COLD podcast: Jacket could place missing woman Sheree Warren with suspect the night she disappeared
Mar 8, 2023, 9:54 PM | Updated: Mar 9, 2023, 8:10 am
ROY, Utah — Ogden police came across something unexpected while serving a search warrant at a condominium in May of 1987: a gray suede jacket that potentially belonged to a woman who’d been missing for a year-and-a-half named Sheree Warren.
Case records obtained exclusively by KSL’s COLD podcast reveal police showed a photo of the jacket to Warren’s mother, Mary Sorensen. She reportedly said the jacket not only belonged to her missing daughter but was also what Warren had worn to work at an office in Salt Lake City on the day of her disappearance.
How then, the detectives wondered, had the jacket ended up at a condominium 40 miles away in Ogden? It’s a question that remains unanswered more than three decades later, even as COLD reinvestigates Sheree Warren’s disappearance case for the podcast’s third season.
Sheree Warren last seen wearing
Sheree Warren, 25, was last seen on the evening of Oct. 2, 1985. Warren’s mother, Mary Sorensen, reported her daughter missing to police in the Ogden suburb of Roy the following day.
Sorensen told police Warren had been temporarily living with her parents at their home in Roy while seeking a divorce from her husband, Charles Warren. Sheree and Charles Warren had a 3-year-old son together and were sharing custody while divorce proceedings were underway.
Sorensen reportedly said her daughter had left home on the morning of Oct. 2 wearing black pants, black high-heeled shoes, a blouse with red and white stripes and a black belt. Warren met her estranged husband at a Denny’s restaurant in Roy, where she’d handed her son off to his father. She’d then headed to her job at the headquarters office of the Utah State Employees Credit Union, 30 miles away in Salt Lake City.
While at work, Warren interacted with a coworker named Richard Moss whom she was training on the credit union’s computer system. Moss later told police he and Warren parted ways in a parking garage at about 6:30 p.m. Moss was the last person police could find who’d seen Warren.
Moss made written notes about his recollections of that day, which he later provided to police. In the notes, Moss described Warren as wearing “black slacks, with black high heels.” He also said Warren wore a “red and white striped blouse, button-down front, over-the-shoulder sleeve.”
That description matched the one provided by Warren’s mom, Mary Sorensen. Neither Moss nor Sorensen made mention of Warren wearing a jacket or coat on the day of her disappearance during their initial interviews with police.
Cary Hartmann’s black parka
Sheree Warren had been dating a man while separated from her husband during the summer and fall of 1985. Roy police questioned that man, Cary Hartmann, multiple times in the days that followed her disappearance.
Hartmann offered an alibi, telling police he’d been at a bar with a friend that evening. However, the timeline Hartmann provided shifted in subsequent retellings and was later contradicted by the friend.
Detective’s notes obtained by COLD said Hartmann also told police “he was sure Sheree was wearing his black parka the day she disappeared.”
Weeks later, Hartmann enlisted the help of a private investigator to search for Warren. The P.I. drafted a report which claimed Warren had been wearing a “black waist-length” coat, size 42, when she was last seen.
The P.I.’s report did not explain why Warren, who stood five-foot-four-inches tall and weighed 115 pounds, would’ve worn an oversized men’s coat to her professional office job on a fair weather day. But the report provided a very detailed description of the black coat. It said it was a John Weitz brand design with a “zip collar with snap-down front.”
It is unclear where the private investigator sourced this description of the black coat, or the claim Sheree Warren was last seen wearing it. That statement contradicted police records, as well as the accounts provided by Mary Sorensen and Richard Moss.
Cary Hartmann becomes the prime suspect
Roy police had at first considered Warren’s estranged husband their primary suspect in her disappearance. A detective had interviewed Charles Warren twice. Case records indicate he’d last seen Sheree Warren on the morning of her disappearance, when they’d met to exchange custody of their son. The records do not indicate whether Charles Warren provided a physical description of what Sheree Warren had been wearing at that time.
