Police: Woman found dead in 1986 may have had polygamy ties

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Salt Lake City police investigating a cold case from 1986 said Monday the woman found dead in homemade clothes may have had ties to a polygamous group.

The badly decomposed body was found in a canal near a sewage treatment plant in September 1986. The woman was wearing a homemade blouse and jeans.

A homemade blue polka-dot dress was found on a bank nearby. It had a handwritten tag inside marked with the number 10.

The body had been in the water for weeks. It was too badly decomposed for police to gather much information about who the woman was or what she looked like, but they were able to rule out a shooting, stabbing or beating death, Salt Lake City police Detective Greg Wilking said.

The distinctive, high-necked dress with lace at the collar and wrists is similar to clothing worn in some polygamous groups, and the woman might have been connected to one, Wilking said.

"That could be why we didn't get anybody calling in a missing person," he said. Polygamy was outlawed after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints disavowed the practice more than a hundred years ago, and those who continued to practice it developed a distrust of authority.

Members of the polygamous group now led by imprisoned leader Warren Jeffs still lived in and around Salt Lake City at the time the woman died, and other groups were scattered around northern Utah, Wilking said.

The woman was 20 to 40 years old, 5-feet-5-inches tall and weighed about 115 lbs, police said. But her identity, even her hair color, is a mystery.

Police investigating in 1986 didn't collect any DNA since those tests were seldom used then. The body was cremated after the case went cold.

It is unclear how the woman ended up in the canal in a restricted, gated area on Salt Lake City's west side.

Because of the dress on the bank, investigators believe she entered the water near where she was found, rather than being dumped somewhere else and floating there.

Also on the body was a ring with a large stone and the letters C&G stamped on the inside, a purple striped bracelet that unclips to form a pen, and a black wristwatch with a checked pattern.

Anyone with information is asked to call police at 801-799-3000.

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