Hope Gabaldon, R.I.P.: Person of Interest in Utah Woman's Death Busted in Denver

The mysterious death of 21-year-old Hope Gabaldon in West Valley City, Utah quickly turned into a homicide investigation — and now, the key to finding justice in the case may have been found in Denver.

Yesterday afternoon, a person of interest in the matter was taken into custody in Denver.

He's expected to make his first court appearance today, at which point we may learn if he's also considered to be a suspect in Gabaldon's brutal murder.

At around 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 25, according to the West Valley City, Utah, Police Department, the body of a young woman was found on the shoulder of a roadway at 4000 West near 3150 South in West Valley City.

As noted by KSL-TV, she was still alive, but so badly hurt that she was unable to communicate with emergency personnel.

Moreover, she died before she could provide any information to police.

At first, the incident was assumed to be a hit and run.

But upon further examination, investigators concluded that the injuries the woman had sustained were more consistent with homicide than being struck by a car.

Adding to the mystery was the fact that the woman had no identification on her body.

As such, police circulated photos of two tattoos, thinking that loved ones might recognize them.

Here's one of the images....

...and the second:

In short order, police were able to determine that the victim was Gabaldon.

She had an active Facebook page with plenty of pics, including the one at the top of this post.

Here's another portrait....

...and a third:

Once Gabaldon was ID'd, police determined that her vehicle was missing.

It's a silver Jeep Grand Cherokee with a Utah license plate of W663BR.

This vehicle is similar to the one she owned.

Then, yesterday, the West Valley City Police Department updated the case on its own Facebook page.

The release revealed that the "department has been working with law enforcement authorities in Denver, Colorado to locate and detain the person of interest. On Sunday afternoon, this person was taken into custody."

The approximate time of the apprehension: 3:30 p.m. yesterday, February 28.

The location: the 4300 block of Deephaven Court, an area captured in the following interactive graphic. If you have problems seeing the image, click "View on Google Maps."

As noted above, the man's current status has not been announced.

However, the WVCPD points out that the Jeep still hasn't been recovered.

In the meantime, Gabaldon's Facebook page has turned into a memorial for a young woman taken far too soon.

This is a sampling of posts remembering Gabaldon, who was the subject of a vigil in her honor last night:
Hope Gabaldon was an amazing girl she helped me so many times I could of been dead many times but she saved me I wish I could of done the same for her!!:"( I miss out hope and always will God bless her family and I'm sorry for the loss R.I.P. HOPE WE WILL MISS YOU AND ALWAYS LOVE YOU

I will never forget your silly ditsy self ! You were always so nice and fun! Rest in peace hope, see you on the other side

Rest in paradise baby girl. Over the last few months we've made so many memories I will never forget. You are such a bright soul who was the life of the party.

R.I.P Hope Gabaldon you were ALWAYS so kind and sweet. Now you're in a better place. Hopes and prayers to your family and friends. The time we had together will be cherished and never forgotten.
We add our sincere condolences to the friends, family and loved ones of Hope Gabaldon.

Look below to see a KSL-TV report broadcast before Gabaldon was identified.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts