Deborah Carrick, 21, was traveling west from Maryland to California for a friend’s wedding. On the way, she wanted to visit national parks. She planned to ride the bus and hitchhike. When she returned, she planned to enlist in the U.S. Air Force.
She never made it to California.
Her body was found Sept. 9, 1975, off Highway 64 between Cameron and Grand Canyon National Park. She died from blunt-force trauma to the head.
“Obviously, she trusted the wrong person,” said Joe Sumner, volunteer investigator for the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office cold case unit.
The cold case unit is currently trying to solve nearly 40 cold cases in the county like Carrick's. Sumner, who retired from the National Park Service in 2007 as a criminal investigator, came onto the cold case unit in 2008.
“Before her body was even discovered, her ID and other belongings were found at an intersection in Santa Rosa, California,” Sumner said. The location, well known to California investigators, was the site of body dumps of four other women who were murdered.
“And they’re still unsolved,” Sumner added.
In 1975, a number of serial killers were on the loose on the West Coast and operating into Arizona, Sumner said. Serial killer Ted Bundy was not active at the time because he was already in jail.
Also unusual for the case was that there was another homicide reported on Aug. 18, 1975, the day Carrick was supposed to travel from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon, Sumner said. A young man had been killed for his vehicle on Highway 180, which is a route to the Grand Canyon. Two suspects were arrested and eventually convicted of the killing. Over the years, the duo made statements admitting to and recanting being involved in Carrick’s death. Investigators were never able to tie the two murders together.
Whoever killed Carrick appears to have made a circuit from Flagstaff to California, Colorado and Albuquerque, N.M., Sumner said. Several people were looked at as suspects.
Investigators worked hard on connecting William F. Zamastil to the case. He was a tow truck driver in Mohave County who had been convicted of four other homicides, all rapes and murders. Zamastil had been out of prison and operating in the area at the time Carrick disappeared and was killed.
Interestingly, Sumner said, in one of Zamastil’s rape-murders, he had ordered a victim to dress after he had raped her.
Investigators never tied Zamastil to Carrick’s death, and his whereabouts are unknown, Sumner said.
“We have no evidence that she was sexually assaulted,” Sumner said of the circumstances surrounding Carrick’s death.
But she had been dead for at least three weeks before her body was found, and it would have been difficult to find evidence to suggest rape.
Carrick’s parents are dead now, Sumner said. But she has sisters who are still alive, and her case is still very much alive for them.
“You just feel terrible for the family,” he said. “They were devastated by this. That’s why the case is still important and still on our radar even after all these years.”
The cold case unit has reviewed all the evidence once. They will go over the evidence again, Sumner said.
“This is one of those cases, if anybody knows anything, or heard anybody mention anything ... just contact us,” Sumner said. “I’m sure there are still people around who were on (Highway) 64 that day.”
If anybody has information about this case, contact the sheriff’s office cold case division at 774-4523, or visit the Facebook page.