Provo police reopen decades-old case of murdered BYU student

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The Utah Cold Case Coalition announced that the Provo Police Department reopened a 41-year-old murder case on Saturday, Nov. 16.

Former BYU student Marla Rae Scharp was reportedly raped and strangled in her Provo apartment while her roommates left the apartment for about 30 minutes on June 29, 1978. The case was closed after police concluded that Henry Lee Lucas, who confessed to around 600 murders including Marla Rae Scharp’s, was the culprit.

The Provo Police Department decided to reopen Marla Rae Scharp’s case after the Utah Cold Case Coalition provided evidence suggesting that Lucas may not be Marla Rae Scharp’s murderer.

Karra Porter of Utah’s Cold Case Coalition said the cases’ reopening could spark a national trend.

“The Cold Case Coalition is calling on law enforcement agencies throughout the entire United States to please reopen and reexamine any case that was closed with a Henry Lee Lucas confession,” Porter said.

Marla Rae Scharp’s sister, Leah Scharp, along with brothers Craig and Brian Scharp, attended the Nov. 16 press conference.

Leah Scharp said she hopes to bring her sister’s murderer to justice and believes it can happen through the united efforts of all willing to help.

“We are glad that this is being reopened and investigated again because I want the person who is responsible for this to be behind bars,” Leah Scharp said. “We just want justice, we want the truth, and if it isn’t Lucas, it’s somebody and he’s still out there.”

Janelle Hanna Peat is another victim who was impacted by Lucas. He was believed to be responsible for the murder of her father, but it was later discovered he could not have been there at the time. Peat attended the conference to shed some light on the experience of being in the Scharps’ shoes.

“I’ve always wondered who did it and why,” Peat said.

Craig Scharp said there would be a great deal of satisfaction if his sister’s actual murderer was found.

“What Lucas did by claiming that he had murdered these people, he stopped these investigations,” Craig Scharp said. “By having the Provo Police being willing to open this, that’s huge.”

With the reopening of Marla Rae Scharp’s case, anyone with information involving the case is encouraged to contact the Provo Police Department at 801-825-6210 or leave an anonymous tip with the Utah Cold Case Coalition at 385-258-3319.

Marla Rae Scharp’s family members said they are hopeful that the real murderer will be brought to justice. Although they can’t bring Marla Rae Scharp back, the family hopes the actual perpetrator is brought to justice.

“I don’t believe in closure, because for something like this, there is no closure,” Leah Scharp said.

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