SALT LAKE CITY — A 15-year-old Utah girl checking in with her mother after school on Monday was violently assaulted and killed while her mom listened helplessly on the phone.
Salt Lake City police investigators are searching for Shaun French, 24, as a person of interest in the slaying of Baleigh Bagshaw. According to the department, officers were called to Bagshaw's home just after 3 p.m. Monday for a welfare check, at which time they found her body.
Sgt. Brandon Shearer, a Salt Lake City Police Department spokesman, said Tuesday that Bagshaw, a student at West High School, arrived home from school and called her mother to check in, which was her usual routine. That's when her killer attacked.
"While she was on the phone with her mother, she was brutally attacked while inside of her home," Shearer said. "Her mother heard the attack going on and then the phone went dead."
Bagshaw’s mother called a neighbor to check on her daughter, who also called 911, Shearer said. When officers arrived, they found her dead.
"I can't even guess what the mother would be going through right now. Our hearts and thoughts are with her and the whole family through this horrible ordeal," Shearer said.
The sergeant said the street around Bagshaw’s home remained cordoned off Tuesday as detectives and crime scene technicians continued to gather evidence.
"It was a very violent attack, so there's quite a bit of evidence and it's widely spread throughout the home and throughout the area," Shearer said. "We're just making sure we're taking our time and collecting all the necessary evidence to continue to investigate the case."
French, the person of interest, had an active warrant issued for his arrest on Tuesday for three counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor, charges that stem from a relationship he had with Bagshaw, Shearer said. Investigators confirmed Tuesday that French at one point lived at the Bagshaw home, but said he was not living there at the time of the homicide.
Photos show that French is a white male with reddish-blonde facial hair and glasses. He is believed to be driving a 1991 Daihatsu Rocky with camouflage paint.
The vehicle has Wyoming tag number 19-13974.
He has ties to Ogden, Utah, as well as Wyoming, Colorado and Cleveland, police officials said. He may be traveling along Interstate 80 through Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana.
French is considered armed and dangerous. Anyone who spots him should call the nearest law enforcement agency.
Bagshaw was remembered Tuesday at the ice cream parlor where she worked as a hard worker who always had a smile on her face.
"She was really sweet," Gwendolyn Robinson, co-owner of Leatherby's Family Creamery, told the Deseret News. "She worked very hard. She was a good girl."
Robinson and her sister and business partner, Diana Ngyeun, said that Bagshaw’s mother called Monday to tell them Baleigh would not be in due to a “family emergency.” Only the following day did they learn what that emergency was.
"I found out the news this morning and I'm devastated," a teary Robinson said. "I expect her to be walking into work, still. It's not computing."
Scott Arnold, a bishop in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, described the slain teen as a “joy to be around” at youth activities.
"She was just a fun person and just had a great smile and a great attitude, and not a mean bone on her," Arnold told the News.
Bagshaw's Facebook page was filled with photos of animals. She and her mother, Shawna, were also involved in the dog show community.
School friends of Bagshaw’s spent a portion of Tuesday with grief counselors as they tried to process their loss.
"She was incredibly smart and talented and she always got along with people around her," Talia Zamir told the newspaper. "She was really friendly and nice, and that's what makes everything so heartbreaking, honestly."
Another classmate, Nura Omer, wrote on Facebook that she remembers Bagshaw as the “shy new girl” at a former school.
“Your smile was contagious and even if you didn’t know me, you were so nice to me,” Omer wrote. “I hope they catch whoever did this. Justice will be served. Rest easy, love.”
Cox Media Group