SALT LAKE CITY — Co-workers say Baleigh Bagshaw not only always had a smile on her face, but she was a hard worker and very responsible.
“She was really sweet,” said Gwendolyn Robinson. “She worked very hard. She was a good girl.”
If the 15-year-old was going to be late for work, she would always call, her co-workers at Leatherby’s Family Creamery said. Even on Monday, her mother called to inform the store that Baleigh wouldn’t be coming in because of a family “emergency,” said Diana Ngyeun, who co-owns the store with her sister, Robinson.
It wasn’t until Tuesday that employees learned Baleigh had been attacked and killed inside her home after she came home from school.
“I found out the news this morning and I’m devastated,” Robinson said while fighting tears. “I expect her to be walking into work still. It’s not computing. … She’s always walking through that door and I’ll be expecting her tonight. And she’s not going to show up.”
Baleigh arrived home, 1624 W. 500 North, from West High School just after 3 p.m. Monday and, responsible as always, called her mother to check in.
She was speaking with her mom when a man began assaulting her.
“While she was on the phone with her mother, she was brutally attacked while inside of her home. Her mother heard the attack going on and then the phone went dead. At that time, the mother called a neighbor to go check on Baleigh,” Salt Lake Police Sgt. Brandon Shearer said.
“I can’t even guess what the mother would be going through right now. Our hearts and thoughts are with her.”
Shearer called it a “very violent attack,” but police have not yet said how she died or if any weapons were involved. It was unknown Tuesday if the person who attacked Baleigh was already inside the house when she arrived at home or if he came in after.
Police did not release any information about what Baleigh may have told her mother while on the phone or whether her mother heard anything that could identify the attacker. When asked if Baleigh identified the man while on the phone, Shearer said, “Not that I’m aware of.”
Police continued a nationwide search Tuesday for Shaun French, 24, whom they are calling a person of interest. Shearer said French should be considered “armed and dangerous.”
Investigators declined to say Tuesday how French and Baleigh knew each other. “He definitely has a connection with Baleigh and the family,” Shearer noted, “so it wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary for him to be in the area.”
Police would not confirm Tuesday whether French used to live with Baleigh and her family. But court records from 2017 list the home where the killing occurred as French’s home address. Shearer did not know of any prior threats French may have made against Baleigh or her family.
Detectives believe French may be driving a 1991 Daihatsu Rocky SUV with Wyoming plate 1913974. The camouflage-green paint job makes the car stand out, police said. They believe French may be traveling on I-80 to either Evanston, Wyoming; the Denver area; or Cleveland, Ohio. Shearer said French has family or contacts in each of those places.
Investigators finished collecting evidence from inside the Salt Lake house on Tuesday. Bags and boxes of evidence sat on the driveway Tuesday morning waiting to be taken to the Utah State Crime Lab. Shearer said evidence in this case was “widely spread throughout the home and the area.”
French does not have any signficant criminal history in Utah. According to his Facebook page, he worked at Intermountain Plantings Inc. and went to high school in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.
Baleigh had worked at Leatherby’s for a little over a year, according to her co-workers, who on Tuesday recalled her “bubbly” personality. She worked hard, Ngyeun said, and then was known to enjoy a hot fudge brownie.
“She’s amazing. We love her a lot,” she said.
Tributes filled social media as word of Baleigh’s death spread.
“I remember you were the shy new girl at Northwest, and when I approached you, you were so sweet. My prayers go out to you and your family,” one girl wrote. “Your smile was contagious and even if you didn’t know me, you were so nice to me. I hope they catch whoever did this, justice will be served. Rest easy love.”
Some mentioned that Baleigh was part of the dog show community, including the Great Basin Non-Sporting Group.
“It is with the heaviest heart that I inform our dog show community and friends of the tragic loss of Baleigh Bagshaw,” one woman posted. “I know that all of us will have Shawna and her family and close friends in our thoughts and prayers through this most difficult time.”
“You will always be in my heart! Love you more than words can express. R.I.P. Baleigh Bagshaw,” wrote another woman.
Contributing: Alex Cabrero