Treating an 84-year-old sex offender as a suspect in cold case

SALT LAKE CITY – It’s been more than one month since a woman reported that a man accused of kidnapping, raping and killing her in 1983 burst into the small, quiet church where she sang in choir.

But even police investigators admitted it took time to nail down their suspect, and some in this northwestern Utah town are surprised at all the attention.

The man arrested on Friday night, 58-year-old Michael C. Tanev, was living at a halfway house where he had been living for some years, according to residents in nearby Bluffdale, Utah. He attended Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chapel and its service at the historic Mount Olivet AME church.

Police identified him after seeing his name on a sex offender registry, and then using public records and interviews, to build a case.

The neighbors knew he lived there for years

According to several residents in Bluffdale, Tanev owned a house there and was there for some time.

Bluffdale homeowner Rebekah Graves told CNN that she didn’t know Tanev, but that she and her husband used to be neighbors to him and his wife. She called him very friendly.

“We all remember Mike very well, and he was always happy, friendly and fun to be around,” Graves said.

However, police believe Tanev may have had a criminal past and asked residents in neighboring Bluffdale and Lehi, where Tanev also lived, for more information on his past, Graves said.

“I knew Michael for years from living in the neighborhood and from the LDS (Latter-day Saints) church where we would go for a Sunday service and lunch together and of course the mission trips,” she said.

‘Happened in the context of 2016’

Salt Lake City detective Cody Lougy, a police spokesman, said investigators never had any suspicion that Tanev was living in the area full-time.

“It was all based on the information we had and the new information we gathered,” Lougy said. “That has to happen in the context of 2016, and as you know, law enforcement doesn’t do quick. It’s not very satisfying for the public to be frustrated that it’s taken years.”

Despite the years, Louise Burton is pleased a suspect has been arrested.

Burton, chairwoman of the Mount Olivet AME Church, said it is comforting to know that the suspect is being held in Utah, “so this guy can’t do any more harm.

“The main concern for us was that he is eventually brought to justice,” Burton said.

Sgt. Brandon Shearer, a spokesman for the Salt Lake City Police Department, said police want to hear from anyone else who has any information they can pass along.

“We’re hoping, as we move forward with the investigation, that he’ll come forward and cooperate, and we’ll get more information about how or when he was living here in the area,” Shearer said.

“I’m just happy someone turned out to see who this guy is and took it seriously.”

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