$5K reward offered for information regarding unsolved 2017 homicide

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WEST VALLEY CITY — West Valley police believe they are just one step away from solving the killing of a 16-year-old boy who was gunned down on his street two years ago.

But investigators need the public's help, and they're hoping a $5,000 reward will prompt someone to step forward.

"What’s unique about this, I think, is how close we actually are. We just can’t get over the summit," said West Valley detective Ryan Morrill, who has been the lead investigator on the case since the beginning.

"Where we’re at on this one, we have a lot of information that we need, we just have to get over the summit. And I believe the public’s help will get us there.”

On May 30, 2017, Fernando Arana was walking along Thayn Drive (3935 South) near 4700 West when a white or light-colored mid-2000s SUV pulled up next to him and he was confronted by a group of three to four males. After being assaulted, one of the males shot Fernando several times.

"That night I had the awful responsibility of speaking to Fernando’s mother and telling her about what had happened. I had to tell her that her son was killed in what appeared to be an ambush style attack,” Morrill said.

On Thursday, with Fernando's mother and step-father present, West Valley Police Chief Colleen Jacobs announced a reward for information leading to the arrest of the gunman. It is the first time since Jacobs has been chief that her office has offered a reward for an unsolved case.

"It is my sincere hope that by offering this reward, we can get the last bit of information that will bring all of the puzzle pieces together and will bring justice to Fernando, his family and our community,” she said, while noting she believes her detectives are "very close" to solving the crime.

Morrill said police believe there are witnesses who know more than what they've told police, and associates of Fernando who are afraid to speak up. He said investigators specifically need help identifying two brothers known only by their street monikers "Neto" and "Necio." Morrill believes the two have "first hand knowledge" of what happened that night.

Fernando's death was the second killing in West Valley City that night in about a four-hour time span.

About 5 p.m. outside an apartment complex at 3810 S. Redwood Road, a car drove up to a group standing outside. The two groups got into an argument and the people in the car got out to continue arguing and yelling.

At that point, someone from the car group fired several shots, hitting a 15-year-old boy in the abdomen. The boy was taken to a hospital in critical condition but he survived.

At the time, police could not say whether the two incidents were related.

On Thursday, Morrill reaffirmed that he does not know if the two incidents are connected. Likewise, he said detectives are still looking for a possible motive. But when pressed about whether he believes Fernando was the victim of a random killing or was targeted, Morrill said, "There are certain things we have to keep close to our chest."

"What we do know is this was a senseless homicide of a 16-year-old boy,” Jacobs interjected.

Azelia Salgado, Fernando's mother, tearfully asked for the public's help while wearing a T-shirt with a picture of her and her son.

Speaking through an interpreter, Salgado said in Spanish that she still feels the pain of losing her son "like it happened today."

Salgado said her son was not a gang member and was willing to help any of his friends when they were in need.

"You know how he was and you know how many times he helped you guys," she pleaded directly to Fernando's friends, encouraging them to come forward with information. "Please, if any one of you know something, please help us."

Anyone with potential information about the case is asked to call police at 801-840-4000 or email majorcrimes@wvc-ut.gov. Police say all tips can remain confidential.


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Pat Reavy is a longtime police and courts reporter. He joined the KSL.com team in 2021, after many years of reporting at the Deseret News and KSL NewsRadio before that.


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