Salt Lake City police solve 1974 cold case murder

May 26, 2022, 1:36 PM | Updated: 2:05 pm
Salt Lake police released this photo of James Bednarik who was murdered in 1974. (Salt Lake City Po...
Salt Lake police released this photo of James Bednarik who was murdered in 1974. (Salt Lake City Police Department)
(Salt Lake City Police Department)

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City police said Thursday that they solved a 48-year-old murder case.

Police determined that 75-year-old Geroge B. Toone gunned down James Bednarik, 39, outside his home in the 500 block of East First Avenue on February 28, 1974.

Police described the murder as an execution.

Toone, 75, died of natural causes in California in 2001.

Detectives followed up on all the leads they had at the time, but they couldn’t identify a suspect.

One of those leads helped them uncover Bednarik’s role in a scheme to sell stolen gasoline. Salt Lake Police said they also learned that the year before his murder, Bednarik shot and wounded a gas station owner during a confrontation over gas that was stolen from his business.

A news release said in 2018, the Salt Lake City Police Department’s Homicide Squad used the latest forensic technology to test evidence collected in 1974 but it did not develop any new leads.

New Developments

Fast forward to 2022 when a retired Unified Police Department detective had lunch with a retired SLCPD detective. During the lunch, the retired detectives discussed Bednarik’s murder.

The news release said detectives learned that in 2001, Toone confessed to killing two men in Salt Lake County. One of those men was Bednarik.

The release said the murder was done at the request of the gas station owner who Bednarik shot the year before.

Once that information was revealed, detectives asked the SLCPD’s crime lab to test two fingerprints that police collected at Bednarik’s murder scene.

Those fingerprints came back to Toone.

The news release said that based on the information detectives uncovered they were confident to name Toone as the person who killed Bednarik.

“In recent years, DNA and other technology has greatly aided in solving cold cases along with new cases,” said SLCPD Chief Mike Brown. “This is a great example of the continued dedication, professionalism, and care both active and retired officers have in these cases. I’m proud of our detectives. They never let up in their pursuit for justice.”

Police have notified Bednarik’s family of the new developments.

Meanwhile, homicide detectives have continued to work on the other Salt Lake County murder linked to Toone.

Police ask anyone with information on that case to call the Salt Lake City Police Department at 801-799-3000.

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Salt Lake City police solve 1974 cold case murder