SOUTH SALT LAKE — South Salt Lake police have reopened a 13-year-old unsolved fatal hit-and-run incident which detectives are now calling a homicide investigation, according to court documents.
Just before 1 a.m. on Feb. 20, 2007, Donna Nordgren, 49, of Murray, was found lying on her back in a parking lot at 3244 S. 300 West.
“Donna was unresponsive and transported to an area hospital where she was pronounced dead. Injuries to Donna’s body suggested that Donna had been run over by a vehicle resulting in her death. The medical examiner also reported Donna had blunt force trauma to her chest and head and was victim of a ‘hit and run,’” according to a search warrant affidavit.
Several items were collected at the scene near Nordgren’s body, including a pack of cigarettes, a matchbook, two cigarette butts and a beer can. But those items were never sent to the Utah State Crime Lab to be processed, according to the affidavit.
In March 2019, a different South Salt Lake detective began looking at the case and discovered “the initial investigator overlooked and or missed critical steps resulting in this case going cold and being closed by the initial investigator. This case has been reopened and is an active homicide investigation,” the warrant says.
South Salt Lake police spokeswoman Danielle Croyle on Monday said the case had been inactive until recently. She said it’s always good to have a fresh set of eyes look at any old case, as sometimes a new detective can put a new perspective on an investigation.
In this case, South Salt Lake police detective Dustin Lee Hansen sent the untested items to the crime lab to be tested for DNA evidence and fingerprints.
Intentionally run over?
Hansen learned during the course of his investigation that Nordgren may have been run over intentionally, according to the affidavit.
It was learned that the day before her death, Nordgren and other family members had attended the funeral of Nordgren’s mother, the affidavit states. After, the group went to Frankie and Johnnie’s Tavern, 3 W. 4800 South.
While at the bar, police say Nordgren met two other women and the group left the tavern together and went to a nearby Maverik station, 530 W. 4800 South. Video surveillance shows the group at the convenience store about 10:20 p.m.
The group then went to another club at 921 S. 300 West, according to police. It was after the three women left that club that the death occurred.
According to the search warrant, the two women whom Nordgren had met are sisters who frequently fought with each other, and one of the sisters may have run over the other and in the process hit Nordgren.
When officers arrived on scene after Nordgren was run over, one of the sisters was present and “expressed a range of emotions from anger to nothing at all,” the warrant states.
A passerby who had stopped to help observed the sister take Nordgren’s identification and put it in the witnesses’ vehicle behind a back seat, according to the affidavit. “(The sister) denied doing this and was uncooperative with police. It was observed that (she) also had marks on her clothing consistent with being hit by a car.”
On March 14, 2007, Salt Lake police interviewed another woman who said “that she didn’t want to go to jail and had information to get off her chest.”
That woman said she was a friend of the other sister whom Nordgren met at the bar. She told police that the second sister had called her “bawling and said, ‘I think I ran her over,’” according to the warrant.
The second sister said she was “drunk and fighting” that night and had kicked her sister out of the car. When her sister returned home the next morning, “she had track marks from where she had been run over,” the affidavit states.
When the friend asked about Nordgren, the second sister said she was drunk and mad that night and didn't know what happened. The friend then told her that Nordgren’s family “deserved justice and if you tell them you need help you could get a reduced sentence or an ankle bracelet,” the warrant states.
But the sister told the witness she did not want to go back to jail, according to the affidavit.
All of this information was known to the original detective assigned to the case, the warrant states, but “the investigator failed to follow up with the information” and the case was closed before a full investigation was complete.
Police are now looking for the second sister to obtain DNA and fingerprint evidence to compare with items taken from the crime scene.
As of Monday, no one had been arrested or charged.