The focus of the investigation shifted a year later, in October 1986. Police in neighboring Ogden at that time began looking into Warren’s boyfriend, Cary Hartmann, in connection with a string of more than 10 unsolved rapes that’d occurred throughout the city. In each of those cases, a man had entered the homes of women at night and assaulted them.
Ogden police arrested Hartmann on suspicion of two of those rapes on May 8, 1987. His arrest generated news coverage, which in turn prompted new leads in the Sheree Warren investigation.
Two witnesses came forward to speak with a Roy police detective. They told police Hartmann had been renting an apartment in the basement of a house on Ogden’s 7th Street in the fall of 1985. The women, who’d lived on the ground floor of the same house, recalled overhearing a loud argument there between Hartmann and Warren on or around the night Warren disappeared. They each said the argument had concluded with the sound of a thump followed by all going quiet.
The women’s accounts suggested to police that Warren might’ve traveled to Ogden on the night of her disappearance, after leaving her workplace in Salt Lake City. According to the women, Hartmann had moved out of the basement apartment about a year later. They said he’d purchased a condominium near 12th Street and Harrison Boulevard.
Search warrant at Cary Hartmann’s condo
Ogden police served a search warrant at that condo on May 14, 1987. The warrant sought evidence for the serial rape investigation, including any coats that might match what various victims in those cases had described their attacker wearing.
While searching Hartmann’s closets, detectives found a gray suede jacket on a hanger wrapped in plush red yarn. A tag on the inside collar of the jacket listed it as a women’s size 8. It had feminine style accents, like a short torso and ruffles that ran over the top of each shoulder.
The gray suede jacket fell outside the scope of the search warrant, so police did not seize it at that time. They instead photographed the jacket and showed the picture of it to Warren’s mother. A detective’s notes say Mary Sorensen then identified the jacket as belonging to her daughter, saying it “is the jacket she had on the last time she seen Sheree.”
Police could not explain how the jacket would’ve come into Cary Hartmann’s possession, if it indeed belonged to Warren and was what she’d worn to work on the morning of her disappearance.
Sheree Warren’s jacket in evidence
Ogden police drafted another warrant specific to the gray suede jacket. Case records indicate they took it into evidence in January of 1988.
By that time, Cary Hartmann had been convicted at trial on a pair of aggravated sexual assault charges, as well as a burglary count rising from the serial rape investigation. A judge had sentenced Hartmann to two terms of 15-years-to-life in prison.
A pair of Ogden detectives attempted to question Hartmann about the disappearance of Sheree Warren a short time later, in February of 1988. They traveled to Sanpete County Jail, where Hartmann was serving his sentence. One of the detectives, Shane Minor, told COLD Hartmann tacitly invoked his right to remain silent when they confronted him.
“It was no conversation,” Minor said. “He just walked in and seen who it was and walked back out of the room.”
The Ogden police detectives believed Hartmann had likely killed Sheree Warren, but they’d been unable to locate her body. The Weber County Attorney’s Office was unwilling to file charges in the case without a more complete understanding of what’d happened to her. But Hartmann was not talking and the investigation soon went cold.
Show and tell with Sheree Warren’s jacket
The Sheree Warren case remained cold for a decade before Ogden police detective Shane Minor re-opened the it in 1998.
The fresh look was prompted by a prison informant who told police Cary Hartmann had made incriminating comments about the death of his girlfriend. Minor soon determined the informant was likely not credible, but continued to work the case in the hopes of gathering new information that might lead to the recovery of Sheree Warren’s remains
Minor attempted to retrieve several reports written by Ogden detectives about the Warren case in 1987 and 1988, only to learn those reports had themselves gone missing. The lost reports included those written about the discovery of the gray suede jacket. That meant Minor couldn’t be sure whether Ogden police had physically showed the gray suede jacket to Warren’s mother after seizing it as evidence.
“I never could find that case report,” Minor said.
COLD also attempted to locate the missing Ogden police reports by filing a public records request for any documents filed under the Ogden Police Department’s Sheree Warren case number. A city records officer responded that she was unable to find any reports after searching through the department’s archives.
