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Weber detectives probing 2 related killings from 3 1/2 decades ago

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OGDEN — The Weber County Sheriff's Office has confirmed that it has been actively working a pair of cold case homicides from more than 35 years ago that are believed to be connected.

No arrests have been made, but thanks to advancements in DNA technology and new interviews with people believed to have "run in the same circles" as the victims, detectives have started to "identify some persons of interest," said Weber County Sheriff's Lt. Nate Hutchinson.

On Aug. 11, 1982, Joyce Tina Gallegos, 21, was last seen alive in the Weber County area. Her body was found Aug. 22 in the Ogden River. She died from two gunshot wounds to her head.

Four days after Gallegos disappeared, 14-year-old Gabriel Distefano was last seen going to a party in Riverdale. It was the last time she was seen alive. Her body was found, wrapped in plastic, on Sept. 16, 1982, in a ditch near a construction site in Harrisville. She had been shot once in the head, according to police.

Police believe the two cases are related. No one has ever been arrested for either crime.

But according to a search warrant affidavit filed in 2nd District Court in December, sheriff's investigators who are working with Harrisville police have been busy over the past three months interviewing people, re-interviewing and collecting DNA.

Hutchinson said detectives are taking advantage of advancements in forensic technology that weren't available in 1982, as well as re-interviewing everybody who was associated with the victims more than three decades ago.

While investigators don't believe Distefano and Gallegos knew each other, they had common acquaintances. Detectives have been busy interviewing people who "ran in the same circles," Hutchinson said.

Recently, detectives traveled to Texas to interview a man on parole there. That man was dating Distefano at the time of her death, the warrant states.

On Aug. 15, 1982, Distefano was last seen in a car at the Paramount Theatre in Ogden with a group of people, including two men, according to the affidavit. The group then went to a party in Riverdale.

A witness who was with the group claimed Distefano left the party with one of the men. The witness "also claimed that she saw a handgun in the glove box of the red car," the warrant states.

Distefano was dating the man she left the party with, according to the warrant. Another witness said the two "were having an argument."

That man was interviewed by police in 1984 "and denied having dated or seen Gabriel Distefano at any time in 1982," police wrote.

In 2008, "the bullet recovered from Gabriel Distefano's body and the bullet recovered from Tina Gallegos' body … were sent to the northern Utah crime lab. It was determined by the crime lab that the bullets in both homicides were fired from the same gun," the affidavit states.

In 2012, the Utah State Crime Lab tested Gallegos' purse that was found near the Ogden River, and "verified that there was a combination of more than two males' DNA found by swabbing the purse," the warrant states.

"Because the murders of Tina and Gabriel occurred in or near the same month of August 1982, because both bodies were shot in the same fashion, and because the bullet fired into each girl was fired from the same gun as determined by the state crime lab, it is my experience that most likely the same perpetrator was at least involved in each homicide," the detective wrote in the warrant.

Investigators are asking anyone who remembers anything about either case from 35 years ago, not matter how small the information, to contact Weber County sheriff's detective Steve Haney at 801-778-6601.