Gila County reopening 38 year old cold case of woman found murdered near Payson

Posted at 6:54 PM, Jul 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-01 00:06:51-04

38 years later, the Gila County Sheriff's Office is making a new push to answer one question: Who killed Marsha Wilson?

Wilson, 20, was found dead alongside SR 87 back in 1979. According to authorities, her body was found near a guardrail just south of Payson, between the 244 & 245 mile marker.

"I'm hoping somebody...their conscience has got to them," said Detective Sergeant David Hornung with the Gila County Sheriff's Office.

Hornung is taking a fresh look at the case. He told ABC15 while it was cold for several decades, the victim's friend emailed the sheriff's office last year urging them to take another look. Another deputy re-opened the case last August, but medically retired. Detective Hornung is now dedicating time to the case that has remained a mystery for nearly four decades.

"Whoever killed her still has this on their conscience, they murdered someone," Hornung said.

According to authorities, in 1979 Wilson moved from Southern California to Phoenix to take care of her grandmother. On July 29th, 1979, Wilson is believed to have been heading to the Verde River, according to authorities. Neighbors also reported giving her a ride to a Valley mall to go shoe shopping. The following day, July 30th, is when a passerby found her body near Payson. Authorities confirmed she was wearing a swimsuit when she was found.

"Whoever killed her strangled her with their hands," Hornung said. "It says that there was personal involvement, somehow. It may be acquaintance, or it may be anger."

Hornung said at the time, investigators had two suspects in the case. However, no arrest was ever made because leads didn't pan out and the case went cold. It was briefly re-opened in 1988, and is again re-open now. Hornung hopes with the advancement of technology, old evidence will reveal new clues. The Gila County Sheriff's Office has, and will, re-submit evidence for testing in the case. They hope to get some results back in the next few months.

"(Wilson) was here to help someone and her life was taken from her and her family still doesn't have closure so I would like to see if we can bring closure to this," Hornung said.

Wilson's case is one of four cold case homicides the Gila County Sheriff's Offices hopes to solve.

If you have any information on this case, contact Gila County Sheriff's Detective David Hornung at