Remains of Utah woman who vanished in 1979 ID’d with DNA testing, family eyes late husband in her death
SALT LAKE CITY - A cold case investigation in Utah has been closed after DNA testing identified skeletal remains discovered 42 years ago as those of a missing woman whose family suspected had been murdered by her late husband.
Investigators confirmed that the remains belong to Sandra Matott, who was 37 when she vanished in 1979, the Salt Lake City Police Department said Friday in a press release.
"No matter how much time passes, the detectives of the Salt Lake City Police Department will never let up in their quest to solve every case and to get answers for loved ones," Police Chief Mike Brown said in a statement.
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Matott’s husband, Warren Matott, reported her missing on July 18, 1979. He claimed that she was last seen at a bar in Salt Lake City eight days earlier, investigators said. Detectives attempted to follow up with Matott at the time but couldn’t reach him.
A month later, on Aug. 19, a hunting party discovered skeletal human remains in Millard County. Police said there were no signs of homicidal violence, but due to the suspicious circumstances, the Millard County Sheriff’s Office opened a murder investigation.
The state’s medical examiner could not determine a cause of death from the remains. The bones would not be linked to Sandra Matott's disappearance until 2019, seven years after investigators reopened the case.
In 1984, Henry Lee Lucas, a convicted serial killer who claimed responsibility for more than 100 murders, confessed to killing Matott. However, police said his claims were vague and detectives could not verify the confession.
Lucas would later recant his confessions. Investigators determined he carried out some of the murders but had lied about the others.
With the case still unresolved, Salt Lake City police took another look at it in late 2012. Matott’s family told detectives that they believed Warren Matott was responsible for her disappearance and death. Warren Matott died in 1999 in California.
Investigators said Warren Matott likely had more information about the disappearance and death of Sandra Matott but there was never any probable cause to charge him in connection to the case.
Investigators closed the case after Millard County Sheriff’s Office notified Salt Lake City police in 2019 about the remains discovered decades ago and sent them for DNA testing.
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Matott’s family said they are happy to have some of the answers they've been seeking.
"As a family we are happy about this development, but also sad it took this long," Matott’s son, Darrell Haymes, said in a statement. "Forty-two years is a long time. We are happy that the investigators never closed the case and continued to work on it so we could reach this point."
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