Thirty-nine years ago, Nancy Perry Baird vanished on Independence Day.
There has been speculation that the 23-year-old Layton woman was one of serial killer Ted Bundy’s victims. But, in reality, there is no evidence linking her to Bundy or anyone else.
On the afternoon of July 4, 1975, Baird was filling her shift at a Fina gas station on the east bench of the city. A patrol officer saw her about 5:15 p.m. — but 15 minutes later, her manager arrived to take over her shift and discovered that Baird, mother to a 4-year-old boy, was gone.
Her car was in the parking lot, and her purse, keys and money were inside the station, located at 1378 N. Highway 89.
As the sun set and the Fourth of July fireworks lit up the sky, no one could find her. Officers and a helicopter crew searched for her the next day, but still found nothing.
No one in the Davis County Sheriff’s Office has looked into Baird’s disappearance for a long time. But last year, detectives who had attended a cold-case crime conference reopened and quietly reignited Baird’s long-since-cold case.
They have a challenge ahead of them. It’s been 39 years, and despite help from the FBI, nothing was ever discovered about her whereabouts. Two Utahns in Castle Rock, Colo. thought they saw Baird at a grocery store two months after she vanished, though that tip did not lead to the missing mother.
Baird’s DNA was not on record, but thanks to new technology at a Texas university, the detectives learned how to create a profile for her based on samples from her family, said sheriff’s Sgt. Susan Poulsen.
The same kind of technology led to the identification of a missing Utah woman, Charlotte Mower, in 2013. Her remains turned up in California.
Detectives also have revisited the theory that Baird was among Bundy’s victims, and are interviewing previous investigators. Several true crime books list Baird as a suspected victim of the infamous serial killer, who preyed on young women and teenage girls in the Intermountain West during the 1970s.
There were no signs of a struggle at the station, but investigators suspect foul play. Bundy’s involvement has long been floated as a theory, though there has never been any evidence that linked him to Baird’s case.
A month after she disappeared, the Utah Highway Patrol arrested Bundy in Salt Lake City. He confessed to killing several people around Utah, including 17-year-old Debra Kent in Bountiful several months before Baird disappeared; but he denied killing Baird, according to a book about him, "The Only Living Witness." Bundy was executed in Florida in 1989.
Coincidentally, Kent’s father was an official in the oil company that owned the Fina gas station where Baird worked, according to a 1975 Davis County Clipper story.
Besides the new DNA profile and revisiting the Bundy theory, investigators also added Baird’s case to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. The system makes the case and Baird’s information available to a broader audience.
Baird was last seen wearing her light blue pin-striped Fina station smock, with the company logo embroidered on it, as well as blue shorts and a blue halter top. She had long, straight red-strawberry blonde hair and hazel eyes, was 5-foot-3 and weighed about 100 pounds at the time of her disappearance.
Baird has small scars on the inside of each wrist, and was known to wear a ring on her pinky finger, with a ruby stone and two smaller rubies on either side, set in gold.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call sheriff’s Sgt. Robert Thompson at 801-451-4100.
Despite the mystery surrounding her fate, Baird has a memorial stone in Provo City Cemetery, with her death dated the Fourth of July that she vanished. In her absence, Baird’s young son went to live with relatives.
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.