The body of Jose Perez was found in his Williams home on Feb. 1, 1965. He had been stabbed 36 times.

In April 1975, a rancher looking for strays found a badly decomposed body of a young man about a mile north of Interstate 40 38 miles east of Flagstaff.

The body of Ina Langstaff was discovered in a Plaza Vieja alley on Nov. 7, 1987. She had been stabbed to death.

All three cases have a common element - they are unsolved.

In an effort to solve homicides, unattended deaths and mysterious disappearances in the city and the county, the Coconino County Sheriff's Office has put together a cold-case squad of retired law enforcement and criminal investigative staff.

And the squad has just been a new tool for the job. The federal government has awarded the county an 18-month, $304,000 grant to help solve the cold cases through DNA testing.

"We have the most serious crime committed against someone that we haven't solved," said Lt. Rex Gilliland of the sheriff's office of the reason for forming the cold-case unit.

The families of the victims deserve closure, he added.

There are currently 37 unsolved cases within the city and the county, according to information from the cold-case unit. Twenty-nine of the cases are homicides.

The existing staff of criminal investigators for the sheriff's office must focus on current cases and don't have the time to work on older, unsolved cases, Gilliland said.

Benita Boyd, a retired DNA criminalist with the Department of Public Safety crime lab, said, "This unit has the luxury of having that time to go back and look at these cases."

Boyd will be focusing primarily on DNA testing. The grant allows for the analysis of DNA evidence that has been preserved in the cases to help either identify remains or identify a suspect in the homicides.

Databases of DNA evidence exist of missing people and convicted felons, Boyd said. With advances in DNA testing and increased documenting of DNA evidence, matching DNA evidence with remains or suspects continues to increase.

Gilliland said the cases will be prioritized for solvability. First cases to undergo DNA testing will be the unidentified remains so the profiles can be sent to the University of Texas, which houses the missing persons database. Matches can be made, Boyd said, if family members of missing people have submitted DNA samples.

After that, culling DNA evidence from the remaining cases will be the priority, Gilliland said.

But DNA testing isn't the only avenue. The unit is actively investigating several cases at the moment and members are using old-fashioned investigative techniques of interviewing and researching.

The unit also includes David St. John, a retired official from DPS; John Weybright, retired DPS and former county constable; Shorty Morrow, retired DPS and pro-tem justice of the peace; Chuck Jones, retired FBI; and Joe Sumner, retired National Park Service ranger.

Each member has his or her reasons for joining the unit.

"I realized I had a lot of historical knowledge of evidence evaluation," Boyd said.

St. John said his law enforcement background and his desire to be involved in the community made the unit a "good fit" for him.

Weybright and Morrow said they needed something to do to keep busy.

Members of the unit are currently investigating a double murder at the Grand Canyon in 1977, a 1975 murder near the North Rim where only a woman's bloody shirt with 36 stab holes was found, and a 1987 murder found off Devil Dog Road near Williams.

All the unit's members are confident they will solve some of the cases.

Boyd said the Flagstaff crime lab has DNA samples from cases from the mid-1980s to the present.

The sheriff's office still has a majority of the evidence gathered in the cold cases at the time, Gilliland said.

St. John added that unfortunately, what was considered evidence in years past was not as defined as modern visions of evidence and its collection.

"The case is only as good as the evidence seized," Morrow said. "We can't solve them if the evidence wasn't gathered."

Weybright gave an example from his and Morrow's case. Blood spatter on a wall was not collected to be analyzed. As a result, the only likely was the case will be solved is through a confession.

"If only we had a time machine," Boyd said, while the other unit members nodded.

Larry Hendricks can be reached at 556-2262 or lhendricks@azdailysun.com.

Canyon cold case mystery solved — partly

Controversial skeletal remains found at the home of Emery Kolb in 1977, initially believed to be those of Glen Hyde, are likely those of a young man who committed suicide at the Grand Canyon in 1933.

By LARRY HENDRICKS

Assistant City Editor

The skeletal remains of a man found in the garage of Grand Canyon photographer Emery Kolb in 1977 rest in a box at the Coconino County Medical Examiner's Office.

In the skull is a hole made by a .32-caliber bullet.

Initially, suspicion arose that the bones were those of Glen Hyde, who disappeared without a trace with his wife Bessie at the Canyon in 1928 during a honeymoon trip. Kolb was the last person to see the couple alive.

A forensic examination later determined the bones were that of a man much younger and of different stature than Hyde.

