The murder of Elizabeth Salgado

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On March 23, 2015, 26-year-old Elizabeth Salgado moved from Mexico to Provo, Utah to attend Nomen Global English language school. She was living at The Branbury student housing community & twenty-four days after arriving in Provo, she suddenly disappeared without a trace. It took a little over three years for her family to have any sense of closure.

Elizabeth grew up in Chiapas, Mexico & her mother described her as a faithful member of the LDS church where she taught Sunday School to the children of the congregation. Libertad Salgado, Elizabeth’s mother said that her daughter was a patient & loving person who never got angry or annoyed; she loved the children she taught at church & her mom said she was always an example in their family home. Elizabeth was the oldest of the girls & had so much love & was obedient & very noble. She was said to be incredibly kind, loving & faithful.

One day Elizabeth told her mom that she wanted to dedicate two years of her life to God & chose to do so by serving a mission for the Church. She served her two year mission in Pachuca, Mexico, in the state of Hidalgo. Before the mission, she graduated from the Tuxtla Gutierrez Institute of Technology where she graduated with a degree in industrial engineering. When Elizabeth returned home from the mission, she attended a course for business leadership & as that concluded, she decided that she wanted to take English classes in the United States & received a scholarship to the Nomen Global Language Center in Provo, Utah where 89% of the population is Mormon.

The decision was bittersweet because Elizabeth knew she would miss her family as she did when she was away for two years during her mission. Her mom comforted her & told her that the time would pass quickly, just as it did when she was in Pachuca, Mexico. Elizabeth planned on staying in the US for 8 months. 

When Elizabeth moved to Provo, Utah on March 23, 2015, she hit the ground running, going to school at Nomen Global & then to work at a local Mexican restaurant. She attended church at the Provo YSA (young single adults) 140th Ward despite the fact that she was supposed to attend a different ward based on the location of her apartment building. Wards are local LDS communities or congregations where members can develop friendships & support each other.  Several wards make up a stake. Mackey Smith, who also attended the 140th ward, was unofficially assigned to be Elizabeth’s ministering brother which is a person who helps a member feel supported. Elizabeth hadn’t yet had time to transfer her church membership records into the ward before she went missing, so she never officially became a member of the ward. 

Mackey hadn’t gotten to know Elizabeth very well before she disappeared & only had the chance to speak with her several times, but just in those brief meetings, he was able to recognize that she was a very friendly & faithful person who always looked for the good in others. He could see how excited she was about her new adventure & she believed in helping & serving other people. 

Because Elizabeth’s time in Provo was so limited before she went missing, she hadn’t yet had the opportunity to connect & make close friendships. Few people said they knew her well enough to speak up to the public & bring attention to her case. Mackey indicated that he also didn’t know Elizabeth very well but was one of the only members of the ward who was willing to talk about her case & bring it the attention it deserved. 

Mackey said that the last time he heard from Elizabeth was when he texted her to let her know that he was sick & he would be unable to drive her to a planned church activity. She responded in a caring & selfless way, telling him that she hoped he would feel better soon. Elizabeth called and spoke with her family on Wednesday, April 15th as she did most days & this was the last time they would hear her voice.  Elizabeth left school on foot the next day, Thursday, April 16, 2015 around 1 or 2 pm, depending on the source & it’s unclear if she ever made it home; this was the last time she was seen. The area where she was walking in downtown Provo was very populated with houses & businesses. Right around the time she left, Elizabeth’s sister Sara texted Elizabeth, telling her that she loved her & asked her what she was doing. Elizabeth responded at 2:30 pm, telling Sara that she had just left school. Sara & Elizabeth were extremely close & spoke every day that Elizabeth had been gone. This was the last message that Sara ever received from her sister. About thirty minutes later, Sara asked her if she’d arrived home, which was about 18 blocks from the language center. Elizabeth’s phone had read receipts enabled so Sara could see that she never read that message. Family indicated that Elizabeth’s text response to her sister was short & to the point which didn’t seem like her typical affectionate style of writing so it’s possible that the response to Sara was not written by Elizabeth. It’s possible that her abductor responded with the hope of giving her family the false reassurance that all was well. Phone records show that she also contacted her uncle around this time to ask him for a ride to Walmart & the last time she texted him was at 2:39 pm; he was unable to get ahold of her after this. 

Elizabeth’s uncle lived in the Provo area & Elizabeth’s mom called Rudemberth Salgado to express the concern she was feeling about not hearing back from Elizabeth. He went to Elizabeth’s apartment where she lived with three roommates but no one answered the door. The next day, Rudemberth’s brother/Elizabeth’s other uncle, Rosemberg Salgado, who lived in California, called the school to speak with the staff & they confirmed that Elizabeth wasn’t there. He called the restaurant where she was working & found she also wasn’t there. This was when the police were contacted & made aware that Elizabeth was typically in very close contact with her family on a daily basis & this was not characteristic of her. Rosemberg temporarily relocated to Provo to help search for Elizabeth & became the spokesperson for the family as they pushed to get her case into the media. 

