Debra Grabher was 15 years old when she was murdered. Her body was found in a snow-covered lot in Salt Lake City, Utah, more than 25 years ago, and the person responsible for her death has yet to be brought to justice.
In November 1998, Debra ran away from her foster home in Ohio. She took a bus to Salt Lake City, Utah, to live with her mother, whom she referred to as “Dinosaur,” and her live-in girlfriend at their duplex on South 800 West.
When her mother returned home from working a graveyard shift, Debra was there with a surprise breakfast, according to the Deseret News.
In the ensuing months, Debra matriculated at West High School, and she would often go to the mall or library with, presumably, the few friends she had.
While out, Debra would always call home to check in, but on Jan. 15, 1992, her mother didn’t hear from her, and she didn’t attend her classes that day either.
At around 8 p.m. the following day, Jan. 16, 1992, Debra’s mother called the Salt Lake City Police Department and reported her missing, but they advised her to wait to see if she would show up for school the next day, which she didn’t.
On Jan. 17, 1992, Debra Grabher was found dead near their home. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Salt Lake City police officers were dispatched to a lot near 800 West South Temple after receiving a call about a possible deceased person.
A witness claimed to have seen a suspicious-looking person with the stature of a man pushing a shopping cart with a large bundle inside that resembled a human body.
When that person reached the field, they removed the bundle from the cart, dragged it into the field, and concealed it with debris before fleeing the area on foot.
The suspicious person was described as “a white, transient-looking male, weighing about 180 pounds with long hair… wearing a long and very thick green army coat,” according to KSL.
When officers arrived on the scene, they uncovered the fully clothed body of a female, wrapped in two blankets that were filthy and filled with cigarette holes. Both of her hands and feet are bound with nylon rope.
The body was later identified as that of Debra Grabher.
It was reported that the Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Debra Grabher’s death a homicide, but the cause of death is being withheld for investigative purposes.
Suffocation was not ruled out.
A drug house that sat directly behind Debra’s home was raided by police shortly after her demise. Salt Lake City Police homicide detective Cordon Parks said, “There were numerous people that had come and gone from that house using drugs.”
“Incidents of assault, drug use, and other felonies occurred at that house. Anybody that frequented that house—we’d be interested in talking with anybody who went there in 1992. Or knew people involved there.”
Investigators also read Debra’s diary, which didn’t provide any clues. Most of what she wrote pertained to potential crushes, her grades at school, and a boring astronomy class.
“She really was a good girl,” Parks stated. “No alcohol, no drugs, no nothing. She really and truly was a good girl, trying to do good in life. And she just got tangled up by somebody, for some reason.”
It was reported that three people were given lie detector tests in 1992, including her mother and her mother’s girlfriend, and they all failed.
Two polygraph examiners stated that “both women failed when asked if they had anything to do with the victim’s death.”
Debra’s mother claimed she “had nothing whatsoever to do with the death of Debbie Grabher. I am not guilty of anything.”
In 2019, she said in an interview that she was “suffering emotionally from her daughter’s murder when she took the polygraph.”
Investigators have since cleared family and friends, but they do believe that her killer was someone Debra knew.
Debra’s mother believes it may have been her friend’s ex-husband. She said, “She had a husband who Debbie absolutely hated. (Once, she spat on him.”
“I have asked for that husband never to come into the house, and he was always in the house every night that I worked.”
ABC 4 reported that the victim’s mother doesn’t believe her daughter’s death was an accident, but she “can’t give any other reason you would kidnap someone, tie them up, and cover their eyes.”
Salt Lake City police are hopeful that the images of the blanket, nylon strap, and boot print will prompt someone to come forward.
Anyone with information regarding the unsolved murder of Debra Grabher is encouraged to contact the Salt Lake City Police at (801) 799-3000.
Salt Lake City is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.