VAIL — The skeletal remains found in a Lionshead construction site are a Caucasian male, so they’re not the missing victim of a serial killer.
Juile Cunningham, therefore, remains Vail’s only cold case. She was abducted and killed March 15, 1975, by serial killer Ted Bundy. Cunningham was a 26-year-old Vail ski instructor when Bundy kidnapped and killed her. In his execution-day confession, Jan. 24, 1989, he told Vail Police Detective Matt Lindvall that he had buried Cunningham’s body in Rifle.
Her body has never been found.
This week, Lindvall said the chances were slim that the body was Cunningham’s, pointing out that even in a bad snow year the ground in that area is frozen and snow covered.
And so, the bone detectives examining the remains keep at their task, led by Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis and Dr. Melissa Connor with Colorado Mesa University. Connor is an archaeologist cross-trained in forensic anthropology, and forensic pathologist Dr. Rob Kurtzman is also assisting.
They’ll determine age, sex and anomalies in the bones — anything that should not appear in the bones such as evidence of blunt force trauma and gun shot wounds. Dental records and DNA are a big help.
Among other tools, they’ll use NaMus, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. Missing persons and unidentified bodies both go into the NaMus system.
How they determine it
Approximately 70 percent of the skeletal structure has been recovered from the dirt collected from a Lionshead construction site. The initial discovery, a femur, was made June 26. That triggered an investigation that was joined Saturday by a team of recovery dogs.
Bettis said the presumptive determination — that the bones are from a Caucasian male — is based on skeletal characteristics of the skull, pelvis and femoral head.
The dirt originated from the excavation of a utility easement at the Lionshead Inn redevelopment site, 705 W. Lionshead Circle in Vail.
Construction at the Lionshead Inn redevelopment project resumed Monday. According to town of Vail records, utilities were originally installed at the site in 1967. Since then, numerous permits for work within the easement have been processed.
Investigators will continue their work to determine the age of the bones and positive identification, as well as cause and manner of death. The investigation is expected to take several weeks.
A final search of the Edwards site is planned for next week, Bettis said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.