Thursday, November 10, 2011
Rachael Marie Runyon
DOB: June 23, 1979
DATE OF HOMICIDE: August 26, 1982
LOCATION: City Park, Sunset, Utah
TIME: 1230 hours
On Thursday, August 26, 1982 at approximately 1230 p.m., Rachael Marie Runyan, DOB: June 23, 1979 was kidnapped from a park in Sunset, Utah. Rachael was playing with her two brothers ages five and one and a half years old, as well as other children from the area. According to the witnesses, a black male 25 to 35 years old, 6 ft, slender to medium build, offered Rachael some gum. Witnesses last saw the black male put her in a small blue midsize car and drive away.
Twenty-four days later on September 19, 1982, Rachael's body was found in Morgan County on a dirt road known as Trappers Loop.
Murderer Still On The Loose!
SUNSET -- Jeff Runyan's hands shook and his lips quivered, but somewhere he found the strength to stand here at the playground where his 3-year-old daughter vanished 25 years ago.
He wanted to deliver a message to her killer.
"You remember the day 25 years ago, when you enticed Rachael with a promise of bubble gum and ice cream," he said. "When you snatched her and scurried away to your car, you remember her screams. You remember the terror. You remember hog-tying her naked body ... and hiding your evil crime in a stream. You remember the fright in your heart, if you have one."
On Sunday, the 25th anniversary of Rachael Runyan's kidnapping and murder, police announced they are re-examining the girl's kidnapping and murder in hopes of finally cracking the case. Her family announced a reward of more than $53,000 for information that leads to an arrest and conviction.
"It was shocking and unimaginable that someone could hurt a hair on her head," said Rachael's mother, Elaine Runyan-Simmons. "It is time for closure for this case for our family and for Rachael."
Jeff Runyan calls it "bounty money" on the head of the "coward" he believes kidnapped and murdered his daughter. He just needs someone to find the courage to call and give police the proof they need to arrest him.
"I wonder, does your wife know who you are and what you have done? Or have you threatened to kill her, too?" he seethed. "To those of you in the gray, set yourself free of the burden of protecting him. Free yourself and the conscience of the guilt and the shame, the sleepless nights, and the eventual knock on the door that will come."
His words were poignant and powerful, fueled by a father's sorrow, anger and frustration. It was a sunny August day in 1982 when 3-year-old Rachael, a bubbly little girl with long, golden locks of hair tied in pigtails, played at the Big Toy behind Doxey Elementary with her brothers, Justin and Nate. Justin -- then 5 -- remembers a black man talking to Rachael.
"It is a bittersweet day for me," said Elaine Runyan-Simmons. "Bitter in the sense of being reminded of the loss that took place here. Rachael's last few minutes here at the Big Toy as she played, thinking she was safe."
She pointed to her old home, about 50 feet away from this playground. Elaine was making lunch at the time, and did not see the man spirit her daughter away. The little girl was found dead 21 days later in a stream near Mountain Green.
In an interview with the Deseret Morning News, Jeff Runyan said the man who kidnapped and killed his daughter is an ex-con, a man he last knew to be living in New Mexico. He said he was forbidden by law enforcement from revealing the man's name.
Sunset Police Chief Ken Eborn confirmed that man is a suspect in Runyan's murder.
"He's at the top of our list," he told the Deseret Morning News. "Somebody that we've watched over the years and tried to get more information on, but obviously not enough to make an arrest."
Witnesses and informants have been reluctant to speak, Eborn said, some clamming up altogether.
Runyan said it has been because of death threats made by the man.
Sunset police have had a frustrating time trying to crack the case. With so much time, detectives have retired and memories have faded.
"It's been in that condition for the last 25 years," Eborn said. "Just able to break it at any time, but not quite there."
However, Eborn said DNA and forensic technologies have advanced significantly, and it could help finally catch Rachael's killer. The police chief would not rule out exhuming Rachael Runyan's body to obtain more forensic evidence.
In the years since Rachael's kidnapping and murder, her mother has tried to channel her grief into a good cause. On Sunday, Elaine Runyan-Simmons helped hand out the Rachael Runyan Award to James and Tanja Buckley, a Salt Lake City couple who found a car with 7-month- old David Joseph Austin inside on July 28, less than two hours after an Amber Alert had been issued. The boy was kidnapped when his mother was beat up by her boyfriend on the side of I-80.
Utah's Amber Alert was called the "Rachael Alert" when Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped in 2002. Since then, the name has been changed to conform with more states using the Amber Alert system to find missing kids. Utah is considered a leader in efforts to recover kidnapped and missing people.
Layton police announced it will be forming Utah's first Child Abduction Response Team, able to respond immediately with manpower and resources to an abduction. Additional CARTs will be set up throughout the state.
"The first hours are critical when a child is taken," Layton Police Chief Terry Keefe said Sunday.
Jeff Runyan hopes money talks -- and that it will loosen the lips of those who know who killed his daughter. In a video released by the Utah Attorney General's Office on Sunday, he and his ex-wife sit behind a pile of money -- more than $53,000 -- in an effort to entice someone to break their silence.
"There is a large pile of money. We felt it. We touched it. It is tangible," he said. "We also felt and touched our daughter, or what remained of our daughter at the medical examiner's office."
-- See the video of Jeff Runyan and Elaine Runyan-Simmons with the $53,000 reward: www.amberalert.utah.gov/video/ Rachael_Runyan_2.mov
-- Hear the 911 call that saved a 7-month-old baby in Salt Lake City after an Amber Alert: amberalert.utah.gov/ PressConferenceMaterials/Tonja_Buckley_911.mp3
-- Link to the Utah Attorney General's Office Amber Alert program: www.amberalert.utah.gov/
-- Link to sign up for Amber Alerts on your cell phone: www.bci.utah.gov/MPC/AmberAlertRegistration.html