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This story originally ran Feb. 6, 2009.
West Valley City » Biological evidence now links the murders of two women killed on Feb. 9 two years apart, but police say they still need the public's help to solve the crimes.
West Valley City police Chief Thayle "Buzz" Nielsen would not say exactly what evidence discovered just two weeks ago connects the slayings of Sonia Mejia and Damiana Castillo to one suspect. But a new task force will focus on the two cases and determine whether there are other victims.
The task force asked the public for help in solving the slayings at a Thursday news conference, making a specific plea to the Latino community.
"We believe there are people who have knowledge that can solve these cases," said Taylorsville police Chief Del Craig. "We do not want anyone to be afraid to come forward."
West Valley City police Sgt. Mike Powell, spokesman for the task force, said the suspect is "not considered a serial killer."
But he added: "We are concerned there are some similarities. We don't know what all of them are."
Mejia, who was six months pregnant, died Feb. 9, 2006, in her Taylorsville apartment. Damiana Castillo died Feb. 9, 2008, in her apartment -- one mile away from Mejia's. Both women were strangled.
Mejia, 29, was last seen alive the morning of her death, when she took her 8-year-old son to school.
A man police have described as Mejia's common-law husband came home at about 6 p.m. to find her dead in the bedroom of their apartment at 1167 W. Clubhouse Drive (3990 South). Mejia also was sexually assaulted.
Police at the time said there was no sign of forced entry. Her car was stolen and police found it five days later, abandoned 12 blocks away at a Fairfield Inn.
Later in 2006, Taylorsville police said they had ruled out family members and had been advised by the FBI to look for a suspect with a history of abusing animals.
Taylorsville police also said they were looking for jewelry belonging to Mejia: a ruby ring, a diamond ring and a medallion of Our Lady of Guadeloupe fastened to a gold necklace. Police hoped finding the jewelry would direct them to the killer.
Fewer details have been released about Castillo's killing. Police had earlier said Castillo, 57, died early on Feb. 10, a Sunday. When she did not attend church, her son went looking for her.
Police say her son found her dead inside her apartment at 4000 S. Redwood Road. There was no sign of forced entry, police said.
Monday marks the anniversary of the murders and Nelson said there will be an extra police presence in the neighborhoods around the two killings. Police at the news conference urged the public to remain vigilant and report suspicious behavior.
Archie Archuleta, the board president of the Utah Coalition of La Raza, attended the news conference. He hoped it would encourage tipsters to come forward.
"It came out and said, 'We're looking and we care,'" Archuleta said.
Have you seen him?
Police describe one man who might be a suspect as a Latino in his late teens or early 20s, about 5 feet 4 inches tall and 140 pounds with short black hair. To report a tip in the Sonia Mejia or Damiana Castillo murders, call 801-965-5121 or e-mail email@example.com.