Rosie Tapia Murder Mystery | How Did She Die? Who Killed Her

Investigation Discovery’s “On the Case with Paula Zahn: She’s Gone” follows the heartbreaking kidnapping and killing of 6-year-old Rosie Tapia in Salt Lake City, Utah, in August 1995. After more than 25 years since the murder of Rosie Tapia was discovered, the police are looking for the culprit.

A significant amount of cash reward money was announced in 2022 to provide details about the investigation. If you’re keen on learning more about the case, we’re here to help. Let’s get to know more, do we?

How Did Rosie Tapia Die?

Rosa Maria “Rosie” Tapia was born in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah, on January 17, 1989, and was the daughter of Lewine Lopez and Roberto C. Tapia. She was the fifth of children, with three siblings and a brother. She was a gorgeous smile that melted the hearts of everyone, and she had beautiful, expressive eyes. She was a lover of music, dancing, dancing and playing Super Nintendo, playing outside, and riding her bicycle.

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In the early morning of the sunny day of August 13, 1995, Lewine was awakened at about 5 am. She decided to believe in her mother’s instincts and went downstairs to the bedroom on the 1st floor in the Hartland Apartments at 1616 Snow Queen Place and found that Rosie did her sleeping with her twin sisters. It was a shock to discover the wide-open window, and even as the twins slept in their respective beds, 6-year-old Rosie was out of the space. She searched all over the house but could not locate the child.

Levine’s screams awakened her husband and her 18-year-old daughter Emilia Elizondo. As they walked outside to search for Rosie, Lewine informed the police and urged family members and friends to host a search event to find the missing child. The family was already looking for their child and had printed flyers before police arrived at the scene. When the police arrived, they joined in the hunt while detectives inspected their bedroom of Rosie.

The detectives discovered various signs of suspicious behavior, including the window’s screen being pried open. They pulled out from the outside curtains that were partially taken down and a shoe print on a towel that was placed on the dresser next to the window. Her mother was last seen with Rosie at about 2:30 am on January 17, 1989. She was asleep, curled into her mattress. Her body was discovered a couple of hours after her disappearance. It was floating face down in the adjacent Jordan River surplus canal. The fire department was able to retrieve her body, and she was identified immediately as Rosie.

She was still wearing her pajamas. She was assaulted sexually and then drowned. There is evidence of blunt force injuries to her body, and she was dragged underwater. Due to her being stuck in the canal for several hours, the majority of evidence from the forensic investigation was ruined. But, they were in a position to collect some hair, tissue, and fingernails.

Who Murdered Rosie Tapia?

Emilia was looking after Rosie and the twins the night that she disappeared. About an hour before dinner, Rosie went to play on the playground right from home. Within a couple of minutes, Emilia heard a knock, and she opened the door to see a white male wearing a baseball cap and dark glasses, holding Rosie with him. He said that Rosie had been injured when playing. He left and said, “Bye, Rosie!”

It was confusing that he could have known her name and place, which prompted the police to create an outline of the sketch and ask around the area. The police suspect that the suspect lived close to and was stalking Rosie to find out the place she slept in her house. Their suspicions were further confirmed by an acquaintance who claimed to have seen an unidentified man with wet clothes leaving the canal on a truck at the time of the incident. They also claimed that he could have been Rosie as the little girl was not awakened by her twin sisters inside the same bedroom.

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The residence that the Tapias lived in generated numerous leads with various suspects, but the main suspect was a relative who was their father of Rosie’s. This person was father to one son who was the same age as Rosie and often visited the Tapia home and was aware of the place where Rosie slept. The man was also reported to have been acting strangely while trying to locate Rosie in an attempt to direct the searchers to the other side of the river. The police have questioned him numerous times in the past; however, his former wife confirms his claim of staying in the house.

He also did not have a criminal or sexual deviant record and had never been in trouble with law enforcement after Rosie’s disappearance. The case remained unsolved throughout time, and police are still looking for the person responsible for the disappearance of Rosie for 27 years. Through the years, the Utah Cold Case Coalition was established by the police and a private detective identified as Jason Jensen. In 2019, he questioned the neighbor, who police officers did not spot, and he uncovered a new composite sketch of a possible suspect. This suspect is a relative of Danny Woodland, an acquaintance of Emilia.

Danny stated that when he was in the year 1995, he would go through the window to see Emilia, and his friend also knew about the window. The neighbor even picked the concerned person from a group of people. The case of Rosie remains unsolved as of now. There was a time when the Salt Lake City police had offered a $35,000 reward for information about the investigation. On the 27th anniversary of Rosie’s death, her family and the Utah Cold Case Coalition announced that the reward was increased to $100,000 in hopes that the amount could finally get people to find details to help solve the case.

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