Arrest made in 1989 cold-case murder of Utah teen
A Utah man already confined to prison for the rest of his life for the 1990 murder of a Salt Lake City baker has now been charged with killing a Millcreek teen the year before.
Unified Police detectives say DNA evidence helped them solve the 23-year-old cold case, leading to Thomas Evan Noffsinger being charged Monday with the rape and murder of 17-year-old Felicia Pappas.
"For 23 years this family has been wondering, 'Who killed our daughter, our sister, our loved one?' " said Unified Police Lt. Justin Hoyal. "Finally, now they're going to be able to get some closure."
Felicia, who also went by Alicia and Lisa, was found dead behind a brick office building near 4500 South and 600 East on the morning April 7, 1989. Police said she had been raped and strangled. She was naked from the waist down and police at the time said there were broken faux-fingernails and busted sunglasses at the scene, indicating there had been a struggle.
The teen was a student at Granite High School and worked at a nearby pizza place. On the night of April 5, 1989, she stopped with friends for coffee at a Village Inn on State Street. The group then went to a pool hall just down the street. She left alone, walking south on State, in the early morning hours of April 6.
Her body was found about 7 a.m. that day.
Last year, UPD's lone cold case detective began re-examining the teen's death and found that swabs were collected during the autopsy to determine if there had been a sexual assault.
A match led to Noffsinger, who also went by the name Thomas Trujillo, police said.
"When you work these cases, it takes a lot of time and a lot of effort," Hoyal said. UPD's cold case detective works as many as many as 40 outstanding homicides that divide his attention.
"You get pulled in different directions as tips come in," Hoyal said. "But these cases catch up with people."
The Utah State Board of Pardons in 2010 ordered Noffsinger to spend the rest of his life in prison for the March 1990 murder of Victor Aguilar. The father of four clocked in early for his shift as a pie chef at a downtown Marie Callender's as Noffsinger, who had recently been fired from the restaurant, and another man attempted to steal the business' safe.
Noffsinger stabbed Aguilar in the back, stomped on him and then slashed his throat. He pleaded guilty to the slaying to avoid a possible death penalty.
Retired Salt Lake City homicide detective Jill Candland believes Noffsinger was involved in the 1989 disappearance of a Sandy woman named Annette Hill.
On May 12, 1989, Hill told her 11-year-old daughter she was leaving but would return within an hour. She was never seen again.
As police investigated the Aguilar slaying, they found Hill's bloodied purse, a prescription pill bottle, jewelry, nightgown and underwear in Noffsinger's possession.
Noffsinger has denied having any involvement in Hill's disappearance, claiming he never met the woman but did steal the items from her car.
Sandy police say UPD officials contacted them as they investigated Noffsinger.
"We activated our case," Sgt. Jon Arnold said. "Unfortunately, there weren't any links."
Candland, however, said the latest charges against Noffsinger reaffirm her suspicions.
"This just reinforces my feelings that I'm very glad the parole board gave him natural life and that he'll never get out of prison," she said. "He's where he belongs."
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