DNA Testing Establishes Identity of Utah Woman Who Disappeared in 1979; Was Husband Involved?

The Salt Lake City Police Department identified the remains of a body found in Millard County after 42 years. It is being described as the oldest cold case solved by SLCPD.

On August 20, the Salt Lake City Police Department announced the closure of a missing persons cold case after DNA testing confirmed human remains located in Millard County, Utah belonged to Sandra Matott—who disappeared in July of 1979.

Sandra Matott Was 37 When She Vanished in 1979

Matott's husband, Warren Matott, reported her missing on July 18, 1979. He claimed that she was last seen at a bar in Salt Lake City eight days earlier, investigators said. Detectives attempted to follow up with Matott at the time but couldn't reach him, according to Fox News.

Sandra Matott
DNA testing confirmed human remains located in Millard County, Utah belonged to Sandra Matott—who disappeared in July 1979 Twitter grab

Homicide Investigation Was Opened

A few months later on August 19, 1979, the Millard County Sheriff's Office located human skeletal remains found by a hunting party near the I-15 Cove Fort exit, near a road called "Old 91," the release states. Jewelry was located at the scene and due to the "suspicious circumstances," the Millard County Sheriff's Office opened a homicide investigation, reported The Salt Lake Tribune.

The state's medical examiner could not determine a cause of death from the remains. The bones would not be linked to Matott's disappearance until 2019, seven years after investigators reopened the case.

Did Henry Lee Lucas Kill Sandra Matott?

According to the press release, in 1984, serial killer Henry Lee Lucas confessed to killing Matott. However, his claims were vague, and detectives could not verify his confession. Media reports indicated that Lucas confessed, and later recanted, to hundreds of murders.

What's the Connection of Sandra Matott's Husband in This Case?

The case was again investigated in 2012 when Matott's family told detectives that they believed Warren Matott was responsible for her disappearance and death. Warren Matott died in 1999 in California.

Investigators said Warren Matott likely had more information about the disappearance and death of Sandra Matott but there was never any probable cause to charge him in connection to the case, reported Fox News.

How the Events Unfolded?

In December 2019, Utah's Forensic Anthropologist completed a report which allowed the Millard County Sheriff's Office to submit the previously recovered bones to the University of North Texas for DNA testing in October 2020.

On August 10, 2021, the Millard County Sheriff's Office received confirmation the remains located in 1979 belonged to Matott.

On August 13, 2021, the Salt Lake City Police Department and the Millard County Sheriff's Office met with the family of Matott and informed them of the case developments.

Matott's family was relieved and said they are happy to have some of the answers they've been seeking.

Social Media Reactions

People on social media began to speculate about the case. Some were asking whether it was a homicide or not.

One internet user wrote, "I wonder if this is a Ted Bundy case." Another wrote, "I'm happy you found her but I don't know if closure would be the case if you haven't caught the killer?"

One comment read, "It would be interesting to read the original autopsy/coroner report. Her remains were originally found one month after she was reported missing. I ponder the condition of her remains when originally found. Could a cause of death have been identified then? Her jewelry was found with her remains & it took 42 years to make a positive identification. Interesting. Did she have no dental records? Could be."