In 1985, after her first marriage ended in divorce, Lewine met Roberto Tapia at a bar in Salt Lake City, Utah, where they were both dancing. The two people fell in love right away, and they ended up getting married. The sweet couple had their first daughter on January 17, 1989. They named her Rosie Tapia. A few years after Rosie was born, the couple had another set of twins. The small, happy family lived in an apartment on the ground floor of the Hartland Apartment complex in Salt Lake City. Lewine’s daughters from her first marriage, Esmeralda and Emilia, often came to visit.
Rosie was a very quiet and shy little girl who took a long time to warm up to new people. She went to Mountains View Elementary School, which was seven blocks from her apartment. Like most kids her age, she liked to sing, draw, and play with her dolls. She was very close to her family, especially her older brothers, sisters, and half-siblings.
The little girl had big dreams of becoming a police officer when she grew up but unbeknownst to her, she would die before her seventh birthday.
Lewine and Roberto left their apartment late on August 12, 1995, to go dancing. They had asked Emilia, who was 18 at the time, to watch her half-siblings for the night. After dinner, Rosie wanted to play at the playground in the apartment complex. Emilia went with her, leaving the twins, who were four years old, at home. After about 15 minutes, she walked back to the apartment to check on the twins. She had left Rosie at the playground. She had just walked into her apartment when she heard a knock on the front door.
When Emilia opened the door, a thin white man with dark sunglasses and a ball cap was there to greet her. He told Emilia while holding Rosie in his arms that another child had accidentally kicked her in the back while they were playing on the slide. Emilia thanked the man, told him nicely that she would take care of her wounds, and pulled herself away from his arms. Before he left, he called out Rosie’s name and gave her a wave.
Emilia checked Rosie’s body for bruises after she closed the door, but she couldn’t find any. So, she asked her little sister where she hurt herself, and the answer surprised her. Rosie says she’s never been hurt on the playground, so she doesn’t know why the stranger took her home. Also, she didn’t know who or how the strange man knew her name.
Even though the event was strange, Emilia didn’t think much of it and put her younger siblings to bed at about 9 pm. Lewine and Roberto got home early the next morning, and before Lewine went to sleep, she checked on her three young children, who were sound asleep in their room. She gave each of them a soft kiss on the forehead, closed some of the room’s windows, and left without closing the door.
A few hours later, Lewine woke up out of the blue and went back to her kids’ room to make sure they were okay. When she walked up to their bedroom, she was surprised to see that the door was locked. She slowly opened the door and peered in to make sure her kids were safe. She saw that the twins, who were four years old, were still sleeping soundly in their beds, but Rosie, who was six, was nowhere to be found.
Lewine woke up Roberto and Emilia right away and asked them to help her look through the whole apartment for her daughter. When she couldn’t find Rosie, she told the Salt Lake City police and her extended family right away.
The Investigation of Crime Scene
When the police got there, they checked out the kids’ room and found clear signs of trouble. The room’s window had been forced open, the screen frame had been bent with force, the screen had been taken out, and the blinds had been broken.
Lewine says that even though the evidence was clear, the police said that Rosie had just “climbed out the window and wandered off.” Neither Rosie’s family nor her neighbors in the apartment building heard anything strange during the time Rosie was missing. But in an interview he gave in 2015, Rosie’s brother, who was only four years old when she went missing, said he saw a “bearded man” in his bedroom the night she went missing, and the man told him to “go back to sleep.”
A man named Gustavo was jogging with his dog near the Jordan River Canal a few hours after Rosie went missing. At the time, the police were still taking fingerprints from Rosie’s room. At first, it looked like a big doll with dark hair floating in the water, but as it got closer, he saw that it was a real person. He called the police right away, and when they got there, they found the body. Rosie, who was only six years old, had died. The body was sent for an autopsy, and until the results came back, the police stuck to their story that Rosie had gotten lost and fallen into the canal by accident.
The next Monday, when the police got the autopsy report, they knew that the 6-year-old girl had been beaten with a blunt object, brutally raped, and then killed. So, they changed their minds and made it official that she had been killed.
Both the east and west sides of the canal were searched by the police, but they didn’t find anything useful. Also, Rosie’s body had only been in the water for a short time, so the police were unable to find any solid forensic evidence.
