The first case dropped on Unified Police Det. Todd Park’s desk when he joined the homicide unit in 1998 was a cold case.He spent the next 14 years delving into some of Utah’s most infamous unsolved crimes.
Park began working on cold cases full-time in 2005 and estimates he has solved around a dozen crimes — some of them many decades old — bringing closure to family members of victims who have sought answers for years.
The detective was honored Wednesday with the Vidocq Society medal of honor for his success as a cold case investigator. The Vidocq Society is a non-profit organization comprised of forensic professionals and private citizens who meet to discuss and investigate unsolved homicides.
“It’s a little overwhelming, actually, to be recognized,” Park said during an honorary ceremony. “I do this job mainly for the families that are every day wondering what happened to their loved ones. That’s what drives me to keep going on a day-to-day basis, is to try to give them some answers.”
Salt Lake County Sheriff James Winder, who presented Park with the award, said the detective’s work, bringing a form of “delayed justice,” has brought immeasurable solace to the family’s of murder victims throughout Utah.
“When a loved one is taken from you, you will always feel it,” Winder said. “As the birthdays and holidays tick by, those memories only become more solid.”
Park has been instrumental in solving several high profile cold cases, including the shooting death of 21-year-old BYU student Barbara Jean Rocky in 1974 and most recently, the arrest of Thomas Noffsinger in connection with the rape and death of 17-year-old Felicia Pappas in April 1989.
Park said the toughest case for him each time is the next one that will come his way. He said couldn’t pick out any one in particular because he finds each case to be rewarding when he can deliver answers to mothers who have lost sons or daughters to murder.
Park has been an officer for 28 years now and said he’ll keep going as long as the police department will let him.
“There’s a lot of people out there that are hurting and I feel this is something I can do in my little corner of the world to try to help somebody out,” Park said.