Police admit lying to media over sketch of murder suspect
UTAH–North Salt Lake City police admitted a “composite” sketch of a murder suspect they distributed to the media was based not on witnesses’ descriptions, as they claimed in a press conference, but rather on a photograph of a man they suspected of the crime.
Doug Fabrizio, President of the Utah Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, called the incident “clumsy and manipulative,” and questioned the future credibility of the police department with the press.
“When you have a law enforcement agency that blatantly deceives reporters and the public — because that’s who’s ultimately deceived – – it breaks down the element of trust, which is fragile to begin with,” he told the Deseret News.
After being questioned under oath by defense attorney James Bradshaw, police detective John Herndon conceded in mid-July the police used the photo-based sketch to get information about suspect George Anthony Taylor and coworkers suspected of having some connection with the murder. The detective said police had already collected information linking Taylor to the crime.
North Salt Lake Police Chief Val Wilson called a press conference in April to announce the break in the case and asked media to distribute the sketch. At the time, police said the sketch was based on details from two witnesses in a nearby parking lot who saw a suspicious man hanging around the apartment complex where Jill Allen was murdered.
Wilson said the false composite was released to bring forward more information. The police had maintained the sketch was based on witness descriptions even after Taylor’s arrest. (Utah v. Taylor)