A woman was missing for 29 years, but the discovery of her bones last spring — buried below a shed at the Utah County home she’d shared with her boyfriend — set her case back in motion.
The boyfriend, now-61-year-old Michael Ignatius Kufrin, was reportedly arrested in Illinois this summer. On Monday, Kufrin was extradited and booked into County jail on suspicion of the murder of 28-year-old Peggy Sue Case.
Kufrin, then 32, lived with Case for five years before she was reported missing in July 1988, according to Salt Lake Tribune stories published at the time. The pair resided in a duplex at 80 N. 800 East in Spanish Fork at the time of her disappearance.
A first-degree felony murder charge, filed against Kufrin on July 13, was unsealed Wednesday, though documents accompanying charges remained sealed.
Friends last saw Case leaving a hot-tub party in Payson with Kufrin on July 9, 1988. Witnesses described Kufrin as jealous of the way Case had interacted with other men at the party, Tribune articles at the time said.
In the days after the party, Kufrin called Case’s employer to report that she was ill. He then told her employer that she’d left the state to buy a car and would not be returning to work, Tribune articles say. Suspicious of what Kufrin told them, Case’s co-workers reported her missing.
Kufrin had been in contact with Case “a few times” by phone, he told police, but he later stopped cooperating with the investigation.
Police discounted “several stories” Kufrin gave them in the months after Case’s disappearance, Tribune articles say. “We feel he has not been straight with us,” a 1988 news release from police said of Kufrin.
In March 1990, Kufrin was convicted of an October 1988 vehicle theft and received a sentence of zero to five years at the Utah State Prison. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss all charges if Kufrin would produce evidence that Case was alive, but Kufrin apparently was unable or unwilling to do so.
About 10 of Case’s family members attended Kufrin’s initial parole hearing on Oct. 5, 1990, in hopes of addressing the Utah Board of Pardons, but they were denied the chance to speak because Kufrin’s prison sentence was not related to the Case investigation.
During the parole hearing, Kufrin refused to answer questions about Case’s disappearance and demanded that he serve the maximum sentence of five years without the possibility of parole rather than address such inquiries.
At the time, then-Spanish Fork Detective Carl Johnston told The Tribune, it was “frustrating having everything you need except her.”
Case’s father, Richard Ellsworth, who was at the parole hearing, echoed that sentiment.
“We are totally convinced he killed her,” Ellsworth, told a Tribune reporter in 1990. “The only thing we need is her body to connect him. Otherwise it’s a perfect case.”
On May 22 of this year, a person moving out of the same duplex where Case and Kufrin once resided was retrieving belongings from a cement cellar in the yard. The man noticed soil sinking in the cellar’s dirt floor.
Knowing that a woman who lived in his home had disappeared nearly 30 years ago, the man dug down about 18 inches and found Case’s skull before calling police.
When police arrived, they uncovered more of Case’s skeletal remains, which were wrapped in plastic mesh and a blanket, officials said.
Evidence from Case’s remains, coupled with evidence collected during the 1988 initial investigation, was enough for officers to issue an arrest warrant to Kufrin.
Detectives from the Forest Park Police Department in Illinois arrested Kufrin on July 17, and held him in a local jail until his extradition Monday. He’s now in a Utah County jail cell, being held in lieu of $250,000, cash-only.
Kufrin is scheduled to make his initial appearance in 4th District Court on Monday.