In Journalism

Students and faculty from the BYU School of Communications released a documentary on the cold case of Rosie Tapia, a six-year-old girl from Salt Lake City

Students and faculty from BYU’s School of Communications hope the release of their recently produced documentary will reignite the public’s interest in solving the cold case of Rosie Tapia — a six-year-old girl who was abducted from her Salt Lake City apartment, sexually assaulted and murdered in August of 1995.

The debut of the documentary is met with much emotion, especially in the wake of a sketch of the suspect given to police earlier this year by a former neighbor of the Tapia family.

Rosie Tapia’s cold case was the subject of BYU student Valerie Garofalo’s documentary, which she completed for her capstone in broadcast journalism. (Courtesy of Valerie Garofalo)

“Murderers Living Among Us: Who Killed Rosie Tapia?” not only covers the events of the tragedy but also explores different issues tied to the abduction and murder of Tapia, the impact it has had on her family and the cultural phenomena of true crime as entertainment.

The film is the result of a year-long student and faculty-mentored project.

Valerie Garofalo completed the documentary as her senior project in broadcast journalism before she graduated in April and started an internship with Buzzfeed. She was closely mentored by journalism professors Quint Randle and Robert Walz throughout the research and production phases.

“I got involved with the Rosie Tapia case for my capstone project. I thought it would be an interesting topic — something I could really feel passionate about,” said Garofalo.

In conjunction with Garofalo’s documentary work, fellow student McKayla Robinson wrote an article on the Rosie Tapia story, which was published by both The Daily Universe and The Deseret News earlier this year. The article recently placed in the top 20 in the prestigious national Hearst Multimedia Enterprise Competition.

Garofalo and the other documentary producers worked closely with the Utah Cold Case Coalition and members of the Tapia family to tell a story that was both factual and emotional.

“It was hard for her family to retell and relive the experience as they told us Rosie’s story,” said Garofalo. “I felt such compassion for this family even though I only met them in person once.”

Despite the possibility of reopening old wounds, those involved hoped their work would bring attention to a case they feel has been on the backburner for too long.

Lewine Tapia, Rosie’s mother, is featured in the documentary. Garofalo and her mentors, Quint Randle and Robert Walz, hope the documentary will keep the cold case in the public consciousness — eventually finding justice for the Tapia family.

“By keeping this cold case in the public consciousness, we hope to keep pressure on public officials — as well as those responsible — so the Tapia family can find justice for Rosie,” said Randle, who was a mentor and co-producer on the project.

The documentary has been published on the Utah Cold Case Coalition’s YouTube channel and Facebook page.

Garofalo believes that closure is still possible for the Tapia family and hopes that her efforts will make a difference in the Rosie Tapia story.

“I really wanted to bring awareness back to this story,” said Garofalo. “The case didn’t get the attention it deserved 24 years ago — it got shoved under the rug. At the end of the day, her killer still hasn’t been found.”

*Contributor Quint Randle

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