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'Critical' piece of evidence found in West Valley homicide case

Photos of victim Hope Gabaldon, right, and her girlfriend Whitney Bodell.
Photos of victim Hope Gabaldon, right, and her girlfriend Whitney Bodell.
Courtesy Galbadon family

WEST VALLEY CITY — West Valley police announced Wednesday they located a Jeep that they called a "critical component" into the investigation of a woman killed last week.

Hope Gabaldon, 21, of Herriman, was discovered with multiple injuries lying on the side of the road at 4000 West near 3150 South on Feb. 25. She was taken to a local hospital where she was later pronounced dead. A cause of death had not been revealed as of Wednesday.

Investigators had been looking for Gabaldon's 2007 silver Jeep Grand Cherokee since her death. Wednesday, police announced they found it in an apartment complex parking lot near 4000 West and 4100 South.

Gabaldon didn't live at the apartment complex and police are investigating how the Jeep ended up there, according to West Valley police spokeswoman Roxeanne Vainuku. The vehicle has been sealed and moved to a holding facility while investigators seek a search warrant to examine its interior.

"We're very glad to find this Jeep," Vainuku said. "We have a homicide victim with a missing vehicle, and we don't know what kind of clues that vehicle could hold, so we're very glad to have found this and for our investigators to be able to get a look at it. We don't know what's in there, but we're hoping that there might be some clues that could point us in the right direction in this case."

Sergio Briseno Medina, 26, who is considered a person of interest in the investigation, was arrested Sunday in Denver, according to West Valley police. He was not arrested in connection with the homicide, investigators said, but they have not said what he was arrested for.

Medina and Gabaldon were acquaintances, Vainuku said. She was unaware if Medina had any prior connections to Denver.

A search of Utah State Court records indicates Medina pleaded guilty in April 2012 to a reduced charge of possession with intent to distribute. In September 2010 he pleaded guilty to possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person.

In 2008 he was convicted of attempted theft by receiving stolen property, attempted possession of an illegal substance, and possession of a dangerous weapon.

Contributing: McKenzie Romero

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com