The discovery of an evidence box concerning a woman’s death in 1976 has prodded the Carbon County Sheriff’s Office to rework a case that has long been forgotten by most in the community.
“We were going through the evidence room and I found this box that looked very old and it smelled musty,” said sergeant David Brewer during a recent interview. “I opened it and there was a lot of stuff in it and that is how we realized this case had never really been settled.”
The evidence concerns the death of Paula Scartezina, 27 at the time, who was found by her husband Dan dead on the bed in their bedroom when he returned home from work on June 24, 1976. She had died from a gun wound that was caused by a .22 Magnum western style revolver that was usually hanging in the couple’s bedroom closet. She had been shot through the chest and the bullet had gone through her and lodged in the wall behind the bed about 22 inches above the floor.
At first, the death was ruled a suicide, but the way she could have committed it was unusual. The gun was found on the night stand, cocked, yet she was laying on the bed. The question arose if she could have shot herself and then placed the gun on that piece of bedroom furniture before she died. The bullet had penetrated her heart, which would have made placing the weapon there improbable.
There were also other theories about how the woman could have died. At the time of discovery, her 22-month-old son was wandering around the house, and one theory was that he may have taken the gun and accidentally shot her thinking the gun was a toy, because a number of cap guns were found around the residence, including under the bed.
The Utah State Medical Examiner’s report that was returned to the county after all the evidence was weighed stated that the death was a homicide.
There were no suicide notes, nor had anyone noted that Scartezina had problems with depression before her death. However, she had been suffering some health problems and had taken a leave of absence from her job as a teacher at Wellington Elementary that spring. But, according to an article in the Sun Advocate on July 8 of that year, the school district said they had not heard back from her about whether she wanted to come back to work in the fall. School had been already dismissed for the year when she passed away.
The victim was not sexually assaulted and the house was locked up with no signs of forced entry.
“There is just a lot of mystery around what happened,” said Brewer. “We want to look into this further.”
Anyone having any information about the situation can call Brewer at (435) 636-3281.