SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – It was a confession to a murder in 1986, but it’s gathering dust after all these years.
In 1996, Forest Whittle went to life in prison for the 1986 murder of Lisa Strong.
She was shot dead while walking through a neighborhood in Salt Lake City.
At the time, Greg Chase was a crime scene analyst for the Salt Lake City Homicide Unit.
âHe’s in jail for killing Strong, using a weapon that matches the murders of other girls,â Chase said.
Months earlier, Carla Maxwell had been shot in a Layton convenience store and in Salt Lake City, Christine Gallegos was shot and stabbed to death in 1985. Their murders have still not been clarified.
âTake Gallegos, it was no accident that killed her,â Chase said. âHe knew her completely.
At the time of her murder, Gallegos was an underage dancer at a Salt Lake City nightclub. Whittle was the bouncer.
But the weapon that was used in the three murders has never been found.
Jason Jensen, a private investigator discovered a witness who disposed of the gun.
âHe said Forrest Whittle came to us and said ‘hey, I just killed a few (expletives) downtown with that gun and I have to get rid of it,’â Jensen said.
A jury found Whittle guilty of Strong’s murder, but apparently there wasn’t enough evidence to charge him with the murder of Gallegos and Maxwell.
This surprised Chase, who during this time was part of a task force on the unsolved murders in Salt Lake City.
In Maxwell’s case, he said Whittle was near Layton’s convenience store when she was shot.
âYou can start by putting it in one spot and start looking at the same gun ballistically,â Chase said. “I think it’s a great place to start and work.”
But Jensen uncovered an investigative document that was part of the Salt Lake district attorney’s evidence in the brutal murder.
He said in part: âWitnesses testified that Whittle spoke about the shoot after seeing it on television. He knew Strong and Gallegos. The document also said “he shot (Strong) and she fell” and “shot him more.”
Regarding Gallegos, “the witness said that (Whittle) shot a girl near the 13th South area”.
This is where Gallegos’ body was found. “He stabbed Gallegos and the blade broke,” according to the witness.
âWe have notes from the prosecutor that he confessed to a roommate in prison and then later tried to have that roommate murdered,â Jensen said. “Forrest Whittle admitted, knowing Christina Gallegos and described the scene of the murder, including using a knife blade that had broken off at the scene of the crime.”
But after his conviction in 1996, Whittle told an ABC4 reporter he was innocent.
“They don’t have a gun,” Whittle told the reporter. âThey have nothing to tie me up except a few guys. What must I do to prove that I am innocent.
But Jensen said he found a Ruger, similar to the gun that was used in the murders. He claimed that ATF tests showed similar ballistic characteristics.
And now they have an alleged confession that was in the hands of the prosecutor in 1995.
âThis document came from a lot of information that we had obtained, that we had gathered,â said Chase. “We had pictures of the knife blade which was broken off just at the handle.”
Why was the information not sought? It’s a million dollar question according to Jensen and Chase.
âWhy is it 35 years later that we’re still looking at this,â Chase said. ” We are still waiting. Why?”
On Thursday, Salt Lake City police offered a response and it surprised Christine Gallegos’ mother.