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POLICE SAY WORDS LED TO KILLING

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It wasn't just a casual wave of the hand that led to the freeway killing of a mother of five children early Saturday.

Some kind of verbal confrontation occurred between a passenger in the woman's car and the group of gunmen who killed Diane Pur-per, police say.Purper, 39, suffered two bullet wounds to her torso during the 2 a.m. shooting at the 500 South on-ramp to I-15. Her children, age 8 to 23, saw their mother for the last time at LDS Hospital.

"We're quite sure there was some verbal confrontation before the shots were fired. That's what started it all," said Salt Lake police detective Chuck Oliver.

However, the passenger in Purper's Dodge Stealth, Fred Jensen, maintained Tuesday that he didn't say anything to the carload of men.

"It was just a wave of the hand. I leaned out and mouthed the words, `Go ahead.' That's about it," he said in a telephone interview.

Jensen told police he and Purper, his aunt, were traveling home from a night of dancing and drinking when Purper stopped her car at a light at 300 West and 500 South.

A group of people in a car behind them began to honk. Jensen, who was in the front passenger seat, waved them to go around, he said.

Jensen, 22, said when the light turned green, the car drove up alongside Purper's Stealth, and six shots were fired.

Jensen has repeated his story for several local television stations and asserted again Tuesday that the shooting occurred as he said it did.

"It would be more understandable if there was some confrontation," he said. "But there wasn't."

Police, however, are confident words were exchanged at the scene, Oliver said. He would not discuss why investigators are unshaken in their view.

That discrepancy aside, every other part of Jensen's story has checked out, Oliver said.

"There definitely was another car involved," he said. Police are looking for a light brown, newer-model, four-door compact or mid-sized car. More than 60 callers have given tips to investigators.

"Some look pretty promising . . . we have a lot of leg work to do," Oliver said.

Anyone with information can call detective Jim Alcock or Oliver at 799-3000. Callers can remain anonymous.