Clue From Unrelated Death Investigation Cracks Tooele Graffiti Cases
TOOELE, Utah – Police said they arrested a man Friday in connection with more than 40 acts of graffiti and tagging after the unlikeliest of clues helped crack the case.
The graffiti, which contained the letters “DE” or the word “deeder,” had popped up around the city dating back to June 2019.
“This was probably one of the biggest graffiti cases — graffiti arrest cases — we’ve had in probably at least the last 10 years,” said Tooele City Police Department Lt. Jeremy Hansen.
While there was a large body of work, police acknowledged solving the cases would have likely proven difficult had it not been for what turned up unexpectedly inside a home during an unrelated, unattended death investigation.
“One of our detectives was on a death investigation,” Hansen explained. “The detective noticed, like, a toy or model train car that had the D and E on it.”
Police had been trying to solve this one for a year—graffiti showing up all round Tooele that had a very similar characteristic. It’s a case that might have gone UNSOLVED…had it not been for the unlikeliest of clues. Story TONIGHT on @KSL5TV at 10p #KSLTV #Utah pic.twitter.com/rusqQ6wXFd
— Andrew Adams (@AndrewAdamsKSL) August 26, 2020
Detective Colbey Bentley, who had personally been working the case for the past year, said the detective immediately sent him a text about the model train.
“I didn’t really understand what he was trying to send me,” Bentley said. “The next day, I come into work and he shows it to me and I see the ‘DE’ on the end of that train, and suddenly understood the significance of that when he gave me an actual suspect to pursue.”
Though police acknowledged that was how they originally were able to learn the suspect’s name, a jail probable cause statement noted that investigators also received reports from other witnesses who identified the suspect as 44-year-old Guy Van Hale.
Hale was booked into the Tooele County Jail on suspicion of felony graffiti violations exceeding $5,000, as well as misdemeanor drug possession and use or possession of drug paraphernalia.
According to jail documents, Hale was shown a picture of one of the vandalism cases and he stated that he was responsible for it. When asked by the investigator whether it was “safe to assume then that all of the tags marked with ‘DE/deeder’ were his work,” “he said yes.”
Hale told the investigator “DE” was short for “deeder,” and “deeder” meant he owned the deed to a house, the documents stated.
“Truly if it wasn’t for that other detective, I don’t know if we would have been at this point right now,” Bentley said. “I’ve never had a case be solved like this before.”
Hansen said the department and city have placed a greater focus on graffiti in the past year. Bentley has pursued several graffiti cases.
“I became frustrated with the amount of graffiti throughout the city, and I decided I was in a position to help out with the issue,” Bentley said.
Bentley said he was grateful this string of graffiti cases was solved, even though it took some incredibly unique circumstances to identify the alleged suspect.
“It’s really rewarding actually to be able to close this case out with an arrest and hopefully get some restitution to this city,” Bentley said.
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