A Utah family finally has some closure after remains found by hunters in Millard County were identified as a woman who went missing four decades ago. She was identified in a joint effort between the Salt Lake City Police Department and the Millard County Sheriff’s Office.
Sandra Matott had been missing from Salt Lake City for 42 years.
According to SLCPD, remains were found by a hunting party in 1979 about a month after Matott was reported missing by her husband. However, the case went cold.
Thanks to technological progress, the case was reignited in 2012. Det. Michael Ruff said newer missing persons databases and DNA advancements helped connect the dots and identify the remains as Matott.
I did shed a tear in the police station when they told me.
Ruff said the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System or NamUs, was also a significant contribution to their discovery.
“NamUs is a big reason we were able to piece together that Millard County had found Sandra back in 1979,” Ruff said. “There was some identifying jewelry and some identifying features that they plugged in and said, hey, our missing person might be missing out of Salt Lake. We put two and two together and we were able to confirm that that was her.”
To confirm their suspicion, police said Utah’s forensic anthropologist completed a report in 2019 and the bones were tested for DNA in 2020. On Aug. 10, it was confirmed the DNA matched Matott.
Because the two suspects in this case have died, Ruff said the Millard County Sheriff’s Office had also closed Matott’s homicide investigation.
Shortly after the remains were identified, Darrell Haymes, Matott’s son, was contacted by Salt Lake police.
“I’m happy that it’s over with. Sad it took 42 years,” Haymes said.
Haymes was 19 years old when his mom went missing.
“I’d given up on it,” he said. “I figured I’d already be dead before, you know, I ever found out where she was or had a body to do anything with.”
Detectives called Haymes and asked him to come into the station.
“All this time, it’s just mind-boggling that they couldn’t identify it before,” Haymes said.
According to police, this was the oldest missing persons cold case closed by the department to date.
“I did shed a tear in the police station when they told me,” Haymes said. He said he didn’t know the case was still under investigation.
“About a decade ago, I went to the Salt Lake City Police Department to check and see what’s going on, and they gave me mug shots,” he said. “They acted like they knew something, but they didn’t want to tell me."
There were two suspects in the case, but both have died. They said serial killer Henry Lee Lucas confessed to the killing, and later recanted.
Police said detectives believe Warren Matott, Sandra’s husband and Haymes’ stepfather, likely had more information about her disappearance and death. However, they said there was never any probable cause to charge him.
“There’s no question in my mind, I know who killed her,” Haymes said. “That’s all history.”
2News asked what he would say to the killer.
“When he (Warren Matott) was on his death bed, I went to California and talked to him to see if he could tell me where the body or anything was,” Haymes said. “Of course, he couldn’t because he was too far gone."
Haymes said he has closure. He said his family plans to update the marker they made for his mother, and his younger sisters will decide what to with her ashes.
“Their childhood was robbed from her,” Haymes said. “I at least got a whole childhood with her. You know, so they didn’t."