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'Saltair Sally' remains identified by police after 12 years

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MAGNA — Human remains discovered near Saltair in 2000 have been identified as a Midvale woman first reported missing three years after the remains were found, bringing an end to a mystery and closure for a family.

The remains, which became known as "Saltair Sally," were discovered 12 years ago by duck hunters just off the I-80 frontage road near the Great Salt Lake. Unified police Tuesday said they are the remains of Nikole Bakoles.

Police said new technologies helped officers narrow down their investigation and ultimately match the remains to DNA samples taken from Bakoles' mother in 2011.

Police said new technologies helped officers narrow down their investigation and ultimately match the remains to DNA samples taken from Bakoles' mother in 2011.

Unified police detective Todd Park said the manner in which the remains were discovered led police to believe the woman died as the result of a homicide, but he declined to elaborate further. Police are encouraging anyone who knew Bakoles or has information about her to contact authorities.

Bakoles was reported missing by her family in 2003, Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder said. But it is believed she disappeared in March of 2000, shortly after giving birth to a child. He said the child now lives with relatives of her then-boyfriend, Joel Chaudoin.

"We believe that circumstances after the birth of that child may have led to her disappearance," Winder said.

Bakoles and Chaudoin were living in "difficult circumstances" in Midvale and had lost custody of the child, he said. The woman's family lost contact with Bakoles, which they attributed to tension regarding her living situation. They attempted to locate her for some time before ultimately reporting her missing to police.

In an email to the Deseret News, Bakoles' sister Kai Chandler said she's happy that her family finally has some closure. But for her, it was better not knowing what had happened to her sister.

"I would have rather gone the rest of my life thinking she was ignoring us but alive than knowing she is dead and that I will never see her again," Chandler said. "Not having closure meant I had hope."

Chaudoin is currently being held in a Washington state prison on unrelated charges. Investigators have contacted Chaudoin but Winder emphasized that at this point, Chaudoin has not been named as a person of interest in Bakoles' death.

Everyone is a suspect in this case. We have not narrowed it down to one particular individual.

–Sheriff Jim Winder, Unified Police

"Everyone is a suspect in this case," the sheriff said. "We have not narrowed it down to one particular individual."

The remains were identified in the past few weeks. The Bakoles family has been notified and has been working closely with police in the investigation, according to Winder.

Several attempts had been made over the years to identify the remains of the woman who came to be known as Saltair Sally. In 2008, a method of examining the water in a person's hair developed at the University of Utah and was used to determine that the woman had traveled in the Northwest — specifically Idaho, Washington and Oregon — during the final two years of her life. Winder said that geographic information helped investigators narrow down the number of missing persons that matched the woman's description.

"Throughout the years we looked at, I'm going to say, 75 to 100 different people of who this could have been from across the country," Park said. "When I found out about Niki, I felt that it was a good possibility but that wasn't the first time I felt it was a good possibility."

In 2001, a Salt Lake man told police in California that he had killed six people in 1998 and buried their bodies near Saltair, but his claims were never substantiated. The remains were also compared to the DNA and dental records of missing woman Bobbi Campbell, who disappeared while running errands in 1994.

Contributing: Devon Dolan

Benjamin Wood


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