Missing persons case from 2002 upgraded to homicide investigation

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A 2002 missing persons case has now been classified as a murder.

Salt Lake City police have received new tips into the disappearance of 25-year-old Aletha Jo Williams. Cops said they now have a person of interest, plus evidence that’s being tested.

On Wednesday, Williams’ sister, Lovoina Ortega, read a police press release with a heavy heart.

"This is the first time (I’m hearing this), and I hope they have something good to put him away for a long time," Ortega said.

"All I can say is she (Aletha Williams) encountered this individual, we don't know if it was multiple times, we know of one time," said Det. Cody Lougy of the Salt Lake City Police Department.

Investigators aren’t revealing many details in a once cold case that turned hot when new tipsters, saying they felt guilty, came forward.

"People are doing the right thing and stepping forward in this investigation," Lougy said.

Originally cops thought Williams disappeared in March 2002.

"Ms. Williams is an African-American female and 25-years-old and pregnant when she disappeared," said Det. Hilary Gordon.

Now, after more interviews, police think she could have vanished as early as November 2001.

Detectives have now searched two bodies of water, including the Jordan River two weeks ago.
Police also searched a motor home they seized, a South Salt Lake glass business and a home in Kearns.

Ortega said she never heard of her sister living or staying in Kearns, but police said they confiscated items that may help build a murder case.

"Evidence obtained from these searches is currently being tested at a local laboratory," Gordon said.

"Finally, hopefully, we'll get closure," Ortega said. "I just don't understand how a person can be so cruel as take somebody's life and live about their own like nothing happened."

While police won’t identify their person of interest, they said they know where he is. Detectives are also hoping more people will come forward with tips. If you can help, please call Salt Lake City P.D. at 801-799-3000.