So who was the man found in Kolb's garage?

The cold-case squad at the Coconino County Sheriff's Office believes it has a partial answer to the mystery.

"Nobody knew who it was," said Joe Sumner, a retired National Park Service ranger who volunteers on the squad.

Kolb's grandson had been going through the garage and found the skeleton inside a boat. Included with the skeleton were remnants of clothing, a shoe and part of a belt, Sumner said. The shoe, clothes and belt were placed into evidence at the sheriff's office. The bones were sent to the medical examiner. After the suspicion of the Hyde angle was disproved, interest in the bones faded.

But the question remained. Why did Emery Kolb have a human skeleton in his garage?

Sumner knew that Kolb sat on coroner's juries for death inquests at the Grand Canyon. Coroner's juries help the justice of the peace - who served as coroners early in the state's history - determine cause and manner of death in unattended deaths.

Sumner started combing through old ranger reports. Nothing. He scoured the study collection at the Canyon, searching through old photos and reports stored there. Nothing.

Then, about a year ago, the son of Gus Williamson, a ranger who had worked at the Canyon in the 1930s, sent in photos of a skeleton that had been found in 1933 at Shoshone Point.

According to the June 9, 1933 issue of the Coconino Sun, a botanist found the partially clothed skeleton using binoculars. The skeleton was about 600 below the rim. When rangers got to the bones, they found a .32-caliber weapon near the bones and a hole in the skull.

Estimates were than the body had been there for about two years prior to the discovery, according to the Coconino Sun report. There were no identifying marks and no identification in the pocketbook. The sheriff and county attorney determined the death a suicide and no inquest was necessary.

Rangers noted cheap khaki trousers, sandals and a white cotton shirt.

When Sumner got a look at the photos, he paid close attention to the footwear.

"And it was a match," he said.

The original forensic examination of the bones found in Kolb's garage was made by professionals at the University of Arizona. At the time, it was decided that the weathering to the bones ruled out a death prior to 1972.

Chuck Jones, a retired FBI agent who also works on the squad, said that the original forensic examination failed to take into account one important possibility.

"Who knew he (Kolb) would keep bones in his garage for 50 years," Jones said.

The bones were not exposed to the elements and therefore were preserved to the point that led to the conclusion the bones were not as old as they were.

Jones added that another look at the bones by a forensic anthropologist has confirmed the bones could be that of the 1933 skeleton.

Buttressing the case is a U.S. Department of the Interior report from Feb. 2, 1977, stating that Kolb's grandson Emery Lehnert found the bones in a boat in the rafters in the garage.

"Lehnert stated that he remembered seeing the bones when he was a very small boy," the report stated. "The time element was between 1931 and 1937."

As to the identity of the skeleton, that is still a mystery, Sumner said. And so is why the young man chose to take his life. But at least the squad knows where the skeleton came from and what time it was found.

Larry Hendricks can be reached at 556-2262 or lhendricks@azdailysun.com.

Cold cases in Flagstaff and Coconino County since 1958

Anybody who might have information about any of the following deaths is asked to contact the Coconino County Sheriff's Office cold case squad at 226-5033, or 774-4523.

1958

- Oct. 31, Mary M. Begay: Reported missing in 1957. Skeletal remains found just outside Grand Canyon believed to be Begay, but no positive identification was made. Homicide.

- Oct. 31, Little Miss X: Skeletal remains of young female found at Grand Canyon believed to be Connie Smith who disappeared from Salisbury, Conn., July 16, 1952. Homicide.

1965

- Feb. 1, Jose Perez: Williams resident found in his home stabbed 36 times. Homicide.

1966

- July 6, Julius Chee: Found beaten to death in the forest near North Highway 89 and Camp Townsend. Homicide.

1968

- June 6, David Jensen: Skeletal remains found at Hermit Rapids in Grand Canyon believed to be David Jensen, but no positive identification made. Manner of death undetermined.

1971

- Aug. 30, Merrit McCalister: Owner of gas station and diner near Twin Arrows was slain at the business. Homicide.

1972

- July 27, Terry Lee Arnold: Victim stabbed to death and found by two Navajo females just off Highway 89 about 47 miles north of Flagstaff. Homicide.

1975

- April 19, Unidentified male: Male victim, about 25 to 30 years old, badly decomposed, found by a rancher looking for a stray about a mile north of Interstate 40 38 miles east of Flagstaff.

