Bittersweet Victory: Unified Police Solve A Three Decade Old Cold Case Homicide

Richard Gill Kearns Drug Store Cold Case
Richard Gill. Photo Courtesy: UPD

KEARNS, UTAH – September 11, 2015 (Gephardt Daily) – Unified Police have solved a cold case homicide that occurred during the 1981 robbery of a Kearns drug store, but said in a press conference Friday they were disappointed with the way it was handled at the time.

The District Attorney’s Office found that there would have been probable cause to charge Richard Gill and Clyde Dudley with criminal homicide and aggravated robbery, both first degree felonies carrying a sentence of five years to life, but both are now deceased.

Police said in a statement: “On August 27, 1981, Buddy Conti, age 45, and Signa Atwood were working at the Kearns Drug Store. Buddy was the owner of the drug store and the pharmacist. Around 9 p.m. an armed suspect entered the drug store demanding pharmaceuticals and cash. They complied and were ordered outside of the drug store. The suspect then ordered both to run toward a field. They began running, but Buddy stopped and may have confronted the suspect, at which time he was shot. At the time of the murder detectives investigated this case very thoroughly, but unfortunately were unable to bring charges against anyone and the case went cold.”

Earlier this year detectives from the Major Investigations Unit at the Unified Police Department (UPD) began to re-examine this case.  Through several investigative efforts and a great deal of work, detectives learned Gill and Dudley were planning a robbery at the Kearns Drug Store. During the robbery a shot was fired inside of the drug store.  It was later learned that the motive for this homicide was robbery as Gill and Dudley were going to steal pharmaceuticals and cash from the drug store.

Early in the investigation Dudley was interviewed regarding the death of Conti.  During that interview he admitted he and Gill had planned this robbery and had been staking out the Kearns Drug Store a few days prior.  Gill fled Utah and was later arrested for an armed robbery in Springfield Missouri.  In December 1983, Clyde took his own life.  Richard Gill was never brought to Utah to face criminal charges and passed away June 1, 2013, in Missouri.

With the information gathered by the Major Investigations Unit this year, detectives presented the case to the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office. There is nothing to suggest anyone else was involved in this murder and the case will now be closed.

Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder said at the press conference today: “A cold case unit was formed two years ago whose mandate it is to look at older cases with the eye on resolving them. This was one of those cases. Detectives going through the materials identified what can only be described as a failure in terms of follow-up. They rectified it and we have now pursued a filing. The unfortunate reality is that the filing is leveled against an individual who is now deceased.

“About 1983 there was sufficient evidence to prosecute successfully Mr. Gill, he absconded, but then was in prison. Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office never send anyone to interview him and follow up so he was eventually released from prison and never contacted again. The primary witness then killed themselves.

“The family of the victim did attempt to communicate on several occasions with our office over the years, unsuccessfully, that’s another very sad element to this, that if we had done as we should have, again, we probably could have come to an earlier resolution. We should have followed up on it, it should have been closed sooner, but I’m somewhat proud that we have at least done it today with the creation of this new unit. It’s real mixed emotions, we are pleased to solve a case but it’s somewhat hollow, because normally when one resolves a cold case, specifically, one is engaged with the family, people are relieved, there’s a sense of accomplishment and resolution for all.

“Our job is to solve problems for human beings and in this case we didn’t do that.”



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