SALT LAKE CITY — Karin Johnstone said a phone call a few weeks ago from Unified police was completely out of the blue.
Investigators informed her that after nearly four decades they were reopening the investigation into the shooting death of her father and expected to file criminal charges.
"I couldn’t believe it because I think we had kind of given up,” she said.
Johnstone's wheelchair-bound father, Jack Richardson, 54, was shot and killed in the entryway of his Holladay home in 1979 during a botched home invasion robbery.
Despite having a good idea of who was responsible just days after the incident, no one was ever arrested for the killing. And then, due to the way the court system was set up nearly four decades ago, the case fell off the radar.
On Friday, Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera — standing alongside Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and Unified cold case detective Ben Pender — announced that formal charges had been filed in the case and $1 million warrants issued for two men.
Hector Maurice Brito, 60, and Pascual Alfonseca, 60, were each charged in 3rd District Court on Friday with murder and aggravated burglary, first-degree felonies. Brito faces an additional charge of obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony.
Their whereabouts remain unknown.
On Jan. 5, 1979, police believe the two men plotted to commit a robbery. After discussing potential targets, they picked Richardson, Pender said. The detective said Richardson was not chosen at random, but he declined to give details on how the men knew him.
A third man drove them to Richardson's house.
"He opened the door and Brito pulled out the gun and stated, ‘This is a holdup,’” Rivera said as she described the facts of the case based on interviews with witnesses, including the driver. "Brito stated Mr. Richardson put his hands up and the gun accidentally fired, striking Mr. Richardson in the face.”
After the killing, Brito and Alfonseca asked a fourth man to hide the gun, the sheriff said. That man allegedly threw the remaining bullets out the window as he drove up Butterfield Canyon and then hid the gun under a rock. Police found the weapon 10 days later after witnesses cooperated with investigators.
Numerous witnesses said the two men left Utah immediately after the killing by disguising themselves as women.
Brito and Alfonseca, originally from the Dominican Republic, were sent to Ogden after their families migrated to New York to try and steer them in the right direction, Pender said. Brito had allegedly been in gangs since he was 12.
But when they got to Utah, the two "went off the rails," he said. They were arrested shortly before Richardson's death on an unrelated crime. Pender said he has been in contact recently with the men's families, but they claim they have not heard from the two since 1979.
Pender said it's likely the two men are still living somewhere in the U.S., outside of Utah, under assumed names.
But with advances in forensic technology over the past four decades, Pender hopes investigators will now be able to find them. And with formal charges being filed, federal authorities are now authorized to help find the two both in and outside the United States, he said.
Although the two men have been suspects from essentially the start of the case, it was the way warrants and probable cause statements were handled back then that led to a breakdown in police looking for them, according to Gill. Specifically, because the men weren't in custody by 1991, their warrants were dismissed.
If not for Pender and his cold case team going back and re-examining old homicides, Gill said the suspects may still be forgotten.
Also attending Friday's press conference was Richardson's widow, Rayola, and many of his children and other friends and family members.
His daughters told those in attendance that even though their father was paralyzed from an industrial accident, that never stopped him from camping, fishing, hunting or even skiing with the family.
"The wheelchair didn’t keep him from doing the things he loved to do,” Richardson's daughter, Cindy Greer, said.
When the family went skiing or sledding, "He sat at the bottom of the hill and take movies of us,” she recalled.
Greer said the family was very close back then and did a lot of activities together, and remains very close today.
Now that criminal charges have been filed, she said they need the public's help in finding the two men.
"It’s our hope that the people responsible for this can now be brought to justice,” she said. "We need this closure.”
"It’s been 39 years and justice has not been served," Johnstone concurred. "There is not a day that goes by that the pain in my heart is not as real as the day this happened."