Accused Utah cold-case killer assigned public defender
Courts • Flora Rundle, 71, was found dead in her home in October 1989.
Published: May 15, 2014 03:58PM
Updated: May 30, 2014 02:28PM
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Gary Dean Hilfiker

A man who allegedly stabbed a woman to death 24 years ago in South Salt Lake made his initial court appearance on Thursday.

Gary Dean Hilfiker, 56, was charged earlier this month with first-degree felony aggravated murder for the October 1989 slaying of 71-year-old Flora Rundle.

Hilfiker — who could face the death penalty or up to life in prison, if convicted — was appointed a public defender and ordered to return to 3rd District Court for a May 30 scheduling hearing.

Family members of Rundle found her body inside her home Oct. 22, 1989, after they hadn’t heard from her for a few days, according to the Unified Police Department. She had been stabbed 11 times and suffered blunt force trauma, according to court records.

Detectives at the time could find no suspects, police wrote. But UPD last year received federal funds to reopen the case and found DNA evidence that was collected from Rundle. The profile matched that of Gary Hilfiker, who is serving time for an unrelated homicide in 1992, according to police.

Investigators learned that Rundle typically used taxis for transportation, and that Hilfiker was a cabdriver who had driven Rundle several times, police wrote. Hilfiker, interviewed in prison, admitted to killing Rundle, police wrote in court documents. He said he took a knife to her home and broke in to steal money, investigators wrote. He said he was confronted by Rundle, so he stabbed her and took “a couple hundred dollars” from her purse, police wrote.

The case was one of several cold cases that have been reopened since UPD received a federal grant for $300,000 to investigate old cases that may be solved with new DNA technology.

Hilfiker previously was convicted of murder and aggravated arson in the 1992 death of Marsha Haverty, for which he is serving up to life in prison.

Hilfiker stabbed the 38-year-old woman up to 10 times in her Salt Lake City home, poured kerosene over her and set her ablaze. At a 2010 parole hearing, he told the Board of Pardons and Parole that he killed Haverty, who was his friend, in a drug-fueled, “discombobulated state” when she tried to talk him out of killing himself. Hilfiker said he was despondent after a failed romance, and in trying to talk him out of suicide, Haverty and Hilfiker began arguing over Hilfiker’s drug use. Hilfiker said he stabbed Haverty and lit her body on fire out of panic after he realized she was dead.

Hilfiker then said he had become a born-again Christian in 2001.

The board had given him a parole date in 2022.