Star Salt Lake County cold case detective moves on from mysteries
When it comes to homicides, Todd Park has never liked the word closure.
That’s coming from the award-winning Unified Police detective who has solved at least a dozen cold cases in his two-decade career in homicide, about half of which he spent working cold cases full time. From where he sees it, the families "are never going to get closure for what happened to their loved one. They can’t shut the door on that."
But he has given them answers.
After a stint as the state’s only full-time cold case investigator, as far as he knows, Park has to close the door on unraveling old mysteries. The 30-year officer started working last week as a patrol sergeant. Another detective, whom the Salt Lake County sheriff described as their most seasoned officer in homicide, is taking Park’s place and bringing fresh perspective.
Park is excited about the switch — which is a promotion — but sad to be leaving a calling that has marked his career and, possibly, made a difference in many people’s lives.
Cracking into cold cases » When Park arrived in the homicide unit in 1998, the first death that landed on his desk was a cold case. He cracked it, and asked for another. So they gave him the holiday murder of a teenage boy.
It was 1993, and Sylvia Mosier wanted to buy her 14-year-old son, Christopher, a musical instrument for Christmas. The Taylorsville single mother couldn’t afford the present on a Tres Hombres hostess’ wages, so she started babysitting a child at her home, Park said.
"Part of the arrangement was, sometimes during the holidays, Sylvia would get called in early to be a hostess, and she set it up that Christopher could watch the baby for the last hour," Park said. But on Dec. 30, the baby’s father, Terry Johnson, showed up at the Mosiers’ apartment and stabbed Christopher 21 times, Park said. Years passed, and Johnson was never charged.
"Every year, Sylvia would call the sergeant who was in the homicide unit at the time, saying, ‘Another year’s gone, my son’s still dead, and we still don’t know who the killer was,’ " Park said.
In the meantime, the baby’s mother "was so afraid of [Johnson] that she would put clothes underneath the bed in a suitcase and as soon as she could get enough money, she took her and the baby and high-tailed it out. Never told [Johnson] where she was at," Park said, "but I found her."
In 2002 — with the help of improved DNA testing — prosecutors brought charges. A jury convicted Johnson in 2004.
"When I solved that, that sergeant [who had been answering Mosier’s calls] — this great, big, tough guy — I saw him break down and cry over that," Park recalled.
Unified Police, which covers much of Salt Lake County, had accumulated numerous unsolved murders. It was during the Mosier case that Park’s supervisor approached him about working cold cases full time; but first he had to prove the position was worth the expense.
"They’re only going to give us six months, so you’ve got to produce," Park recalls his supervisor telling him. They pulled it off by solving another case, and in 2005, Park got the job.