Some people became suspicious of Elizabeth’s uncles during the search & felt they were more concerned with raising money than finding her & felt they knew more than what they were sharing, finding inconsistencies in their stories.  Some even accused them of selling Elizabeth into a trafficking ring; they were cleared of any wrongdoing. Rosemberg spoke out & said that neither he nor his brother had anything to do with their niece’s disappearance, calling the accusations a “big, big lie.” Police cleared them of any involvement. 

Police interviewed classmates, roommates & friends of the church though no one had any information about what could have happened to Elizabeth. One eyewitness told investigators that they’d recently seen Elizabeth crying in the bathroom but hadn’t asked her what was wrong. Her family contacted any friends she may have made or anyone she may have known during the short time she was in Provo for any possible information. She had been working as a waitress in a Mexican restaurant & she had told her uncle that a co-worker expressed interest in her but she didn’t find him attractive. She told her uncle that this person was upset when she declined his advances. Police followed up on this but it didn’t lead to anything. Family printed missing signs, went door-to-door & held vigils to bring awareness to Elizabeth’s case but as the days went by & there was no sign of her, their hope began to dwindle.

Elizabeth’s mother reportedly targeted Mackey Smith who lived in the same apartment complex as Elizabeth & was helping to teach her English. He happened to move away after her disappearance, but Mackey was ruled out as a suspect & was said to be helpful in coming forward with information. In June of 2015, an unidentified man called the Salgado family, claiming to have Elizabeth & demanding a ransom. Beyond this, authorities had little to go on & the case grew cold.

On May 18, 2018, a little over three years after Elizabeth seemingly disappeared without a trace, a man, who was driving through Hobble Creek Canyon above Springville pulled his car over to relieve himself. He walked thirty yards from the road & into some bushes & here, he came across a skull, most of a human skeleton & clothing. He immediately called the police. This was about fifteen miles away from where Elizabeth was last seen. Because of the location off the road, it was not a spot where a person would be hiking on a trail & deputies had driven past the location dozens of times in recent years. The area had not been searched previously because there was no indication that Elizabeth was ever in Hobble Creek Canyon. Her two front teeth were missing which likely indicates that she tried to fight off her abductor before she was killed. The final autopsy results weren’t released but her remains didn’t show signs of blunt force trauma or bullet wounds; she was found wearing her clothes. She was placed in a shallow grave & found in a sleep-like position similar to the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale although an episode of Unsolved Mysteries indicated that Elizabeth was just left in the area & not found in a shallow grave. The article that indicated that Elizabeth was laid out carefully vs. just disposed of in a rushed fashion could indicate that the killer had feelings for Elizabeth & this was their twisted way of showing respect or compassion. Because of the location of where her remains were found, the Utah County Sheriff’s Office took over the investigation for the Provo PD. 

Elizabeth’s body had been exposed to the elements for years so dental records ultimately confirmed that the remains belonged to Elizabeth. Police didn’t say if her cellphone or purse were located near her body but she was believed to be carrying these items when she went missing. Police found initials carved into the bark of an oak tree from July of 2015, only a few months from when Elizabeth went missing; police found it odd that they would have only been a few yards away, carving their initials & didn’t come across her remains at that time. Regardless, they were unable to track down the person who the initials belonged to.

Elizabeth’s uncle, Rosemberg Salgado said that the family will not stop until they find the person or people involved in Elizabeth’s murder; he is heartbroken that his niece had gone to the United States to better her life & open doors for herself & her life ended so abruptly. She had hoped to learn English, get married in the temple to a good guy; she was so happy to have the opportunity to be in Provo & it was unbelievable that someone had killed her. As much as the family wanted closure, they had hoped & prayed that Elizabeth would have been found alive; it’s not the closure they had wanted. 

During Elizabeth’s short time in Provo, she didn’t have a car so investigators believe that someone drove her  to the canyon. Because she had only been there for three weeks, she didn’t know many people though several guys had shown interest in her but Elizabeth wanted to focus on her studies. Police worked backwards to try to find how Elizabeth would have gotten there, who would have taken her. The search took investigators to Elizabeth’s hometown in Mexico where her parents live & to the areas she served as a missionary for the LDS church. Investigators are also urging the public to keep their eyes & ears open for any potential information both big & small. 

The Salgado family hired private investigator Jason Jensen who is very interested in information about a YSA stake activity that Elizabeth may have attended shortly before she went missing. She was in the Provo YSA 10th Stake & they met at Kelly’s Grove Park at the base of Hobble Creek Canyon on Sunday, April 12, 2015, four days before she disappeared; this information came from a tip received in 2020. Because her body was found in Hobble Creek Canyon, it’s possible that the event could be connected to her death though her body was found more than ten miles from where the church group was held. He’s urging anyone who attended the activity to come forward if they remember Elizabeth talking to someone. It’s possible that Elizabeth was taken against her will as well as by someone she trusted enough to go with; maybe as she walked home from school, a familiar face stopped, rolled down their window & asked if she needed a ride. Her being taken could have looked perfectly normal. Family felt that she would have never gone willingly with someone she didn’t know. Jensen believes that it’s possible that Elizabeth had become friends or acquaintances with someone who possibly wanted to take her on a date & something happened. The fact that Elizabeth had attended a picnic at Hobble Creek Canyon, only days before she disappeared & was ultimately found dead there, it’s possible she was socializing & set up a trip for one day after school which happened to be the Thursday she disappeared.

