Blamed on Bundy: COLD podcast challenges popular theory in Nancy Baird cold case
May 15, 2023, 10:57 PM | Updated: May 16, 2023, 11:11 am
LAYTON, Utah — A young woman disappeared from a gas station where she worked on the 4th of July, 1975. Investigators at the time believed someone had abducted and murdered Nancy Perry Baird, but they were never able to locate her remains.
For nearly 50 years, police and many of Baird’s own relatives speculated she might have fallen prey to serial killer Ted Bundy. Now, a review of case files obtained exclusively by KSL’s COLD podcast is casting doubt on that theory of Bundy’s involvement, while also revealing other leads overlooked by past investigators.
The disappearance of Nancy Baird
Nancy Baird married young, just out of high school, and had a son with her husband, Floyd Dee Baird, soon afterward. Their marriage lasted only a few brief years.
By July of 1975, Nancy Baird was 23 years old, single, and raising her 4-year-old son. On the afternoon of July 4, Baird left her son with her parents at their home in the small town of East Layton, Utah, and went to work. She held a job as a clerk at a Fina-brand gas station and convenience store near the southwest corner of U.S. Highway 89 and Cherry Lane.
East Layton was a town of only about 1,000 residents. It had a police department comprised of four individuals: a part-time chief, one full-time officer, and two part-time reserve officers. At that time, none of the four had attended Utah’s police academy.
COLD obtained a report later written by the town’s full-time officer, David Ray Anderson. He described stopping by the Fina station between 5:10 and 5:15 p.m. on the day Baird disappeared. Anderson wrote he interacted with Baird, and everything seemed “10-4,” indicating nothing appeared amiss.
Anderson wrote he then left the Fina station and drove to another gas station on the opposite corner of the highway. In his report, he described looking back toward the Fina between 5:30 and 5:30 p.m., noticing a green van parked outside. He “went over to check it out,” without explaining why the van piqued his suspicion.
Officer Anderson’s report does not say what became of the van or whether he made contact with its driver. It only says by the time Anderson arrived back at the Fina station, he discovered Baird was no longer there. Baird’s purse, keys, and car were all still at the station and Anderson saw no signs of a struggle inside the convenience store.
Anderson made contact with his chief, who in turn requested the assistance of the Davis County Sheriff’s Office in mounting a search for Nancy Baird.
The last people to see Nancy Baird alive
East Layton police used credit card receipts from the Fina station to identify customers who’d potentially interacted with Baird prior to her disappearance. One of them was a resident of the neighboring town of Kaysville, Utah, named Denzle Williams.
Davis County sheriff’s detective Kenny Payne interviewed Williams on Saturday, July 5, 1975, the day after Nancy Baird was last seen.
In a report, Payne wrote Williams had taken two of his children, David, 14, and Jana, 9, to the Fina station at about 5:15 p.m. the prior afternoon. The Williams children had entered the convenience store while their father remained outside, filling his car with gasoline.
Payne also interviewed David and Jana Williams. The Williams children reportedly described seeing two men at the counter, presumably speaking to Baird, while they were at the convenience store.
“I didn’t want to interrupt this conversation they were having,” David Williams said in an interview for COLD. “They weren’t in a hurry to leave or anything.”
David Williams said he provided his father’s credit card to Nancy Baird to pay for the gasoline. Baird completed the transaction. Then, Jana Williams approached the counter with a bottle of raspberry soda.
“She had 28 cents and the total purchase price was 29 cents,” detective Payne wrote in a report, “however, Nancy let her have the bottle of pop for the 28 cents.”
The report said Nancy Baird had not appeared “alarmed or nervous” at the time of her interaction with Jana Williams.
“I do remember that she was very kind,” Jana Williams Grow said in an interview for COLD.
The Williams family did not report seeing a police officer at the Fina station at the time of their visit, which suggested East Layton officer David Anderson departed before they arrived. If true, that made Jana Williams the last person known to have seen Nancy Baird alive.
