Rosie Tapia’s family marks her 35th birthday with a plea for answers

Jan 17, 2024, 10:07 PM | Updated: Jan 18, 2024, 6:44 am

SALT LAKE CITY — The family of a young murder victim is asking for the community’s help in solving the case.

On Thursday, Rosie Tapia would be turning 35 years old. But her memory is frozen with her picture at 6 years old.

Salt Lake City police suspect Rosie was kidnapped from her family’s apartment located at the old Hartland Apartments, 1616 W. Snow Queen Place, through a bedroom window on the ground floor. The child vanished in the early morning hours of Aug. 13, 1995, sometime after 2:30 a.m. Her mother, Lewine Tapia, checked on her at 5 a.m.

Hours later, Rosie’s body was spotted floating in a surplus canal of the Jordan River near 1900 W. 1200 South by Gustavo Ibarra, who was out for a Sunday morning walk with his dog.

Ibarra said he was near the Auto Zone, on 1230 S. Redwood Road, when he spotted something unusual in the water.

“I saw something floating on the other side of the river. A little body. I thought it was a doll because of the hair, looked like a doll’s, it was a little bit under the water,” Ibarra said.

A closer look sent Ibarra rushing for help.

“All of a sudden, I realized, it was a human body. I ran through to wherever I could run to a home on California Street,” Ibarra said. “But I knew she was dead.”

Ibarra said a neighbor let him borrow his phone to call police who arrived within minutes. Ibarra assumed they were in the area searching for Rosie.

“They were right there in five minutes, they already knew about it,” Ibarra said. “The officer asked me to walk with him … the body was a little bit ahead because the current was taking it.”

According to a Salt Lake City police webpage for Rosie’s case, Rosie’s body was recovered from the canal near 1900 South and 1600 West.

“I struggled with that idea for a few years, asking, ‘Why?’ Ibarra said.

“It still hurts that she’s gone and I still don’t have no answers,” Rosie’s mother said.

Like Gustavo, Rosie’s family, has lost sleep over the case.

Reward raised to $100,00 for information in 1995 murder of Rosie Tapia

“I still don’t have no answers of who took her and it just makes it harder every year that she’s gone. My health [isn’t] as good as it was and I don’t want to leave this world until I find out who took her, and why,” Lewine said.

But leads have always been rare, and Lewine says there are few updates from Salt Lake City police.

“I haven’t heard… from the detectives,” Tapia said. “It’s almost going to be four years in February that I have spoken with anyone from the (Salt Lake City Police Department)… or even if my daughter’s case is still open.”

In an email to KSL TV, a police spokesperson said detectives continue to investigate the case. However, there were no updates as of Wednesday.

One of the known leads Salt Lake City police investigated involved a November 2002 incident. According to detectives, an “unknown person left a rock on Rosa Tapia’s grave with a note written on it.” Police asked for the community’s help in identifying the person.

In August 2022, Rosie’s family announced the reward for information that solved the case would increase from $35,000 to $100,000.

Rosie’s family believes the suspect lived at the same apartment building and likely knew the family.

“That’s all we need, is one phone call,” Lewine said. “All we want is closure for Rosie and for myself and why they did it.”

Salt Lake City police can be reached at 801-799-3000 with tips on the case.

The Tapia family in conjunction with their private investigator, Jason Jensen — also a founder of the Utah Cold Case Coalition — have also established a website with information on the case.

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Rosie Tapia’s family marks her 35th birthday with a plea for answers