This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
West Valley City • Police said Friday afternoon they have a suspect in custody a 15-year-old boy in connection with the death of a 12-year-old girl whose body was found in a field.
West Valley City Police Chief Lee Russo said at a Friday afternoon press conference that the boy could be charged with murder.
"We are confident this is the only suspect in this case," Russo said.
He identified the victim as Kailey Vijil.
Russo did not say how she died, but it was not a stabbing or a shooting, he said. He said he did not know if she had been sexually assaulted.
Investigators are not aware of any previous relationship between Vijil and the suspect before he somehow approached her late Thursday.
"There was a statement that was made that enticed her to come out" of the house, Russo said, noting that the boy did not contact her by text message.
The suspect lured Vijil outside by telling her he needed some sort of help, Russo said.
"She was a good-natured child who was fooled ... and paid the ultimate price for it," Russo said.
Russo would not provide details as to what sort of help the suspect claimed to need, but said investigators are aware of no other contact, digital or in-person, between the boy and Vijil.
Not long before Vijil disappeared around midnight, the suspect tried a similar ruse with an 11-year-old girl who lives in the same neighborhood, Russo said, but that girl's parents intervened.
The 11-year-old's report helped police identify the suspect. Officers found him about 1:30 p.m. Friday in a different neighborhood, but Russo didn't say where.
Vijil first was reported missing about 1:30 a.m. Friday, said West Valley City police spokeswoman Roxeanne Vainuku. The mother was out looking for her daughter, and happened upon police at a 7-Eleven near 3500 South and 4800 West. She told them Vijil had disappeared about midnight, Vainuku said.
Officers pinged Vijil's cell phone, which led them to an overgrown horse pasture near 3600 South and 5200 West, about a half-mile from where the girl lived. Sometime before 6 a.m., investigators first found a depression in the weeds, and "evidence of a struggle," Russo said. They found Vijil's body about 30 feet away. Investigators have said they found evidence of trauma but no sign she was stabbed or shot, Russo said.
The suspect lived at a house about a block from Vijil, near 3500 South and 5000 West; officers blocked the property with police tape Friday morning and were awaiting a search warrant on Friday afternoon, Russo said.
Neighbors said that the boy had disturbing conversations in recent days with young girls who lived on his street.
Stephanie Sala said he came over to her house on Thursday evening and asked to play with her 5-year-old niece. She told the boy no.
Two days before that, at a different house, he approached 8-year-old Mia Montano. Montano said he asked if she wanted to go with him to see a fort in an abandoned house. She also refused to go with him.
Mia said she was "in shock" Friday over the 12-year-old's death.
"I just know about girls getting kidnapped and I just want to stay with my family and be happy," the girl said.
Neighbors said the teenage boy recently was in juvenile detention center for two months, and had been seen hitting his younger sisters in the past.
But Russo said his department has no history of contact with the boy.
Vijil's family, who recently moved to the neighborhood, has asked for privacy, Russo said.
The people who say they are family of the suspect also have declined to comment, but later released a statement through their Mormon bishop that their "hearts and prayers are with the Vijil family and may God comfort all families hurt in this terrible tragedy," KUTV reported.
If the 15-year-old is charged with murder, it will be in juvenile court, where prosecutors can seek to have him certified as an adult. A judge will make that decision after hearing evidence and weighing the severity of the alleged crimes, the community's safety, as well as the youth's psychological records, family history and rehabilitation needs.
Tribune reporters Michael McFall and Pamela Manson contributed to this story.
Twitter: @jm_miller, @erinalberty