After 20 years, police say they’ve now identified the victim in a Utah cold case

(Photo courtesy of the Utah State Bureau of Investigation) Pictured is Lina Reyes-Geddes, whom officers have identified as the victim of a 1998 murder in southern Utah.

When Lina Reyes-Geddes left her home in Ohio on a chilly April morning in 1998, she got in her car and started a long drive to Texas to see her family.

She never made it there.

Two days after leaving, she should have arrived in Dallas. No one heard from her. Six days later, panic set in among her relatives. This wasn’t like her to just vanish. Why wasn’t she there yet? What was the holdup? Was she still coming?

Twelve days later, a passerby driving through southern Utah spotted a slender package sitting on the side of the road and called the sheriff. When detectives peeled back the wrapping, they found Reyes-Geddes’ body. Except they didn’t know it was her body.

For 20 years, they had no idea who she was.

They didn’t have any ID. They didn’t know how she got there. They had no one coming forward to claim her. They had few leads on who could’ve killed her and even fewer pieces of evidence to base those on.

But now — after reviving the cold case this fall and asking the public for tips — officers here say they were finally able to positively identify Reyes-Geddes and offer the small amount of closure that remained in naming her.

“We’re happy to be able to report for this family,” said Utah State Bureau of Investigation Agent Brian Davis in announcing the victim’s identification Thursday. “They were very grateful to know what happened to their loved one.”

The bureau reopened the case on Oct. 2. Twelve days later, a cold case hobbyist in California called with a tip, suggesting the connection to Reyes-Geddes. She’d seen a picture of her recently that cops in Utah posted about her and she’d known about the case in Ohio, where police had recently updated their case.

“Everything just lined up really well,” Davis said.

Police put out new posts for information in Texas, trying to find people related to Reyes-Geddes. They got a phone call from her sister, living in Mexico where her family is from. After a DNA test, detectives confirmed the ID.

Finding out who killed Reyes-Geddes will be the next step.

A statement released prematurely Wednesday night by Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, who was also investigating the case, said that the suspect in her murder died by suicide in Nevada in the early 2000s. Davis said that hasn’t been determined with certainty.

That man, Edward Geddes, was Reyes-Geddes’ husband when she died; he reported her missing six months after she disappeared. The Bureau of Investigation, for its part, though, doesn’t consider him a suspect yet. “Maybe there are some misunderstandings,” Davis said.

Garfield County did not return requests for comment.

When the Utah Department of Public Safety announced the new push in the case last month, officers said the only person of interest was convicted serial killer Scott Kimball. He is currently serving a 70-year sentence in a Colorado prison after confessing to four murders committed between 2003 and 2004. It is believed that he killed as many 25 people across the West.

Davis said he hasn’t been taken off the list because of the circumstantial links connecting the state of Reyes-Geddes’ body with how Kimball killed other victims.

Her body was discovered on April 20, 1998, about 38 miles north of Lake Powell near Maidenwater Spring. She was wrapped in a blue sleeping bag, a few garbage bags and a play mat for kids patterned with roads and houses. She was taped up and tied in with several pieces of rope in intricate knots, according to the original investigation report, obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune through a public records request.

“The ends of the thumbs and all the fingers had been cut off at a right angle,” the report states, further complicating any efforts to identify her.

The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office released the cause of her death Wednesday, saying Reyes-Geddes died after being shot in the head. She was 37 years old.

The deaths that Kimball has admitted to include three young women — LeAnn Emry, Jennifer Marcum and Kaysi McLeod — and his uncle, Terry Kimball, and happened while he was on release from another sentence and working as an FBI informant. For one, Davis said, the complex knots tied around Reyes-Geddes’ body are “very consistent” with those looped around Terry Kimball. And Scott Kimball left Emry’s body in a Utah canyon, too, “packaged” in a similar way.

Detectives say it’s still unclear, though, how Reyes-Geddes ended up in Utah, a ways west from her destination. They hope to figure that out as they continue digging into the case.

“We’re hoping to backtrack some of that information,” Davis said. “Our hope now is that we can backtrack to Ohio.”

Anyone with information on the case can call 801-887-3800.

Until she was identified this month, she was known only as the “Maidenwater victim.” For 20 years, the woman from Ohio on her way to Texas was going by a Utah nickname. Now, her remains will go home to her family.

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