Since there was no noise when Rosie was taken, the police thought that she knew her killer already. This led them to question the Tapias, their extended family, and their neighbours. During this questioning, Emilia told them about the strange man who had shown up at the apartment door holding Rosie, and the detectives found a man who fit Emilia’s descriptions. This man would often take his guitar to the playground in his apartment complex. He reportedly played the guitar to keep the kids around him entertained.
Families in the complex thought he was a bad guy because he didn’t have any kids with him. However, when the police questioned him, they found out that he brought his own child to the playground. Also, he had a strong alibi, so the police decided he wasn’t the man Emilia had seen before. Since the police didn’t know who he was, they called him “the Good Samaritan.”
A New Suspect
Rosie’s family thought it might have been one of Roberto’s male friends who had a son the same age as Rosie. He lived in the same apartment building, and he went to the family’s apartment a lot. Even though Lewine had clearly woken him up from his sleep the morning Rosie went missing, the man’s actions during the family’s unofficial search seemed strange. The man stopped the search party and told them to go back when they were looking along the banks of the Jordan River Canal. This was right before they looked in the area where Rosie’s body was later found. It looked like the man knew what was going on there.
Emilia had moved out of her family’s apartment only a month before the incident. Before that, Rosie’s room was hers. This man was one of the few people outside of the group who knew about it, which made people even more suspicious. He was questioned by the police several times, but his ex-wife gave him a solid alibi by saying that he was at home when the crime happened and never left.
An Anonymous Witness of Case
Since there was nothing new to go on, the case eventually went cold. In 2010, the police tried to find new leads by putting out a composite sketch of the “Good Samaritan.” However, the idea didn’t work out very well. But in the spring of 2019, interesting new evidence came to light.
The Utah Cold Case Coalition put out a sketch of a man based on what a resident of the Hartland Apartment Complex who did not want to be named said he saw. In line with what this man said, a young Hispanic teen was seen walking on a sidewalk near the Jordan River canal early on the morning of August 13, 1995. The skinny teen looked to be about sixteen years old, and he had high cheekbones and a narrow face. He was wearing a white tank top and knee-high jeans that were completely soaked.
After Rosie’s body was found, this anonymous witness tried to tell the police about the young Hispanic teen, but they didn’t listen. About three years after the crime, the police finally listened to him, but even though he kept saying the suspect was a teenager, they only showed him pictures of old, hardened criminals to help him figure out who it was. He was upset by how they were acting, and it seemed like he had stopped talking about it.
In January of the next year, the unknown man was given a set of photos that looked like the composite made the year before. From the 14 pictures he was given, he chose the one of a man who was known to the Tapia family.
Emilia, Rosie’s half-sister, used to sneak her boyfriend, Danny Woodland, into the Tapia family’s apartment through the window of her bedroom. Rosie had been taken away through the same window Danny used to get into the apartment. Rosie had been killed after she was taken away. Danny often went to Emilia’s apartment with a friend, and that friend reportedly saw Danny sneak into her bedroom. The picture that the witness chose was of this friend.
The police talked to Danny’s friend, but he said he wasn’t the one who killed Rosie. Even though they took his DNA, the police had not said anything about this possible lead.
Speculations concerning Gang Involvement
According to Jensen, the Tapia family’s private investigator, Emilia had ties to the 21st street gang, whose members shared living space with opposing gang members. Given that Emilia was inherently opinionated, Jensen hypothesised that she may have had a conflict with one or more opposing gang members. According to his assertion, this could have rendered her a prospective victim of a violent crime. “When they were unable to locate her, they kidnapped the next available person, Rosie. “At the time, this room was Emelia’s bedroom,” Jensen explained to ABC4 News in an interview.
Despite the fact that this appears to be a plausible explanation, no significant evidence has been produced to support it. Also, until her death in 2020, Emilia disputed rumours that she was a member of the 21st street gang.
Current Status of Case
Despite the efforts of the Tapia Family, their private investigator Jensen, the Salt Lake City police and the Utah Cold Case Coalition, the identity of Rosie’s killer remains unknown. However, the Utah Cold Case Coalition are confident that the identity of the killer would be brought to light someday, and that day is hopefully not too far away.