Jensen finds it very hard to believe that it’s a coincidence that she just happened to be found in the same location she had socialized in only days earlier. 

Police believe that Elizabeth was heading north to her apartment at The Branbury on 449 W. 1720 North from Nomen Global at 400 West, just north of Provo’s Center Street, around the corner from Hruska’s Kolaches & Pioneer Book. Investigators urge people that lived in the area at the time to try to think back to April 16, 2015; if you saw a young Hispanic woman  who was about 5’4” and 125# walking & interacting with someone else, even if it looked like a normal interaction, to please come forward with any information. 

Jensen has developed a profile of who the killer may be & feels that they: Speak Spanish & may be Hispanic or caucasian, is known to Elizabeth & possibly infatuated with her, from a small circle within Elizabeth’s church group, language school, apartment or work Elizabeth’s uncle indicated that Elizabeth seemed impressed by white men who spoke Spanish, so it’s possible the person fits this description. 

Elizabeth’s mother, Libertad Salgado feels that one of the hardest aspects of this case is that Elizabeth felt safe in Provo because she was surrounded by others of the same faith. She believes that whoever killed her daughter was likely a member of the LDS Church & had spent time with Elizabeth during her short time in the United States. Reports indicate that a penny was found at Hobble Creek Canyon in the exact location where Elizabeth’s body was laid. That location is marked with a makeshift headstone out of a cross & right in the center where her body would have been, the penny was found. In July of 2019, the site was canvassed with metal detectors & the coin was found underneath growth & leaves. It has since been processed at the coalition’s lab, Intermountain Forensics. 

What’s not clear is if the coin was dropped there before, during or after Elizabeth’s body laid there.  Because the location is so remote, it cannot be overlooked; it’s a very unique spot for a penny to be found. However, since Elizabeth was found, family, friends & journalists have visited that location. The DNA from the coin is from a man & enough material was recovered to move onto the next stage of identification in creating a full DNA profile. Jensen is hoping it will be a match from the DNA database & if not, male friends & acquaintances can be contacted for volunteer DNA sample collections. 

Libertad refuses to give up on finding justice for her daughter & says that she will not be content until her killer is caught. She says that losing her daughter has taken the life out of her soul. Activist Elizabeth Smart who was kidnapped from her Salt Lake City, Utah bedroom by street preacher Brian David Mitchell in 2002 at age 14 & held captive for nine months before she was found, is also speaking out about this case & pleading for any information of who could have been involved in Elizabeth Salgado’s murder.

In a strange coincidence, Elizabeth’s aunt, 45-year-old Miriam Salgado was reported missing in August of 2021 & her car was found abandoned, on a dirt road in Washington County near Zion National Park on September 20, 2021. A search & rescue team searched the surrounding area but located no signs of Miriam or any signs that she was in the area at that time. Family members indicated that Miriam had mental health struggles & in the weeks leading up to her disappearance, police found her sleeping in her car.

On Saturday, March 4, 2023, a hiker found human remains in a remote area on Sheep Bridge Road. Based on the personal belongings found at the scene, the family was notified & the remains have been identified as Miriam. No suspicious circumstances were revealed & she was found a half mile from where her car broke down though an autopsy is being done & the case remains active & ongoing. The Salgado family finds it suspicious that both Elizabeth & Miriam were found in a similar fashion.

Anyone with information regarding this case is urged to call the Investigations Department of the Utah County Sheriff’s Office at 801-851-4010.


  1. Deseret News: Death of a woman missing 3 years now ‘an active homicide investigation’
  2. The Daily Universe: Family of killed Provo student pleads for answers
  3. Elizabeth Salgado’s family calls for info from church event days before her 2015 murder
  4. Coin with DNA found at site where Elizabeth Salgado’s remains were located
  5. Human remains found in remote area of Washington County
  6. Human remains found in southern Utah identified as aunt of Elizabeth Salgado
  7. ABC4: The Justice Files: Elizabeth Salgado’s last minutes of life
  8. CBS News: Skeletal remains found in Utah canyon ID’d as long-missing woman Elizabeth Salgado
  9. ABC4: The Justice Files: A message to Elizabeth Salgado’s killer
  10. Unsolved Mysteries: Mystery at Hobble Creek Canyon
  11. True Case Files: The Disappearance & Murder of Elizabeth Salgado
  12. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
  13. ABC4: The Justice Files: 7 years later Elizabeth Salgado’s parents suspect someone close to her, killed her
  14. ABC4: Elizabeth Salgado’s Uncle Responds To Allegations

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