Three-Year-Old Murder Case Still Unsolved

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The 2004 homicide of 54-year-old Payson resident Ira Eastman is still unsolved.

Payson Police Chief Don Engler said no new leads on the case have come in, but it is still open and police are still actively pursuing a suspect.

Engler said that while it is not a cold case, he doesn't have it permanently staffed.

He said he assigns personnel to the case occasionally, as new information comes in, but no significant new leads have come forward recently.

"We still seek any input from the community on it, we did a lot of work about a year ago, but nothing significant came of it," Engler said.

Police discovered Eastman's body on March 17, 2004 at the bottom of a swimming hole on the East Verde River, off Houston-Mesa Road.

Sgt. Tom Tieman said police initially were unsure if Eastman had been taken from his home during a home invasion kidnapping situation on March 14, or if he had left voluntarily.

Tieman said the FBI was not called in on the case, because police could not establish definitively if Eastman was kidnapped or not.

"All we know for sure is we found his body a few days later in the East Verde River, up by Houston-Mesa Road," Tieman said.

An autopsy later determined Eastman died of a single gunshot wound to the head, but police were unable to determine what caliber, or type of weapon was used, because the bullet exited his head and was never found.

A .22 pistol was discovered near the same swimming hole where police found Eastman's body, but they were unable to connect it to his murder.

A 12-year-old boy swimming in the river found the pistol in a sock. He said he became scared after he discovered it, and threw it into the river. He told his mother about finding the gun, who then told Payson Police.

After divers with the Gila County Sheriff's Office found the pistol, police later drained the swimming hole and found Eastman's body.

During the initial investigation Engler said no significant clues were found in the mud and sludge at the bottom of the swimming hole.

Police followed up on another lead in May 2004 after arresting Jared Olsen, 33, who claimed to have information about the murder.

Engler would not reveal the nature of what Olsen told police in 2004, but said it was investigated and proved to be of no use.

"There is a high likelihood that someone out there has some information that might help us," Engler said. "I would ask the public to revisit that time and see if they can't remember anything we might be able to use, to help solve this case."

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