Accused killer closer to trial
EAGLE — Penny Cunningham believed she was on her way to meet her adopted daughter Traci Cunningham’s fiance and his family, Penny Cunningham’s brother testified Thursday. Instead, Traci Cunningham is accused of driving her mother — a former nun and school teacher who adopted Traci Cunningham at age 14 — to a remote area south of Gypsum and shooting her to death. Traci Cunningham is charged with first degree murder.
In a hearing Thursday, Peter Cunningham said he spoke with his sister as Penny Cunningham and Traci Cunningham were headed west on Interstate 70 from Denver.
“She told me, ‘It looks like I’m going to be a mother-in-law,’” Peter Cunningham said.
That was the last conversation he had with his sister. She was found dead about 15 miles up Gypsum Creek Road south of Gypsum, shot five times. District Attorney Bruce Brown has said Penny Cunningham was shot in the back.
The fiance, referred to as Bear, might not exist, said Brown. He thought Traci Cunningham was sending text messages to her mother’s phone as though they were from Bear.
What Traci told police
When she was arrested, Traci Cunningham, 28, told police that she and her mother were on their way to Grand Junction to hike and take photographs. Traci Cunningham and Penny Cunningham drove up Gypsum Creek Road south of Gypsum and were arguing as they went. About 15.2 miles up the road, Traci Cunningham stopped the car and Penny Cunningham got out and started walking up the road. Traci Cunningham told police she went into the back of the car to look for beef jerky. Instead of beef jerky, she told police she “encountered” a Springfield XDM 9 mm handgun that Traci Cunningham said Penny Cunningham brought along.
Traci Cunningham told police that she picked up the handgun, walked up the road and then “everything goes black.” The next thing she saw was her mother on the ground and handgun in her left hand. She said rolled her mother over and checked her neck for a pulse, then checked her cell phone and found she had no service.
Traci Cunningham told police she ran back to the car and drove home to Aurora, “pretending it was a bad dream.” She was arrested two days later outside an Aurora deli, not far from her and Penny Cunningham’s home. When police searched the home they found the firearm allegedly used in the shooting, as well as several of Penny Cunningham’s credit cards.
Barbara Jean Lundy was Penny Cunningham and Traci Cunningham’s neighbor for 10 years, and said they were good friends. She testified in Thursday’s hearing that she was trying to help Traci Cunningham find government benefits to help her get on her feet. Lundy said Penny Cunningham and Traci Cunningham had been having conflicts, and Penny Cunningham considered Traci Cunningham to be homeless and was allowing Traci Cunningham to live there. Penny Cunningham was frustrated after realizing Traci Cunningham was not looking for a job, she said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.