“I didn’t know how someone could take a pretty lady like that,” Jana Williams Grow said.
Detective Kenny Payne asked David and Jana Williams to describe the two men they’d seen talking to Baird.
The Williamses said the two men both appeared to be 23 or 24 years old. The first was skinny, had shoulder-length hair, a full beard and mustache, and wore a frayed denim jacket.
The second man also had a full mustache and beard. His hair was dark but sun-bleached hair and he wore a yellow long-sleeved shirt.
Detective Payne used a tool called Identi-kit to build composite images of the two men, based on information provided by David and Jana Williams. The composites were not included among the case files provided to COLD by the Davis County Sheriff’s Office.
COLD located an antique Identi-kit and was able to recreate the composites using information contained in Kenny Payne’s report.
David and Jana had never before seen the composites. Police had not shown them the images back in 1975. But they both said the composites resembled the men they’d seen talking to Nancy Baird.
“They look familiar to me,” David Williams said. “It’s amazing what you remember, even though it’s been almost 50 years.”
The two men are described in police reports as “hippie types.” David Williams told COLD he also recalled seeing a brown “hippie van” outside the Fina station, though this detail was not included in any of the reports obtained by COLD through an open records request.
Jana Williams Grow recalled feeling scared at 9 years old, worried the men she and her brother described to police might seek revenge.
“I thought they’d find me,” Grow said. The long-forgotten feeling resurfaced when she viewed the composites. “I got a little bit sick to my stomach when I saw him, because I do remember him.”
Persons of interest in the Nancy Baird case
East Layton police and the Davis County Sheriff’s Office narrowed in on several persons of interest in the days and weeks after Nancy Baird disappeared. Chief among them was Baird’s ex-husband, Floyd D. Baird. Case files show he provided an alibi, telling detectives he’d been camping with a friend in the area of Jackson Hole, Wyoming on the date in question.
Detectives also questioned several of Nancy Baird’s current and former boyfriends. One of them, a man named Dennis Forsgren, told investigators he’d been out of state vacationing with his family at the time. Investigators later verified this.
The case files show police searched Baird’s home and seized her address book, a hairbrush with strands of Baird’s hair tangled in the bristles, as well as one of her photo albums. Sheriff’s detectives compared pictures in the album to the two composite images of the men David and Jana Williams had reported seeing inside the Fina station.
A sheriff’s lieutenant wrote, “There was a very similar likeness of one of the Identi-kit composites to a picture” from the photo album. The report said the photo was marked with the name Monty.
Deputies soon identified the man in the photo as Monty Torres. They showed the photo to their witness, Jana Williams, who “positively identified Monte [sic] Torres as one of the hippie type individuals that was in the service station.”
Davis County detectives learned Torres was in Pocatello, Idaho. They asked the Bannock County, Idaho Sheriff’s Office to locate and interview him. According to a report, a Bannock County detective made contact with Torres, describing him as “quite jittery.”
Torres reportedly said he’d been at Lava Hot Springs on the afternoon of Nancy Baird’s disappearance. Torres later submitted to a polygraph examination about this alibi. Records relating to that polygraph were not included with the Nancy Baird case files obtained by COLD, but newspaper stories from the time indicate the polygraph did not reveal signs of deception. Investigators then cleared Torres as a person of interest.
Story of a man in a Volkswagen van
Davis County detectives also interviewed one of Nancy Baird’s friends, an Ogden woman named Deloris Drake, in the early days of the investigation. The information Drake provided has not previously been revealed.
Drake reportedly told investigators she and Baird had gone bar-hopping along Washington Boulevard in Ogden, Utah two nights prior to Baird’s disappearance. At approximately 2:30 a.m. on the morning of July 3, 1975, Nancy Baird dropped Drake off at Drake’s home on Ogden’s 36th Street. Baird then departed alone, presumably headed for her home in Layton.
