The woman who discovered the bodies of a newly married couple in Moab, Utah, last summer says police recently told her she had begun to doubt her story — until Wednesday night, when authorities publicly identified someone else as a suspect identified.
Meanwhile, Cindy Sue Hunter lived in constant fear of being blamed for something she didn’t do and became an outcast in her neighborhood, she told The Daily Beast on Thursday.
Hunter, 64, found the remains of Kylen Schulte, 24, and Crystal Beck, 38, four days after they disappeared in the La Sal Mountains last August. The two, who previously told friends they were startled by a “creepy” guy they encountered while camping in the area, had been shot dead. The shocking double homicide made national headlines and enraged Moab’s 5,200 residents. It was a particularly heartbreaking loss for Schulte’s parents, who lost a teenage son to gunfire back in 2015.
Hunter first met Schulte the following year and had become friends with her father, Sean-Paul. After the two disappeared, Hunter said she was frustrated by what she saw as lax search-and-rescue efforts by law enforcement. So she went alone to look for the women.
Hunter started out at McDonald’s, where Beck worked and where she and Schulte parked their trailer. As she told The Daily Beast at the time, Hunter “wanted to feel their energy and get a sense of where they were.” She then drove into the mountains, driving around for several hours while “talking loudly to the girls, begging them to give me a sign.” As she meandered through the wilderness, Hunter described feeling something she couldn’t quite explain.
“As I was about to turn onto Lake Warner, I didn’t want to say I had voices in my head, but I was told, ‘Go straight ahead and hurry,'” she said. “It kept repeating itself. I’m driving towards Sand Flats Road and out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash of silver between the trees and I saw a campground on a tricky little side street. Very easy to miss. And that’s when I found her car.”
The story goes on
Footage shows the last time the camping couple who were killed was seen alive
Hunter then tripped over Schulte’s body and ran back to her car. She locked the doors and called the police. When officers arrived, they found Beck’s remains, according to Hunter.
As a result, Hunter was hailed as a hero by the community for locating the women and bringing a semblance of closure to their families. But her small art supply store couldn’t survive the pandemic, and Hunter was forced to close and move out of town. Then, a week after moving to a new place, her life really took a turn.
“They served me an arrest warrant last month and told me I was a suspect,” Hunter told The Daily Beast. “It frightened me so much I felt like I was being blamed for that damn murder.”
Three truckloads of deputies from the Grand County Sheriff’s Office showed up at Hunter’s new home and dropped a bomb on her, she recalled.
“They said my story kept changing, which wasn’t the case,” said Hunter, who said she took a picture of the crime scene with her cellphone to officially document her discovery. “They said my phone pinged up there [near the murder scene], and I said, of course — I told them that I go for a walk up there several times a week in the summer… They told me it’s not common for people to take pictures at a crime scene. So they thought I might be hiding something. That’s basically what they told me.”
Hunter, whose phone was confiscated by deputies, said she was treated “horribly” and is considering suing the sheriff’s office over the surreal turn of events.
“All I did was find her, and based on the way I found her, that made me a suspect,” Hunter said Thursday. “You don’t believe in [the] supernatural. I found her in a way that didn’t make sense to her, so that made me a suspect.”
Yesterday, Grand County authorities identified 45-year-old hitman Adam Pinkusiewicz as the suspected killer.
Pinkusiewicz, who died by suicide in September, worked at the same McDonald’s as Beck, according to Grand County Sheriff Steven White. In a statement, White said Pinkusiewicz was “in La Sals and Moab at the time of the killings” and fled the state shortly thereafter. Before his death, Pinkusiewicz “told another party that he had killed two women in Utah and provided specific details known only to investigators,” White said in a statement, adding that the investigation is still open.
Since the assassination of his daughter, Sean-Paul Schulte has had a presence in Moab and has manned a “hint booth” to get all sorts of tips from people. He told a local radio station that he first heard the name Pinkusiewicz “months ago” as “one of many persons of interest,” but that detectives were unable to locate him. Pinkusiewicz was finally identified as a suspect on May 11, just days after reality TV star Dog the Bounty Hunter showed up to assist investigators.
Investigators continue to process “critical and newly discovered evidence” in the case, including Pinkusiewicz’s 2007 Toyota Yaris, which authorities recently located and seized, White said in his statement. But Hunter still feels stung by the police, who haven’t told her she’s been released yet. As a result, she has a hard time feeling any sense of isolation, and is reluctant to take the sheriff’s announcement at face value.
“I’m struggling with this because if I hadn’t been arrested as a suspect I would be delighted, over the moon,” Hunter told The Daily Beast.
As it is, she said she would “question how it was handled.”
“They didn’t have any answers for us until Dog came to town,” Hunter continued. “We’ve been waiting for answers every nine months, and then Dog comes into town and [suddenly] You know who did it? I hope it was him and that he’s dead and we don’t have to deal with that monster anymore. But I struggle with the fact that they knew [it was him]…and let’s just dangle out here.”
The Grand County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s requests for comment.
Hunter described the past month as “hell on earth” and said she desperately hopes things will get better for her now. Her new neighbors, who had greeted her warmly at first, suddenly went freezing cold when they saw MPs pull up and “surround” their house, she said.
“I’ve moved and was supposed to start a new life,” Hunter explained. “And [when the police came], all the neighbors saw it, and no one will talk to me now. Before that happened, people would come to my door, give me their phone numbers, and welcome me to the neighborhood. Neither of them answer the phone or call back. They no longer wave. It definitely hurt me.”
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