On the morning of July 31, 1970, 4-year-old Heidi Jones found the bludgeoned, bloody body of her mother, 23-year-old Loretta Jones, on the living room floor of their home in Price, Utah.
Little Heidi told police “Tom did it,” and law enforcement zeroed in on Thomas Edward Egley, who’d briefly dated Jones. He was arrested for attempting to kidnap, on the night of the murder, a 10-year-old girl who lived in Jones’s neighborhood. But the murder case eventually was dismissed for lack of solid evidence.
It took 46 years for Egley to finally plead guilty to Jones’s murder in 2016. He was convicted and sentenced to 10 years to life in prison.
A Cold Case Files episode about the case, “Written in Blood,” aired March 18, 2022 on A&E. [Watch the episode now.]
Heidi Jones-Asay spoke with A&E True Crime about how it felt to finally get justice for her mother after so long.
How did your mother’s death affect your life, knowing her killer was out there?
I blocked so much of her murder out of my head. My grandparents adopted me in 1973, and all my aunts and uncles became my brothers and sisters. We stopped talking about her murder because it was so hard on [my grandparents]. My grandpa died of a heart attack in 1974; I believe the stress of the murder took a toll on him.
When the police would go and talk to my grandma, she’d get so upset—she’d cry and cry about it. It just got the point where [I] didn’t want to see her hurting so bad.
Going to school, a lot of people, especially in kindergarten, knew who I was and what happened. In junior high and high school, I never thought of it. It almost seemed like my mom was forgotten and that I came from a family of five sisters and two brothers, instead of being an only child and an orphan.
Did you think of Tom Egley over the years? Did you suspect he was the killer?
I always knew it was Tom. When the investigators came when I was 4 years old, I would tell them, ‘Tom did it.’ Over and over. The keyhole from my bedroom looked out to the front room where the murder took place. What I do remember vividly is looking out of my keyhole and seeing something laying on the floor. My mind, my brain has chosen not to remember it—whether I saw him raping my mom or saw him stabbing her, I don’t know.
[Editor’s note: Loretta Jones was sexually assaulted. Egley refused to confess to the rape.]
Law enforcement later revealed that your mother wrote the letters ‘T’ and ‘O’ in her own blood the night of her murder.
My mother told me not to come out of my room that night, to protect me. Just to think that my mom was there, bleeding to death, gasping for her last breath, writing with her own finger, in her own blood… That’s pretty overwhelming.
What prompted you to push for a renewed investigation into your mother’s murder?
I was living in California, and I saw a TV show about unsolved mysteries in 1989, so I wrote to the show, and I started writing to law enforcement. But I hit one brick wall after another, so I let it go.
I moved back to Utah in 2006. Then in 2009, my car was stolen over Fourth of July weekend. I posted about it on Facebook, and one of the people who commented on my post was David Brewer, who said he worked for the Carbon County Sheriff’s Office [in Utah]. He was a friend from high school, one year older than me. So I decided I would go find him and ask him to look into my mother’s murder.
Det. Brewer tracked down and interviewed Egley in 2010 in Rocky Ford, Colorado—and was able to arrest him in 2016. So many things had to come together, like Egley’s neighbor, Lisa Carter, helping law enforcement get a confession.
There was definitely some divine intervention that helped play a part in all of this. Everything fell into place as it should. I know a lot of people don’t believe in that, but I wholeheartedly do. Everybody was in the right place at the right time. There was definitely a guardian angel with Brewer and Wally (Det. Wally Hendricks of the Carbon County’s Sheriff’s Office) when they went to Rocky Ford.
Do you harbor any resentment toward law enforcement for not being able build a solid enough case in 1970?
I just never understood why it wasn’t solved. [Egley] admitted to grabbing Lori [the 10 year-old neighbor] that night, and he was arrested. But when he was taken to trial for my mom’s case, it was dismissed.
Egley told his girlfriend at the time that he was going to see Loretta Jones, but he and his girlfriend got married shortly after, so she couldn’t testify against him. It’s something that I have accepted, for lack of a better word.
Your mother’s body was exhumed in 2016. Do you think it should have happened sooner?
My grandma passed away in 2015 when she was 90 years old. When I had the case reopened, Brewer went to talk to her. She was supporting me as best as she could… but there is no way I could have had my mom’s body exhumed while she was still alive. Even though I was Loretta’s next of kin, my grandma would have had to give permission to exhume.
What was it like to see Egley in court?
He just looked like an old man. A frail old man. I remember standing out in the hallway, and I told Brewer that he wasn’t the boogeyman. Brewer told me, ‘Even the boogeyman gets old.’
At sentencing, I turned and addressed him while reading my statement. His head was always down, but I wanted to make sure he heard every word that I was trying to drive into his heart.
Anything else you want people to know?
The biggest thing, in my opinion, is when a family [of a violent crime victim] gives up and feels hopeless. But you can’t do that. As long as you have hope, you have a chance. My mantra, my favorite word, is ‘believe.’ Believe, believe, believe.