A sheriff’s lieutenant wrote Deloris and said Baird returned a half-hour later, at about 3:00 a.m., “and appeared to be quite shaken and frightened and that this fellow named Tom in a yellow van had followed her home and was molesting her.”
Drake reportedly said she heard “Tom” make a threatening sexual comment toward Nancy Baird. Drake ordered “Tom” to leave, at which point the man drove away in a yellow Volkswagen van.
The case files include a full name for “Tom,” but the Davis County Sheriff’s Office redacted the surname from the reports provided to COLD. Deloris Drake is deceased. As a result, COLD is unable to independently verify the information about “Tom” in the Nancy Baird case files, or definitively identify him.
The files do not indicate whether “Tom” was located or questioned by officers from either the sheriff’s office or East Layton police back in 1975. But East Layton’s part-time police chief, Ray Adams, told the Deseret News “We are at a dead end” in the search for Nancy Baird in a story published on July 28, 1975.
The Ted Bundy theory
Serial killer Theodore “Ted” Bundy was first arrested three weeks later, about 30 miles south of East Layton in the suburbs of Salt Lake City.
Bundy was at that time suspected in the Nov. 8, 1974, attempted kidnapping of Carol DaRonch from outside the Fashion Place Mall in Murray, Utah. Police investigating the DaRonch case seized Bundy’s car, a light tan 1968 Volkswagen Beetle. They collected numerous hair fibers from the car’s interior.
The Davis County Sheriff’s Office provided a sample of Nancy Baird’s hair, taken from her hairbrush, to the FBI for comparison to the unidentified hairs collected from Bundy’s car. FBI records indicate the federal agents did not find a match to Nancy Baird’s hair in Ted Bundy’s car.
Still, some investigators continued operating on a belief Bundy was somehow involved in whatever had happened to Baird.
“There was suspicion of him,” former East Layton police reserve officer Thomas Jackson told COLD.
In July of 1975, Thomas Jackson was the most junior member of the East Layton police force. Case records show Jackson did not play a significant role in the investigation. But Jackson told COLD he’d not bought into the speculation about Bundy. Jackson had instead wondered if his colleague, officer Dave Anderson, might’ve been the culprit.
Officer Dave Anderson had only been an officer at East Layton for 10 months at the time of Nancy Baird’s disappearance. Several former law enforcement sources familiar with East Layton police operations during the 1970s have told COLD the majority of Anderson’s time was spent patrolling U.S. Highway 89.
Former reserve officer Thomas Jackson said that meant officer Dave Anderson had spent a great deal of time at the Fina station.
“[Anderson] spent too much time looking at women, too,” Jackson said.
Officer Dave Anderson left his job with the East Layton police department a short time after the disappearance of Nancy Baird. Case records do not indicate he was ever challenged about his account of Nancy Baird’s disappearance.
Thomas Jackson then replaced Dave Anderson as East Layton’s only full-time officer. Jackson said he deferred on handling the Nancy Baird investigation, telling the Davis County Sheriff’s Office he preferred they manage the case.
“I wanted to let someone else handle it,” Jackson said. “I didn’t want to mess it up.”
A few months later, in 1986, Thomas Jackson also quit the East Layton police department to take a job in the private security sector. The Nancy Baird case then lapsed into cold status.
Ted Bundy and the “convenient alternative”
Around that same time, on March 1, 1976, a judge found Ted Bundy guilty of the attempted kidnapping of Carole DaRonch. A few months later, Bundy arrived at the Utah State Prison to begin serving his sentence.
Utah extradited Bundy to Colorado in 1977, where Bundy faced charges related to the suspected murder of Caryn Campbell two years earlier. Bundy twice escaped from custody in Colorado. During his second escape, Bundy traveled to Florida, where he carried out a series of murders before being recaptured a final time.
While standing trial for the Florida murders in 1979, Bundy told one reporter in a recorded telephone conversation he was innocent of all the crimes for which he’d been accused and convicted.
