August 13, 2003
'Cold case' squad on job
By Ashley Broughton
The Salt Lake Tribune
The families of two Salt Lake City teenagers slain during the 1980s may finally get what they have sought for nearly two decades: answers.
Relatives of Tiffany Hambleton and Christine Gallegos agreed Tuesday, after a tension-filled meeting with city and police officials, to withdraw a Government Records Access Management Act (GRAMA) request for portions of police files regarding the unsolved homicides.
In return, Salt Lake City police -- who as of mid-July have had an active cold case squad -- agreed to meet with the relatives, and the private investigator they have hired, to share whatever information they can without jeopardizing the investigation.
"This killed my father, and my sister's gone and my grandma is dying," Danielle Gallegos, Christine Gallegos' sister, told Police Chief Rick Dinse. "I have too much faith in the system, and now my faith is about gone."
Christine Gallegos was 18 when she was killed in May 1985. Police said she had been shot and stabbed. Hambleton was 14 when she was found stabbed to death in a west Salt Lake City field in April 1986, six weeks after she left her Glendale home to attend a concert.
Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson earlier this year said he was creating a panel to examine the investigation into the June 2002 disappearance of Elizabeth Smart. The panel, at Anderson's request, could also investigate the deaths of Gallegos, Hambleton and Carla Maxwell, 20, of Ogden, who was shot to death at the Layton convenience store where she worked in April 1986.
However, Danielle Gallegos and Francis Brunyer, Hambleton's grandfather, said they have never been contacted by the panel. Anderson has said it cannot start the Smart probe until criminal cases against kidnapping suspects Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee conclude.
But relatives of the 1980s victims said they do not understand why charges against Mitchell and Barzee would affect a probe into the deaths. And they said police have been less than forthcoming. "It took them a week and a half to get me a case number," Gallegos said.
Dinse said he created the cold case squad, despite not receiving additional resources, by reorganizing existing personnel. "We have a duty to solve these cases and work with families," he said. "The homicides . . . are extremely important to me personally.
"We don't exclude the families," Dinse said, adding that he did not know why police would have failed to contact or include victims' families, but it "shouldn't have happened."
Still, police are not comfortable with granting relatives and private investigator Craig Peterson full access to the case file because of the ongoing investigation, he said.
Although they said it might take some time for cold case detectives to get "up to speed" on the cases, police agreed to an introductory meeting with victims' family members. That meeting could take place as soon as this week.
But "I will not be belittled any more," Danielle Gallegos told Dinse.
Peterson will have the right to refile the GRAMA request if the meetings do not satisfy the victims' relatives, said Nathan Wilcox, who headed the meeting of the city's records appeal panel.
Ballistics tests have proved that Gallegos and Maxwell were shot by the same gun that killed a fourth victim, 25-year-old Lisa Strong. Gang member Forrest Whittle was convicted of Strong's death and sentenced to life in prison.
Copyright 2003, The Salt Lake Tribune.
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