Gerald Hicker was arrested Wednesday at his home in Tacoma, Wash., in the death of 21-year-old Barbara Jean Rocky, whom he first reported missing when they both attended the university, Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder said.
Hicker was charged with murder in Utah. Bail was set at $1 million at his arraignment Thursday. A defense attorney, Lisa Contris, was not available for comment.
"We're thrilled that Ms. Barbara Jean Rocky finally has justice," Winder said at a news conference Thursday.
Sorenson Lab recently told investigators that Hicker's DNA matched human tissue found in soil under Rocky's body in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Winder said.
The body of Rocky, who was from the San Francisco Bay area, was discovered by a utility worker in March 1974. The weapon has not been recovered, but investigators believe she was shot with her own gun. No motive was disclosed during the sheriff's news conference.
Rocky's mother, Olga Rocky, 81, of Palo Alto, Calif., thanked investigators in a statement issued through a family friend.
"I only wish my late husband, Gene Rocky, were here to realize that there is justice in the world," she said.
It was not immediately clear how investigators obtained Hicker's DNA decades ago. Detective Todd Park, who pursued the cold case for seven years, was in Washington and was unavailable for comment.
Hicker refused to be interviewed a year ago and declined to speak to police after his arrest at his residence, sheriff's Sgt. Kris Ownby said.
He was arraigned in Pierce County Superior Court on a Washington state fugitive charge. That will be dropped when he is sent to Utah to face the murder charge, a process that could take a few months if Hicker resists extradition, prosecutor Philip Sorensen said in Tacoma.
Hicker's next court date is Dec. 6.