In the absence of the records, detective Minor decided to re-interview Warren’s parents in 1999.
“I had that jacket pulled out of evidence and they looked at the jacket and Mrs. Sorensen identified that jacket as something that [Sheree Warren] would wear the day the day that she went missing,” Minor said.
Minor theorized if Warren had been wearing the gray jacket on the night of her disappearance, and if Warren had gone to Cary Hartmann’s apartment as the two women who’d lived above Hartmann had recalled, she might have met with violence while wearing it.
Ogden police submitted the gray suede jacket to the Utah State Crime Laboratory for forensic analysis on February 8, 2000. A criminalist issued a report two weeks later that said “no indications of blood were detected” on the jacket.
Police interview of Cary Hartmann
Cary Hartmann, at last, agreed to speak with police about Sheree Warren in October 2005, at the urging of a hearing officer for the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole.
In an audio recording of that interview obtained exclusively by COLD, investigator Shane Minor can be heard asking Hartmann about his recollections of Sheree Warren. Hartmann said he and Warren had “gone together” for about a year and had discussed marriage.
“She slept over at my house a great deal of the time,” Hartmann said.
Minor asked Hartmann if Warren had kept any clothing at his home.
“Yeah, she had a few, a few things, a couple of changes,” Hartmann said.
Hartmann claimed Warren had spent the night prior to her disappearance at his apartment in Ogden, and that she’d departed for work that morning from there.
“We got up, she got dressed, put her work clothes on and we kissed goodbye,” Hartmann said.
This contradicted what Warren’s mother had told police: that Warren had spent the night prior to her disappearance at her parents’ house in Roy, caring for her young son.
Hartmann said he believed Warren had gone straight from his apartment to her work in Salt Lake City. This contradicted the account of Charles Warren, who’d told police he’d met up with Warren to exchange custody of their son that morning.
Minor asked Hartmann if he’d had any arguments with Warren prior to her disappearance. Hartmann replied he’d never had a cross word with Warren during the entire time they were dating.
“None whatsoever,” Hartmann said. “We just loved each other to death.”
This contradicted the accounts of the two women who’d reported hearing a loud argument between Hartmann and Warren. Minor told COLD he’d taken note of these various discrepancies, but chose not to challenge Hartmann on them in the moment.
“I was about 100 percent sure that he wasn’t going to say anything as far as an admission goes,” Minor said.
But Minor had hoped he might glean information from other sources that would allow him to locate Sheree Warren’s remains and confront Hartmann again.
“I was hoping to be able to go back and say ‘well, you’re wrong about this, you’re wrong about this,’” Minor said.
That didn’t happen. Minor’s investigation sputtered out soon after his 2005 interview with Hartmann and the Sheree Warren case once again went cold.
A piece of the puzzle
The gray suede jacket sat crumpled in a box on the shelves of the Ogden Police Department’s evidence room for another 10 years before, in 2015, the Roy Police Department re-opened the Sheree Warren case.
Detective John Frawley began compiling the case records and evidence.
“There’s things that we couldn’t get that were lost,” Frawley said.
But the gray suede jacket remained safely bagged and boxed until Frawley met with investigator Shane Minor in 2018. Minor, who was preparing to retire, told Frawley about the discovery of the gray suede jacket in Cary Hartmann’s condo three decades earlier.
“It is a piece of the puzzle,” Roy police detective John Frawley said during an interview for the COLD podcast.
Roy police took custody of the jacket from Ogden and re-submitted it for another round of forensic testing in the spring of 2021. The results of that effort have not been made public.
Frawley hopes sharing the story of the jacket’s discovery publicly now might prompt new witnesses to come forward.
“There could’ve been someone that interacted with Sheree Warren maybe after she left the bank that day, or Cary Hartmann the day of or the days following,” Frawley said. “It would be crucial.”
The Utah Department of Corrections released Cary Hartmann from custody in March of 2020. When contacted by COLD, Hartmann referred questions to his attorney. That attorney did not respond to messages seeking comment.