St. George man charged, extradited to Texas in connection with 1986 murder

Stock photo by Matt Gush/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A St. George man has been arrested by the Texas Rangers in connection with the slaying of a Texas man that took place more than three decades ago – an arrest that garnered the assistance of the St. George Police Department and the Utah Department of Public Safety.

The Comal County Sheriff’s Office in Texas announced Monday that two men have been charged in connection with a 1986 murder in Texas: Tracey Keith Loy, 56, of St. George, and Mark Gatten, 57, of Quaker City, Ohio.

Each faces one count of murder following formal charges that were filed by the Criminal District Attorney’s Office in Comal County, Texas.

Loy was arrested May 9 in St. George and returned to Texas last month, according to the statement.

The Texas Department of Public Safety also obtained an arrest warrant for the second suspect in the case, Gatten, and jail records reveal the suspect was arrested and booked into the Guernsey County Jail in Cambridge, Ohio, on May 26. At the time of the report, he was in custody awaiting extradition to Texas.

Tracey Keith Loy, 56, location and date unspecified | Bookings photo courtesy of the Comal County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

The arrests stem from an investigation into the 1986 slaying of Charles Hardin, who was 56 at the time he was killed, at a camping area near Canyon Lake, Texas, a town about 40 miles northeast of San Antonio. His body was discovered by Comal County Sheriff’s deputies on Aug. 26, 1986. Once the autopsy was performed, the death was ruled as a homicide, according to the statement.

The case went cold for more than 30 years. But in March, the Texas Rangers were asked to assist in reviewing the cold case investigation. During this time, they resubmitted evidence obtained during the initial investigation that had been stored away in the Department of Public Safety crime lab in Austin, Texas, to conduct additional forensic analysis.

The results of the analysis helped to break the case wide open.

Through the course of the investigation, both suspects were ultimately identified as persons of interest in the case. In March, Texas Ranger Joshua Ray located Loy, who was living in St. George. Following an interview in Utah on May 9, the suspect was arrested and booked into Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility, according to the release.

He was then extradited back to Texas three weeks later and has remained in the custody of the Comal County Jail, located in New Braunfels, Texas, on $80,000 bail.

Mark Gatten, 57, of Quaker City, Ohio, booking photo taken in Cambridge, Ohio, May 26, 2021 | Photo courtesy of the Guernsey County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

The investigation into the case is ongoing and no further details have been released by the Comal County Sheriff’s Office, the original investigating agency. An emailed response to a request for comment sent to the Texas Rangers said the inquiry is being looked into and then referred to the agency’s social media site for any further details.

St. George News reached out to Chris Lykins with the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung, a local news agency in Texas. Lykins said they have been covering the case from the beginning, and an article the Heral-Zeitung published Tuesday provided details of the investigation gleaned from a review of reports and other information the news agency has archived over the years.

According to the article, Hardin, the man who was killed, was found by campers who reportedly said his partially decomposed body was inside a tent “bound hand and foot with strips of a bed sheet around his neck.” 

Two sheriff’s deputies responded to the call on the morning of Aug. 26, who said at the time that the state of the body led them to theorize the death was not from natural causes.

An autopsy would later reveal the man had been dead for nearly a week before the body was discovered and the death was ruled a homicide by asphyxiation.

Two days later, authorities released a composite sketch of one of the suspects to the public, and the following month a reward was offered for any information that would assist in the investigation. Detectives were also seeking information on a vehicle, a 1983 or 1984 Chevrolet Celebrity sedan, that was seen near the campsite on the day before Hardin’s body was discovered.

This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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