Nikole Bakoles’ body parts were found in a field outside of Salt Lake City 23 years ago, but her m*urder has still not been solved.
Bakoles was a young mother who wasn’t seen or heard from since March 2000. Duck hunters found her body in a field near Saltair, a concert venue west of Salt Lake City, on October 8, that year.
Investigators called her “Saltair Sally” because that’s where the body was found, and it wasn’t immediately clear who it belonged to. In 2012, DNA tests proved that the body belonged to Bakoles, and she was buried in her home state of Washington.
Who was Nikole Bakoles?
Nikole “Niki” Bakoles was a creative and friendly girl who wanted to start a family and loved being a mom. At the time of her de*ath, she was about 20 years old.
The Utah Department of Public Safety says Bakoles moved to Utah with her boyfriend, Joel Chaudoin, in 1998. She grew up in Washington. The couple had a daughter soon after, but the Deseret News says they lost custody.
The last time the police saw Bakoles was in March 2000, when she and Chaudoin got into a fight. He told the police that he left afterward and never saw her again.
Bakoles’ family didn’t report her missing at first because they hadn’t talked to her much since she moved to Utah. People in her family told the Deseret News that they couldn’t remember her address or phone number and thought she needed more space.
In 2003, the Bakoles family put in a report that someone was missing and waited for news.
What happened to Nikole Bakoles?
Hunters found the body parts of a person in a field off of I-80 near the Great Salt Lake less than seven months after Bakoles was last seen. The body was mostly bones, but hair, some clothes, and a blue choker necklace were found with it, according to the Deseret News.
How did investigators determine Saltair Sally’s identity?
Since her body was found near Saltair, police called her “Saltair Sally.” Until 2012, when police used isotope analysis of her hair to figure out where she grew up, she was only known by that name. Police found Bakoles to be a possible match for “Sally” and got DNA from her family to compare it to the body. It worked out.
Nikole Bakoles’ brother James Bakoles told the Deseret News that when he learned the body’s ID, he felt both relief and pain.
“It makes me feel so much better that she’s not out there hurting.” Being aware of that makes us feel calm, he said. “The circumstances of her discovery and disappearance don’t bring much peace.” “Every time you answer a question, a hundred more come up.”
Police have told KSL that they think Bakole was k*illed, but the exact cause of her de*ath has not been made public.
Where does the case stand now?
According to the Utah Department of Public Safety, Bakoles’ case is a m*urder that has not been solved.
In 2012, Jason Jensen, co-founder of the Utah Cold Case Coalition, told ABC4 that someone had called his group and said they had k*illed Bakoles. The person did not give Jensen any other information, though, so he could not find them.
When asked by KSL if they had questioned Chaudoin, Bakoles’ boyfriend, they said no, he was not a suspect or person of interest at the time. The Deseret News reports that police have asked anyone who knew Bakoles or Chaudoin from January to June 2000 to get in touch with them.
In 2012, after Bakoles was found, Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder spoke at a news conference.
He said, “Someone took this pretty girl and left her in the mud.” “We need to know who did it.”
Detective Ben Pender with the Unified Police Department can be reached at 385-468-9816 if you know anything about Bakoles or the case.