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Suspect Arrested in 21 Year Old Cold Case

On Tuesday March 14th, FBI agents arrested Miguel Urbano-Vazquez for the 2002 Murder of Sharon Van Gilder and for three violent rapes that occurred in the city of Tacoma. Our Cold Case Detective Sergeant, Lynelle Anderson, has spent years waiting for Urbano-Vazquez to be located and once he was found we began the process to extradite him back to Washington to stand trial for his crimes.

In March 2002, Sharon’s body was found unclothed on the side of the road at the 15600 block of 74th Ave E. There was no evidence left at the scene and no marks on her body. Detectives believed this crime occurred at another location and had very little information at the start of this case. The medical Examiner’s office identified Sharon by matching her fingerprints. When detectives spoke to witnesses at a bar in Tacoma they discovered she was last seen leaving with the man who would be our main suspect in this murder. Unfortunately, as we were investigating the homicide the suspect fled to Mexico. We were unable to obtain a DNA profile from him to match the DNA profile found on our victim.

Sharon Van Gilder had several siblings and grew up in the Enumclaw area. She was a mother to a son and a daughter. Sharon was well liked and people that knew her felt like there was a tremendous loss in this world.

In 2012 the Cold Case Unit was created.  Now retired, Detective Sergeant Tim Kobel looked at this case and discovered three rapes that occurred in the city of Tacoma around the same time as our homicide. The suspect in those cases was the same as the man last seen with Sharon when she left a bar in Tacoma.

Det. Sgt. Kobel sent the DNA results from our case to be compared to the three rapes in Tacoma. The DNA profile of the offender matched on all 4 cases. Tacoma Detectives had probable cause to arrest Miguel Urbano-Vazquez and now we had enough evidence to arrest him for our homicide. The Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office filed charges against Urbano-Vazquez and issued a warrant for his arrest. Unfortunately we were unable to locate him, knowing he had fled to Mexico.

In 2019, the FBI notified Det. Sgt. Anderson they had located our suspect in Mexico. Det. Sgt. Anderson applied for extradition paperwork to have a warrant for extradition to detain and deport our suspect from Mexico.

In 2023, the paper work was all processed and the FBI along with the help of the Mexican authorities arrested Miguel Urbano-Vazquez for the murder of Sharon Van Gilder.

This was a long process and there is still more time before he is brought back to Pierce County Washington for his trial. But today we have taken a big step in a direction towards getting justice for Sharon and her family.