by Maggie Judi
On a bright and cold December day in 1997, a man driving near Ucolo spotted a teddy bear in the road. Stopping the pickup to retrieve the toy for his children, the man immediately noticed something awfully wrong.
The bear had blood on it and the man could see an abandoned coat and what appeared to be drag marks in the otherwise pristine landscape of white heading away into the trees.
What appeared at first to be an innocent discovery turned instead to a grisly crime scene and the first murder case for a newly appointed detective.
Deputy Grayson Redd instructed his guys to keep the crime scene free from contamination by entering the scene at an angle so as not to disturb the drag marks.
They lead into a grove of juniper trees that concealed the badly-beaten body of a young female. The state crime lab collected evidence, while the task of finding the identity of the tragically murdered girl fell to Redd.
“I sent out a notice to all agencies with a description of the girl,” recalls Redd. “I spent nearly a month trying to identify her by talking to different agencies.”
After a month of frustration, Redd had an expert alter a crime scene photo of the victim to show how she may have appeared in happier times.
A woman who saw the photo told Grayson that one of her tenants on Redwood Road in Salt Lake City was missing and vaguely resembled the computer-generated photo.
Grayson called the missing woman’s parents in California, and after comparing tattoos and surgical scars, he realized he had a name for the once missing and now murdered woman, Monica Frome, whose daughter Nikki was also reported missing.
After Redd helped identify the woman, a Wasatch Front police department took over the investigation. Progress stalled once again until Deputy Redd and Sheriff Mike Lacy made another trip up North.
Grayson explains, “We walked in and… we see officers with their feet on the desk looking at these podunk county deputies coming in and just kinda brushed us off.”
Eventually the lead detective agreed to take them to Frome’s apartment, even though they had searched it and found nothing.
No sooner had the lead detective opened the door when something caught Redd’s keen eye. He said, “Hey, you’ve got a smudge of blood on that light switch!”
Sure enough blood evidence was collected on the switch, as well as in the toilet and at a spot on the doorframe left by the victim’s hair as she was carried out of the apartment.
Black lights revealed a horrific crime scene the perpetrator had scrubbed clean of blood.... except, of course, for that tale-tell light switch.
Because of Grayson Redd, the victim was one step closer to justice. Eventually the investigation led police to the body of Monica’s daughter, Nikki Frome, in Houston, TX. They were led to the shallow gravesite by a man who had briefly dated and subsequently stalked Monica for over a year before he murdered her, dumped her body near Monticello, and took the toddler to Texas where he murdered her as well.
Britt Ripkowski now sits on death row in Texas, largely because of a rookie detective from one of the most sparsely populated counties in America.
When Redd and Lacy returned to the precinct after finding the evidence, Redd remembers being treated a little more kindly. “This time,” he said, “the officers jumped up and grabbed a chair for us.”
They learned the hard way that small town, doesn’t automatically mean “podunk”.
Grayson Redd never set out to be in law enforcement. His heart belonged to farming his own corner of this great county.
But as many a farmer will tell you, sometime you need a little extra to make ends meet. Redd applied for a dispatch job at night, which would allow plenty of time to farm during the daylight hours.
What started as a side job turned into something more, as Redd climbed the ladder from dispatch to corrections, to road officer, and then to detective. He retired in 2011 as the Chief Deputy under Sheriff Lacy.
The Redd law enforcement legacy lives on in Colonel Brian Redd, the son of Grayson and Jan Redd.
In November, Brian became the Deputy Commissioner for the Department of Public Safety (DPS) for the State of Utah. If that sounds like a big deal, that’s because it is!
Colonel Redd was previously Major Redd, the director of the State Bureau of Investigation. It seems that sleuthing runs in the Redd family.
Brian’s grandpa, Bennion Redd, practiced law in Monticello for nearly 60 years and served as San Juan County Attorney for 28 years. Bennion, Grayson, and Brian all served as the student body president at Monticello High School.
Brian’s career started out largely because of the example of his father. He simply explains, “The influence really came from my dad.”
His mother, Jan Redd, says Brian followed his dad from a young age. When the family owned a tire shop in the early 1980s, Brian began to help his dad after school as a third grade student.
Says Jan, “By the time he was ten, he could change a tire all by himself. Brian has always been a hard worker.”
