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Man named in 1976 murder in Summit County now linked to 1974 murder in Salt Lake City

By Pat Reavy

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    SALT LAKE CITY (KSL) — Salt Lake police announced Thursday that they have solved a 48-year-old cold case. And the suspect is the same man named a few years ago as being responsible for a 39-year-old cold case homicide in Summit County.

James Bednarik, 39, was shot and killed on Feb. 28, 1974, as he returned to his home in the 500 block of First Avenue. Investigators say the gunman hid and waited for Bednarik and then killed him execution-style. No one was ever arrested for the crime.

“Detectives exhausted all available leads at the time but could not identify a suspect,” police said Thursday.

As the investigation into the case continued, police learned that Bednarik was selling stolen gasoline and had shot and injured a gas station owner one year prior to being killed, according to Salt Lake police.

Then, earlier this year, a retired Unified Police Department detective had lunch with a retired Salt Lake City police detective. During lunch, the retired detectives talked about the 1974 homicide. One detective talked about how a man named George B. Toone had allegedly confessed in 2001 to killing two men in Salt Lake County. It was not known Thursday to whom that confession was made.

With this new information, current members of the Salt Lake homicide unit sent two fingerprints that had been collected from the 1974 crime scene to the Salt Lake Police Department’s crime lab to be compared with Toone’s prints. Police say the prints matched.

“Based on the information detectives now have in the case, they are confident Toone is the person responsible for Bednarik’s murder,” police announced Thursday.

In 2015, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office announced that they believed Toone was responsible for the killing of William Ercanbrack, 47, on Oct. 28, 1976, near his ranch in Clarks Canyon, 7 miles east of Coalville.

Toone died in California of natural causes in 2001 at the age of 75.

Salt Lake police are still investigating the allegation that Toone killed a second man in Salt Lake County. Details on who the victim might be or when that homicide occurred were not released Thursday. Still, police are asking anyone with information about the case to contact the Salt Lake City Police Department at 801-799-3000.

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