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When human remains turn up in Utah, Carl Johnston holds out hope that Peggy Sue Case has been found.

When cadaver dogs indicated on possible humans remains in Juab County, during a search for Susan Cox Powell in 2011, Johnston hoped it was Case. When a passer-by found a skull on a Fruit Heights hillside earlier this year, Johnston hoped it was Case.

"They catch my attention, those kinds of things, because it can happen so quickly," said the former Spanish Fork police detective; he moved to Southern Utah in 2013. "The only break you need in the case is to find the remains."

For decades, he has hoped to bring Case's body home to her Utah County family. They already have a burial plot set aside for their daughter, who disappeared 27 years ago on July 9.

That night, the Spanish Fork woman was last seen at a hot-tub party in Payson with her live-in boyfriend Michael I. Kufrin.

"Apparently she had been flirting with some of the men who were there," Johnston said. Witnesses reported some hostilities between the two, but they left the party together, according to police.

After the party, Kufrin called her workplace — the Ensign Bickford Co. explosives plant — and reported her ill. The next day, he told her employers she had gone out of town to buy a car, according to a previous Tribune story. Johnston said police were contacted soon after by fellow employees suspicious about what they perceived as atypical behavior for Case.

For a time, Kufrin claimed Case was staying in contact with him by phone, but he later declined to discuss the case any further with investigators, according to the police.

Kufrin was arrested that October in an unrelated attempted theft case and served five years in Utah State Prison. During his incarceration, Kufrin refused to discuss the case with the Utah Board of Pardons.

Johnston, who attended one of the parole hearings, said it was "frustrating having everything you need except her," according to a newspaper story about the hearing.

After his release, Kufrin moved back to his home state of Illinois. Every year, Johnston would call Kufrin's mother to ask if she had learned anything about the case, but she never did. He would also call Kufrin every year — and typically after he introduced himself, Kufrin would hang up, the retired detective said.

Kufrin and Case once lived together in Panamint Springs, an area of Death Valley in Southern California, but eventually moved back to Utah County.

"I think she missed the family," Johnston said. "… Peggy was a loving daughter. The family, they had six or seven children, and she was a critical part of it. They loved her."

The family is frustrated that the police can't do more, but "they're very supportive and understand the limitations that we have," Johnston said.

Besides that, as a spiritual family, they keep the bigger picture in mind and know they will see their daughter again some day, he said.

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