KEARNS — After more than a week of searching for a Kearns woman believed to have been abducted from her home, Unified police gave a tragic update on Tuesday.
“We do believe at this time that (they have) taken her life, that it’s a murder case we’re investigating,” Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera announced.
Two people were arrested Monday night in the disappearance and death of Conzuelo “Nicole” Solorio-Romero, 25.
Orlando Tobar, 29, from Honduras, and Jorge Medina, 21, believed to be from Venezuela, were booked into the Salt Lake County Jail Monday night for investigation of aggravated murder and aggravated kidnapping.
Solorio-Romero’s body has not been found.
Rivera said the hearts of everyone at the sheriff’s office and Unified police go out to Solorio-Romero’s family.
“This is a heartbreaking, very tragic incident. And our heart is breaking along with them,” she said. “We are not going to give up. We are going to continue to look for Nicole, it is our priority.”
On Feb. 6, Solorio-Romero was forcibly taken from her home near 5000 West and 5400 South at gunpoint or at knifepoint, according to a police affidavit.
Police believe she was taken to a residence in West Valley City “by suspects only known as Chaparro and the Venezuelan,” the affidavit states. Once inside, “one witness stated that they observed the victim being shot in the head. The witness was unclear if it was Chaparro or the Venezuelan.”
Chaparro then allegedly told witnesses that if they spoke to anyone, “they would have to kill them, too. One witness stated the victim was loaded into the back of Chaparro’s vehicle and she was never seen again. One witness stated he received a call from Chaparro stating the victim didn’t die from the initial shot and had to” be shot again, the affidavit states.
One person told police “they were forced at gunpoint to assist Orlando in moving a dead body that was covered in plastic from the studio apartment into a trailer,” according to the police booking affidavit.
Investigators later identified Chaparro as Tobar and the Venezuelan as Medina.
About 2:20 p.m., roughly 10 minutes before police say Solorio-Romero was kidnapped, her younger sister received a frantic call.
“She was crying, saying that there was three men threatening her with a gun to get out of the house ... basically kicking her out,” said Juliana Bersamin, who was at the mall when her sister called. “I was just scared for her because I had no idea why this was happening.”
Shortly after, Bersamin said her sister called their cousin to ask for a ride, telling them, “I’m OK, but who called the cops? ... Don’t call the cops.”
Bersamin thinks Solorio-Romero then left the house to meet her cousin at the corner of 5400 South, where surveillance footage caught the kidnappers forcing her into a gray Toyota Camry.
When Bersamin and her cousin arrived, Solorio-Romero was gone.
“My sister had said that ‘I’m at the corner,’” said Bersamin, who shared a basement apartment with her sister. “That’s the last thing I heard from her, because when I had gone back to the house there was no trace of her at all.”
Unified police served a search warrant on the West Valley residence where they believe Solorio-Romero was taken and said they found “substantial blood evidence.” Investigators also later found a white pickup truck with a snowplow that they had asked the public to look for.
Police have not revealed where the two suspects were arrested, but noted that a firearm was recovered at that scene, and it matched with evidence found in the West Valley residence.
A possible motive for the kidnapping and killing has not been revealed. It was not known Tuesday whether Solorio-Romero knew her abductors or if other women could be in danger, too.
However, based on the level of violence that was exhibited in this incident, Rivera said it is likely not the first time the men who were arrested have been involved in something like this.
Members of the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Marshals Office and West Valley police were assisting with the investigation. Rivera said police believe others were also involved in the crime and additional arrests are likely.
She also believes there are people out there who know what happened to Solorio-Romero and where her body is.
“Somebody does know something and you need to come forward. This is not right. To take a young girl’s life in this way is just wrong. It’s wrong for our community and we’re not going to stand for it. And we’re going to continue to investigate it until we get everyone arrested who had a part in it,” the sheriff said.
“This is a devastating situation for a family.”
Contributing: Garna Mejia, Kyle Dunphey