Ongoing rumors in Salt Lake City about a possible homeless serial killer


Art by Sofia Salas

Kylie Kesler

As early as 2004, speculations have been swirling around the Salt Lake area about members of the homeless population missing and a number of deaths in the area both at and near homeless shelters. 


Former Salt Lake City police officer Matthew Visher, was working as an investigative police officer in the greater Salt Lake area in 2004. His first reaction was both shocked and surprised people are still talking about there being a possible serial killer preying on the homeless near the downtown shelters. Not necessarily because of the possibility of such a horrible thing, but because the first time Visher had heard about this was nearly 18 years ago. Even in 2022 this rumor is still circling the valley and especially around the people living in the downtown area and inside the shelters. 

At least two years after Officer Visher heard about this ‘urban legend’ his administration reported there was a large number, (~50) of homeless people that were missing or passed away, but there wasn’t any speculation of a serial killer targeting the homeless. However, as a part of his investigation, Officer Visher, being thorough, would interview the homeless in the area and ask the question, “What do you know about this rumor and what makes you think that there is the possibility of there being an actual serial killer?”  

Accusations from the families of the deceased have expressed on more than one occasion that the police were simply ignoring the deaths by possibly pushing them aside as not important compared to other cases going on. 

Visher explained that when somebody passes away, law enforcement  is called and a report is done for all deaths, regardless of the magnitude or circumstances. “It’s either an unattended death or an attended death,”  Visher stated.  What police found was that all of the approx 50 deaths were attributed to drugs, alcohol, or exposure, not from attacks by a serial killer.


Unfortunately, In the homeless population you will almost always see substance abuse and alcohol abuse. Visher had explained that studies done by social workers that work in shelters he had worked with have proven that most of the time, the homeless will choose to stay out on the streets where they are exposed to the elements. As sad as it is, the money they get from panhandling, sympathetic passerbys won’t actually go to feeding themselves or helping their situation, they more often than not go to feeding their addiction. It is important to note, the vast majority of the homeless population are known to be struggling with a range of mental health issues. That not only contributes to their current situation but prevents them from getting out of the impossible cycle they are in.  


With all of that being said, Officer Visher admitted in the interview, “It seems like this is all just an urban legend in my mind. And that urban legend is really attributed to high school kids.”  Which is why kids at Copper Hills have both heard of this urban legend and why it is still being repeated


The biggest take away from the interview with Officer Visher was that the rumor was started by the people living near shelters and on the streets. And that they were telling the young kids who would come down to get drugs from dealers in the area and intermingling that there is someone going after and attacking the homeless. “What they told me was that this is all to protect and scare the young adults/ teenagers from ending up like them on the streets and strung up on addictions and saying ‘hey this is not the life you want to have’. A lot of these people, even though they have addictions, whether it’s drugs, alcohol, or whatever reason that they are out there still, they’re good people” explained Officer Visher. 


So although it’s not the ending you’d imagine this story having, there’s no conclusive evidence supporting this urban legend. However, in the spirit of October, scary movies, and all things that go bump in the night, there’s always that probability that maybe, just maybe there is someone out there lurking and stalking the homeless for their next victim…