- Sept. 6, Deborah Carrick: Victim had received a severe blow to the head and left in a side canyon of the Little Colorado River 13 miles west of Cameron

- Sept. 19, Shirt with blood and 36 stab holes: Found at North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Victim believed to be a female who was stabbed to death possibly by members of "Outlaw Motorcycle Gang." The body has never been found. Homicide.

- Oct. 13, Faye Tohannie: Victim shot and killed just off A-1 Mountain Road about a mile north of I-40. Homicide.

1977

- Jan. 22, Michael and Charlotte Sherman: Victims shot in the head and found behind Powell Memorial at Grand Canyon. Homicide.

1980

- May 12, Skeletal remains. Likely skeletal remains of male found below Shoshone Point on Jun 4, 1933 with bullet hole in skull. Suicide.

1981

- July 14, Margaret Neuman: Victim was passenger in vehicle traveling westbound on Highway 160 northeast of Tuba City. Shot and killed by occupant of a vehicle traveling eastbound. Homicide.

- Sept. 8, Jerry Heath: Victim was shot and killed near Winona Cinder Pit and his vehicle was stolen. Vehicle later found in Yuma. Homicide.

1982

- Feb. 11, Francis Capaldi: Victim was shot three times and found alongside Butler Avenue in the city. Homicide.

- Feb. 14, "Valentine Sally": Victim was probably suffocated or strangled and left a few yards north of I-40 about 10 miles east of Williams. Homicide.

1983

- Aug. 8, Jeffrey Harper: Victim found by a jogger about 2 miles off I-40 at the intersection of Forest Roads 515 and 505 near the city limits. Homicide.

1985

- Oct. 14, Virgil Hoke: Found shot to death in his trailer near Happy Jack. Homicide.

1987

- June, 17, Sarah Saganitso: Found beaten to death behind Flagstaff Medical Center. Homicide.

- Aug. 31, Douglas Goss: Victim beaten to death and found just south of I-40 at the Devil Dog Road exit near Williams. Homicide.

- Nov. 7, Ina Langstaff: Victim found stabbed to death in an alley in Plaza Vieja on the west side of the city. Homicide.

1988

- Nov. 12, Unidentified male: Skeletal remains found by a rancher at Gold Trap Ranch near Ash Fork. Manner of death undetermined.

1989

- Feb. 21, Elizabeth Matthews: Husband told investigators she went for a walk at the base of Mount Elden and was never seen again.

1993

- Aug. 10, Craig Bier: Victim found shot to death at Meteor Crater campground about 40 miles east of Flagstaff. Homicide.

1994

- Jan. 13, Jonathan Francia: Victim was carjacked in Albuquerque by Paul Richardson and another male named Jason. Victim's body found on the Navajo Nation about 2 miles north of Bird Springs. Richardson committed suicide. Jason has never been found. Homicide.

- March 14, James Peterson: Victim was found shot to death in his trailer in Fredonia. Manner of death undetermined.

1995

- Sept. 27, Homer Wright: Victim beaten to death in his home in Parks. Homicide.

- Oct. 5, Unidentified male: Victim found in shallow grave with two bullet holes in skull off Forest Road 418 near North Highway 89. Homicide.

- Oct. 31, Unidentified male: Skeletal remains found by ranchers off Forest Road 142 near Seven's Ranch at Ash Fork. Manner of death undetermined.

1996

- May 13, Unidentified male: Skeletal remains found by Forest Service ranger northeast of I-40 at the Welch Road exit near Williams. Manner of death undetermined.

1997

- June 19, Penny Rodriguez: Victim stabbed to death. Found by hikers in the National Forest near Blue Ridge. Homicide.

1998

- Feb. 21, Elizabeth Matthews: Husband told investigators she went for a walk at the base of Mount Elden and was never seen again.

1999

- Oct. 25, Richard Barnes, Lynn Patrick, Michael Alexander: Victims found shot to death in a trailer near Bellemont. Homicide.

2001

- Feb. 16, Unidentified male: Skeletal remains found by hunters in Bear Canyon 20 miles south of Williams just off Forest Road 173. Manner of death undetermined.

- July 2, Justin Richardson: 13-year-old was last seen walking away from friends at Grand Canyon. His body has never been found.

2003

- Oct. 24, Unidentified female: Victim died from a single blow to the head and left just off Devil Dog Road near Williams. Homicide.

2004

- Dec. 24, Darwin Sheppard: Victim was stabbed to death at a residence in Doney Park. Homicide.

- Source: Coconino County Sheriff's Office

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