successfully lifted a print from the duct tape attached to Martinez's pant leg.

And it was Spjut who matched the print to Decorso's, police said.

In an attempt to fuel more leads, police released added details about the crime scene in January. Martinez's killer had left behind the letters "TSG," written in the woman's blood, investigators said. The initials are those of a Salt Lake area gang.

"Many of the persons that are charged are not necessarily stupid or dumb," Gunnarson said. "They'll do any ruse they can to try to get around the facts. We feel, in this case, that was a ruse (the letters), and we've got the evidence now."

As of Tuesday, Decorso faced charges including aggravated murder, a capital offense; rape, first-degree felony; forcible sodomy, first-degree felony; attempted aggravated murder, first-degree felony; aggravated sexual assault, first-degree felony; aggravated robbery, first-degree felony; and aggravated kidnapping, first-degree felony.

He was arraigned Tuesday on the capital murder charge but didn't enter a plea as he didn't have an attorney.

"To my knowledge, he has no prior record," Gunnarson said. "At best, he's had a clean record. At worst, he's never been caught."

Decorso, who last lived in Sandy, has been a part-time firefighter for Midvale for some 31/2 years.

"He showed up and did his job when called," said Midvale City Attorney Martin Pezely. "He would maybe do two or three shifts per month, and a shift may vary from six to 12 hours."

Decorso's arrest and subsequent charges stunned his co-workers, Pez-ley said.

"He seemed to get along with everybody. His friends down there are all pretty shocked about this," he said. "There were no problems - not that they're aware of. Being that part-time status, we don't have that much on him."