The Salt Lake Serial Killer

The story of a serial killer in Utah, targeting the homeless community of downtown Salt Lake City.


Homeless camp in downtown Salt Lake. photo by The Salt Lake Tribune.

When most people think of murder or violent crime, their first thought isn’t the “safe” and “friendly” state of Utah. Unfortunately, here in Utah, crime is much more common than we realize. Recently, there has been a series of murders in downtown Salt Lake City. These murders, mainly targetting people known as shadow people, are going unnoticed and ignored by the press and society as a whole.

Shadow people are people who live in the shadows, meaning, there is no known record of them, no family to claim them, no home to trace them back to, nothing. They are invisible to much of society. If they disappear, there is no one to report. Because of this, shadow people are one of the most targeted groups of individuals when it comes to violent crime in the United States. 

In 2021 Manuel Perez, a resident of Miami Florida was one of the many homeless people killed by real-estate agent Willy Maceo. Maceo was not caught for several months after his first attack. 

The most recent string of murders is in our very own downtown. A news article and podcast, Utah Stories is currently interviewing homeless individuals around Salt Lake and have discovered that several dozen of them have gone missing or been murdered in the past nine months. The Salt Lake City Police Department (SLCPD) has neither confirmed nor denied these statements. Eric Peterson journalist for Utah Stories, says that “lack of trust between the homeless community and the police is impacting their investigation into the 2021 murder of homeless individuals.”

One homeless single mother said that she believes “the lives of the homeless and those who have been squeezed out of the housing market are in peril and the SLCPD has made no comment about any ongoing investigations into finding the ‘serial killer.’” While the SLCPD has not said anything about the murders, that does not mean they aren’t doing anything about it. It is very likely that they are conducting a private investigation. 

When the SLCPD PR was contacted, they gave a short and vague statement, saying they only knew about one body found near the Jordan River in the past two weeks. Not only is the SLCPD not saying anything about their possible investigation, but none of the murders have been covered on the news. 

When reporter Richard Markosian interviewed several homeless people, one woman said that police have been arresting and releasing the same man for these murders since December 2021. There is no other public information on this suspect. Over 40 bodies have been found in or near the Jordan River. 

Is Salt Lake City really as friendly as it seems? Is it home to a serial killer? While some people think this isn’t our problem, these things are happening without our knowledge and need to be uncovered.