When Brian speaks about his formative years in Monticello, almost every other word is “work” or “leadership”. Brian reminisces about great coaches and teachers who he said had a “huge impact on me.”
He tells a story about the legendary Joe Davis. In 1991, Brian was a high school sophomore, eager to make his mark on the best team Monticello High had had in some time.
He remembers, “I wanted to be a running back, and Joe said, ‘Brian, you can be my eighth-string running back or you can be my starting center on the line.’
“So he drug me over and made me the center. That was a big deal because Joe believed in me and gave me a shot to play. Otherwise, I would’ve watched from the sidelines.”
Brian Redd hasn’t ever been one to be on the sidelines. After graduating from college and marrying his wife, Erin (who is from the Bay Area in California), Brian decided that a job in the Utah Highway Patrol and a life in Monticello was what he wanted for his future family.
The newlyweds got as close as Moab, making it their home for nearly six years before opportunities for promotion rolled in.
The hard-working, and ambitious Redd moved from Moab to St. George, where he began to take a detective track within the highway patrol.
Brian spent four years taking down marijuana farms run by drug cartels in southwest Utah, where he helped take out tens of thousands of marijuana plants.
Redd’s inherited and earned investigative skills eventually led him to Salt Lake City where he accepted a position with the State Bureau of Investigations.
Of his career, Brian simply states, “I love investigations.”
The younger Redd was able to work with his father on a murder investigation in 2010. The investigation centered on the hunt for a man who killed a Kane County deputy along the Utah-Arizona Border.
Redd recalls how this was the last case he and his dad worked together and expresses gratitude that the father and son spent time together doing what they love.
“Teamwork” and “cooperation” are more words that pepper his reminiscences of the past. Now Redd finds himself imparting his hard-won knowledge to officers throughout the state.
He is currently implementing programs such as Operation Rio Grande, which he was commissioned to oversee by Chief Commissioner Keith Squires. That’s right, the fight to take back downtown Salt Lake City is directed by none other than a kid from San Juan County.
As Deputy Commissioner in the DPS, Redd is a visible figure in the state. You’ve probably seen him on television multiple times, interviewed about all kinds of topics regarding public safety.
Redd says, “My career has allowed me to effect policy benefitting victims of sexual assault, develop a refugee outreach program, help the homeless and other vulnerable populations in the Rio Grande District, provide training so patrol officers can recognize crimes against children, help reduce victimization through cyber-crime, and many other opportunities to help protect our citizens, victims and other vulnerable populations.”
He also says that all of this leadership is a direct result of the opportunities afforded him in San Juan County. “I have the opportunity to sit on the Utah Crime Victim Council, the Utah Refugee Board of Advisors, and the Utah Controlled Substances Advisory Committee.
“These are opportunities to help affect policy and protect vulnerable communities in our state. I would not have had those opportunities unless things went the way they did.”
And it started in Monticello, in a tire shop; hauling hay on the farm; in the classrooms of Bruce Adams, Judi Barton, and Liz Miller, whom Redd recalls fondly.
It began on the football field, where a wise coach stuck a 150 lb sophomore in the middle of the field, where offensive line Coach Chuck Kreautler molded him into and effective force.
Redd says of those wonderful days on the field, “I was undersized every game, but I just learned to work hard and persevere and rely on the guys next to me.”
That lesson, learned long ago in an orange and black jersey, inform Colonel Redd every day in his job.
He says, “It’s not about me. The reason I am where I am is because of the efforts of collaboration with our law enforcement partners, with the public, and with my own department.”
No matter his accomplishments, the essence and values of Brian Redd’s personality just won’t allow him to take all the credit. He’s always happy to point out the virtues of the “guy” next to him.
Perhaps the most important “guy” next to Brian Redd all these years has been his dad.
“My dad,” he explains, “he’s a way better detective than I ever was.”
Both men reminisce fondly about the time they spent crossing paths as investigators in their respective fields, meeting sometimes for a working dinner in Moab.
Brian says it best about his two wonderful parents, “If there is one thing I took from those two, it was hard work. I mean they knew how to work.”
It’s a sentiment that Col. Redd instills by example to his own kids, 15-year-old Chase, ten-year-old twins Jacob and Hannah, and his youngest, seven-year-old Ben.
The sky is the limit, I guess, for any kid with a little San Juan County blood coursing through their veins…but perhaps it is also a bit of an advantage if that blood is Redd.