Tim Kupferschmid and Patricia Ethington scan evidence for genetic material.
It was a perfect June afternoon. The sky was blue and, after a cool spring, the temperature was finally approaching 90 degrees. The 19-year-old freshman took advantage of a break from her classes at Utah Valley University to jot down a few thoughts in her journal. She had left the snug community of Cedar City for college in Provo the year before, and an exciting future lay before her.
She found a quiet spot on the shady bank of the Provo River just steps from her apartment complex near downtown.
At about 3 p.m., she finished scribbling down her thoughts, gathered up her journal and headed down the winding, sun-dappled walking path to her home. She had only taken a few steps when a muscular man stepped out of the shrubs that lined the route and pulled her into the bushes. She later would remember the prominent tattoos on both sides of his neck, his dark hair and his square jaw.
“Give me your money,” he said.
Terrified, she told him she didn’t have her purse because she had just stepped out of her apartment.
He seemed to accept that and told her to sit down and face away while he escaped. But instead—no one is sure why—he wrapped a thick bootlace around her neck and choked her.
The 5-foot-11, 130-pound teen fought for her life. Later, the lab found microscopic bits of her flesh from her neck and from her attacker’s hands embedded in the bootlace.
She blacked out then briefly regained consciousness and tried again to fight off the man as he dragged her deeper into the bushes. He grabbed a cinder block and smashed it down on her face so hard the block broke into two pieces. Still, she struggled, so he grabbed a boulder and hit her again, knocking her unconscious and smashing her jaw and face.
Then, he raped her.