SALT LAKE CITY – April marks six years since 26-year-old Elizabeth Elena Laguna-Salgado vanished without a trace. Now, nearly three years since her body was found, there is hope that a penny could put a face on her killer.
Salgado's killer has kept detectives in the cold, but her family is hopeful after the discovery.
"We are very happy to learn of this news," said sister Sara Laguna Salgado.
The investigation could be entering a new season — with the flip of a coin.
Jason Jensen, private investigator and co-founder of the Utah Cold Case Coalition, said they've recovered DNA evidence on a penny found in Hobble Creek Canyon near Elizabeth Salgado's resting site.
"It was in the exact location where her body was laid," Jensen said. "There's a makeshift headstone out of a cross and it is in a clearing where her body (was found) — it was right in the center of where her body would've been."
Jensen said the coalition canvassed the site with metal detectors in July 2019. The penny was found underneath growth and leaves. The coin was then processed at the coalition's lab, Intermountain Forensics.
"The key is we don't know if it was deposited there before, during or after her body was laid there," Jensen said.
However, Jensen said the discovery could not be overlooked considering the remote location of the site.
"It is very rural, very isolated," Jensen said. "It is not on a pathway or anything like that, so for there to be a penny there is very unique and very unlikely.
Jensen said the preliminary results were sent to the Utah County Sheriff's Office.
Sgt. Spencer Cannon said all possible leads are welcome. Cannon confirmed the site was thoroughly processed by detectives using metal detectors as part of the initial investigation and recovery of Salgado's remains in May 2018.
However, family, friends and even journalists have since visited the site.
Jensen said the DNA profile is that of a man and enough material was recovered to move onto the next stage of identification in creating a full DNA profile. That profile will then be compared against profiles found on GedMatch. GedMatch is a public third-party database used as a collection hub for raw DNA files. Detectives used the site to identify the "Golden State Killer."
"Our hope is that the penny is linked someway to identifying her killer," Jensen said.
Jensen added they're also planning on contacting male friends and acquaintances of Salgado to request volunteer DNA samples to speed up the process and rule out possible suspects.
Her family hopes this will be the answer to their prayers.
"We have always asked God for justice in finding her killer," Sara Laguna Salgado said.
Anyone with information can contact any of the following resources anonymously:
- Utah County Sheriff's Office, Investigator Division: 801-851-4010
- The Utah Cold Case Coalition Tip line: 385-258-3313
Or visit https://www.elizabethsalgado.info/