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Police ID body found in West Valley City canal

Published September 14, 2012 1:17 pm

Body of Richard Byrd, 43, found in canal by teenagers.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

West Valley City police have identified a body recovered from a canal discovered by teenagers Friday morning.

Sgt. Mike Powell said the man was identified as Richard Anthony Byrd, 43. Family members have been notified.

"The West Valley City Police Department will continue to work with the Office of the Medical Examiner in an effort to better understand the circumstances surrounding this death," Powell said in a media release Friday.

Police did not release any more information about how Byrd died.

It appears Byrd — who had a lengthy criminal record — also was being investigated by Salt Lake City police in connection with a 1994 cold-case murder.

Salt Lake City detective Dennis McGowan said late Friday "we're in the middle of confirming some things, but it appears likely that that is the same person."

Salt Lake City detectives took blood and saliva samples from Byrd as part of a 2010 cold-case investigation into the November 1994 shooting death of Cornelia Salt. Salt was found dead in a rental car on a dead-end circle near Jordan Park. The 22-year-old was shot multiple times in the head. She had been visiting friends in West Valley City and planned to fly home to Phoenix.

Search warrants filed in 2010 quoted witnesses who told police that Byrd claimed to have killed Salt, his ex-girlfriend, in apparent jealousy over her engagement to an Arizona man. Another man named Gilbert "Gummer" Loretto, was also suspected as being an accomplice to the crime, according to the 2010 warrant. Byrd was never charged in Salt's death.

Byrd's body was spotted in the water near 4100 South and 5800 West at about 6:55 a.m. Friday by teenagers walking to school, who called 911, said West Valley City police Sgt. Mike Powell. The canal is just west of Hunter High School.

Powell said the body, retrieved by a dive team about 10 a.m., would be turned over to the State Medical Examiner's Office for an autopsy and identification.

Powell would not say if foul play was suspected but confirmed the incident was being investigated as suspicious. The body had been in the water for an estimated 24 hours.

"It's definitely suspicious. We have an unusual set of circumstances here with where the body was found, how it was found. We're working with the Medical Examiner to determine further details," he said.

Given the investigation is ongoing, police would not discuss whether any signs of trauma were noted on the man's body that might indicate if his death was not accidental.

Powell asked that anyone who might have information relating to the case call police at 801-840-4000.

Byrd had a criminal history that began in the mid-1980s, according to Utah court records. His offenses included several felony retail theft convictions, and he was sent to prison twice: once for a second-degree felony robbery in 1990 and again in 2008 for third-degree felony retail theft. Other convictions included possession of a controlled substance and public intoxication.

Tribune reporter Jessica Miller contributed to this report.

remims@sltrib.com

kbennion@sltrib.com