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Tooele • A 23-year-old man was arrested Friday in the brutal slaying of a 69-year-old woman found dead in her home in 2011, Tooele police reported.
Rogelio Diaz Jr., of West Valley City, was arrested at about 7:30 a.m. Friday and booked into the Tooele County Jail on suspicion of killing Evelynne Derricott.
Police said they believe Diaz used a hammer to kill the woman, a widow who lived by herself, while he was burglarizing her home.
Tooele County Attorney Scott Broadhead applauded investigators' work on the case and said he hopes the arrest brings closure to the Derricott family.
Derricott's body was found by a friend on Oct. 7, 2011, at the victim's home at 410 W. Havasu St. in Tooele.
About a week after the killing, Derricott's car a teal green 1993 Pontiac Grand Am and cellphone were found abandoned near Impressions Drive (5800 South) and Ridge Hollow Way (5300 West) in Kearns.
Diaz was linked to the slaying by a combination of DNA evidence that was collected about two weeks ago and many hours of investigation, Tooele Police Chief Ron Kirby said Friday.
Investigators were watching Diaz on April 22 when they saw him consume an energy drink and discard the can, as well as a pair of work gloves. Police collected the can and gloves and sent the items to the state crime lab.
The DNA on the can matched a DNA profile that the lab had previously generated by using two DNA samples one from the hammer and the other from the steering wheel of the victim's car. Each sample contained Derricott's DNA and DNA of the same unknown male.
A search of Utah's DNA database did not elicit a match to the homicide suspect's DNA profile. However, a search of a national DNA database turned up a person who had the same family genetic markers as markers in the suspect's profile, said Chief Deputy Tooele County Attorney Gary Searle.
Based on those markers, the lab determined the suspect was a father, grandfather, uncle, brother or nephew of the person in the national DNA database.
Then the process of elimination began, with police looking for evidence to narrow the suspect list. They zeroed in on Diaz, whose connections to the crime included his proximity to Derricott's home, Kirby said. Diaz was 18 and living in Tooele at the time of the crime, according to court records.
Searle said the investigation took a while to complete because authorities wanted to be sure they had the right man and that they respected the privacy rights of other family members. He stressed that Diaz's DNA was the only sample sent to the lab because he had been identified as the prime suspect.
The case marks the first time in Utah that familial DNA has been used to generate a suspect profile, according to Searle.
Kirby said police had never stopped investigating the case.
"At no time has it been called a 'cold case,' " he said.
Tooele police spokeswoman Tanya Turnbow said police planned to "immediately" screen the case with the county attorney in anticipation of filing formal homicide charges against Diaz.
Utah court records show that Diaz's was convicted of misdemeanors in 2011 and 2012 for theft, possession of drug paraphernalia, alcohol consumption and failing to respond to a police officer's command.
Friday was the first time details about Derricott's death have been released to the public, including that during an autopsy, 14 impact wounds were identified that matched the blood-stained hammer found at the scene.
Derricott's family has been notified of the arrest, police said, adding that they have requested privacy.
Derricott's daughter Cathlynn Gardiner previously told The Tribune that her mother wasn't vengeful or mean to anyone.
She was remembered as a fun-loving, helpful, supportive parent and a grandparent to five children, her daughter said. Derricott would always visit her daughters for Christmas. She also loved her two cats and crocheting Afghans for couples who were getting married.
Neighbor Amy Carrell said Friday she is relieved an arrest has been made.
"I'm ecstatic he's been caught," she said, adding that if Diaz is convicted of the crime, she hopes he remains incarcerated for the rest of his life.
Carrell described Derricott as sweet and kind and said, "She was just the greatest neighbor you could ask for."