“Police officers, they want to solve crimes and sometimes I don’t think they really try to think things through,” Bundy said in the recording. “They’re willing to take the convenient alternative. And the convenient alternative is me.”
The jury did not agree. On July 24, 1979, the jury found Bundy guilty of murder. A week later, Bundy received the first of two death sentences that would keep him firmly, finally, in custody.
Ted Bundy denies knowing Nancy Baird
It took nearly a decade before Florida would execute Ted Bundy by electrocution on Jan. 24, 1989.
Days before the execution, Bundy began granting interviews to police investigators from several states, including Utah. He took responsibility for a large number of unsolved murders and described where police might locate the still-missing victims.
Salt Lake County Sheriff’s detective Dennis Couch interviewed Bundy for about 90 minutes on Jan. 22, 1989. During the interview, Bundy said he’s committed five murders in Utah.
Police suspected Bundy’s involvement with the deaths or disappearances of Debra Kent, Nancy Wilcox, Melissa Smith, and Laura Aime in Utah. Many in law enforcement circles also speculated Bundy might’ve killed Nancy Baird.
Detective Couch’s interview with Bundy was audio recorded. In the recording, Bundy denied having any knowledge of Nancy Baird.
“Do you recall what type of place it was [Baird] was working at or where it was located?” Couch asked Bundy.
“No, I didn’t have anything to do with that,” Bundy replied.
Later in the interview, Couch showed Bundy a picture of Nancy Baird.
“Nancy Baird, who’s that,” Bundy asked Couch, seeming not to recognize Baird’s photo.
Ted Bundy’s alibi
COLD has uncovered new evidence suggesting Ted Bundy was likely telling the truth when he denied any knowledge of Nancy Baird.
It comes by way of a professional archivist and researcher named Tiffany Jean, who, in 2019, began gathering and compiling Ted Bundy case files from several states and police agencies.
“I looked at the [Nancy Baird] case a little bit and I thought that it didn’t quite fit [Ted Bundy’s] M.O.,” Tiffany Jean said.
The composites of the two “hippie type” men provided by David and Jana Williams did not resemble Ted Bundy. None of the witnesses mentioned in the Nancy Baird case files obtained by COLD described seeing a vehicle matching Bundy’s 1968 Volkswagen Beetle at the Fina station, either.
Tiffany Jean said records from the Carole DaRonch attempted kidnapping case revealed Bundy had briefly dated a Salt Lake City woman named Leslie Knudson during the summer of 1975. Knudson provided a statement to investigators about Bundy following his arrest but has never spoken publicly about their time together.
“I was able to find her phone number, and an associate of mine called her,” Tiffany Jean said. “She mentioned that [Bundy] had visited her family, at a family reunion on the 4th of July, 1975.”
Knudson said the family reunion had occurred at her family’s ranch.
Knudson did not respond to repeated requests for an interview with COLD. However, Knudson’s maternal grandfather was a prominent sheep rancher who owned a ranch in Fruitland, near Strawberry Reservoir. That was more than 100 miles from the Fina station in East Layton, where Nancy Baird disappeared on that same date.
“It would be pretty difficult for [Bundy] to have done both things on that day because it would have been quite a drive,” Tiffany Jean said. “But it doesn’t seem like anyone else has ever put those together, that [Bundy] was with [Knudson] on the day that this crime occurred.”
Current status of the Nancy Baird case
The disappearance of Nancy Perry Baird remains unsolved. The Davis County Sheriff’s Office recently assigned an investigator to review the cold case, in cooperation with the Layton City Police Department. Their current focus is on persons of interest other than Ted Bundy.
For David Williams and his sister Jana Williams Grow, the last people known to have seen Nancy Baird, the renewed attention on Baird’s long-neglected case raises new hope. They believe it’s possible someone might recognize the two men they saw interacting with Baird minutes before she vanished.
“These images brought back memories to us,” David Williams said. “We hope that that will do the same for others.”