Detective Refuses to Give Up on 19-Year-Old Murder Case

Detective Refuses to Give Up on 19-Year-Old Murder Case


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John Hollenhorst reportingInvestigators in Eastern Utah made a big effort during the past week to crack a 19-year-old murder case. It's questionable whether they made any breakthroughs.

But the fact they tried is because one detective refused to give up on a very cold case.

It will take scientific analysis in the crime lab before investigators find out if they obtained any new evidence this week. But Detective Bob Vanderbusse firmly believes it's only a matter of time before he gets his man.

Detective Refuses to Give Up on 19-Year-Old Murder Case

The theory behind this week's drilling effort is that a woman's body is buried deep underground on a ranch in Western Colorado. Detective Bob Vanderbusse believes a murderer dumped the victim in an abandoned water-well, which was later filled in.

Bob Vanderbusse, Uintah County Investigator: "I truly believe there's something human down there. It only makes sense that it's Rhonda."

Rhonda Karren mysteriously disappeared from her home just outside Vernal in 1987.

The case went cold until 1995 when Vanderbusse began probing for new evidence.

Bob Vanderbusse, Uintah County Investigator: "I promised her mother that I'm going to do everything I can to find her daughter, and that's what I'm going to do."

Detective Refuses to Give Up on 19-Year-Old Murder Case

Rhonda Karren's mother believes she is in what she calls "a dirty place" and hopes Vanderbusse can find her.

Audrey Slaugh, Victim's Mother: "It, umm, I could give her some pretty flowers. She liked pretty things. She liked to be clean. And I'd know. I'd know for sure."

Over the last decade Vanderbusse developed new witnesses and made one previous attempt to drill the old well. He wants a breakthrough before he retires three months from now.

Bob Vanderbusse, Uintah County Investigator: "Well it kind of angers me. Murder's the ultimate, in my opinion, the ultimate crime. I think you should be held accountable for what you've done. Do the crime, you need to do the time. And unfortunately nobody's been charged in this."

In dirt from the old well, investigators found tiny bits that glowed under laser and infrared light. They hope lab tests confirm they are remnants of a body. But so far there's no obvious evidence of human remains.

Bob Vanderbusse, Uintah County Investigator: "There definitely is disappointment. I was certain we'd hit something. But we didn't and we're going to keep trying."

The man who was the victim's husband at the time was taken in for questioning Thursday night. Investigators used a search warrant to collect his fingerprints, hair, and blood samples.

But he denies his guilt, and investigators admit they don't have enough evidence to file charges.

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