SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – Nearly forty years ago last month, a teen aged girl disappeared from a popular Salt Lake City park after a summer evening with her friends.
The next day, her body was found near the shore of the Great Salt Lake. The murder was one of four in august of 1971 that terrified the Salt Lake valley. The killer got away.
39 years later, family and loved ones are still asking, “Who killed Johanna Leatherbury?”
It was an evening in August, 1971. Johanna was at a popular Salt Lake City park and summertime gathering place for teenagers doing what everyone who knew her says she loved to do best – spending time with friends and loved ones.
"I felt so grown-up and special,” said Sandy Leatherbury, one of JoHanna’s adoring nieces. “That’s how she treated me, like I was her age and I thought that was so great."
Sandy was in the fifth grade when her "Aunt Jo" died. Nearly four decades later, more than a dozen family members gathered to talk to ABC 4 about Johanna’s death. Instead, they did what they say they always do at family gatherings. They talked about her life.
"Mother and dad had six sons and they were so excited to have a daughter and it was Johanna," said Johanna’s older brother, Jack Leatherbury.
"She always was the one that the older people and the little ones would go to," Fran Leatherbury, JoHanna’s sister in-law.
"I remember her being very happy, very outgoing, very friendly; just made everybody smile," added Sandy.
“She was a good kid,” said Roxanne Brough, Johanna’s younger sister. “She tried hard to please other people, help us all. I don’t know. I miss her a lot."
One of Johanna’s nieces seemed to have clear memories of her aunt.
"I was five and I remember there was a change in the whole family,” said Cindy Grange, “and it never came back to what it was."
News of Johanna’s death devastated this family. Jack remembers his father’s reaction when a family friend broke the news.
"Floyd says, ‘I’ve got some bad news,’” said Jack, straining to hold back tears. “’Your daughter has been killed,’ and Dad fainted, and their life changed. Their personality changed."
The unimaginable had happened. This family’s bright light had been extinguished in the most violent of ways.
"Her body was found the day at about 3 p.m. in the afternoon, out by Saltaire, at a place called Gogan’s Drain," recounts Todd Park, homicide detective for the Unified Police Department.
Park doesn’t want to talk about how JoHanna was killed, both out of respect for the family and out of concern he doesn’t tip off the killer about what he knows. Park says he’s counting on someone who has had information for a long time to come forward and share it.
"We’ve gone 38 years and nobody has come forward to talk,” he says. “Hopefully, people have matured, maybe their lifestyles have changed and by bringing this case to the forefront again, somebody will come forward and talk to us that has some good information on the case."
Johanna’s family say they can’t rest until her killer is found.
You can contact Detective Park during the day at this phone number:
In the evening, call the Unified Police Department dispatch:
You can also contact him via e-mail by going on his cold case web page:
Just click on “Solve a Crime” then click on “Cold Cases.”
And to see all the cold cases throughout the state of Utah, go to the Attorney General’s website: