Last Vail murder was in 1979 |

Last Vail murder was in 1979

VAIL, Colorado – Before the Sandbar shooting earlier this month, Vail hadn’t seen a homicide in nearly 30 years, according to police records compiled by the town of Vail.

In December 1979, Steve Kirby, 28, was beaten to death with a claw hammer, and his roommate, James Heintze, was found guilty of second-degree murder a year later.

The roommates met when Kirby solicited Heintze for prostitution in Denver, police said. Kirby invited Heintze, who needed a job and had a drug problem, to come live with him in Vail, police said.

Heintze said he was uncomfortable with the arrangement, but went with Kirby to Vail out of desperation, according to police.

They had been living together for two weeks when Heintze awoke from a nap to find Kirby making sexual advances toward him, police said.

After pushing and punching Kirby, Heintze ran to the kitchen, grabbed a hammer and hit Kirby 10 to 20 times in the head, shoulders and chest with the hammer, police said.

Heintze turned himself in in Denver three days later. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison and was granted parole in 1986.

In April 1979, Peter Strohecker, 53, shot his estranged wife, Martha, 53, and her companion, Tom Green, 54, at the intersection of Vail and Willow roads.

Martha Strohecker, who was shot twice, died, while Green, who was shot once in the stomach, survived. Peter Strohecker shot and killed himself moments after the shooting.

The Stroheckers were from Evergreen, and Green was from Arvada. Martha Strohecker and Tom Green had come to Vail for a weekend of skiing.

They were retuning to their hotel after dinner and an evening of dancing when they were confronted by Peter Strohecker. An argument ensued, and Peter Strohecker fired two shots into the pavement before turning the gun on his wife and then Green.

Strohecker was under a restraining order to stay away from his wife, police said. The court required him to give up his gun, but he apparently bought another before coming to Vail, police said.

In 1975, Julie Cunningham, 26, was reported missing after she didn’t show up for her job at ski school. According to police, she was seen the night before around town with a man she referred to as “Ted.”

Seven months later, investigators learned of a man named Theodore “Ted” Bundy being held in Utah on charges of aggravated kidnapping and attempted murder. Bundy became the prime suspect in the Cunningham case.

After escaping from jails in Aspen and Glenwood Springs, he went to Florida, where he was eventually captured, convicted and sentenced to death.

Bundy is believed to have murdered many women across the country.

Shortly before Bundy was executed in 1989, a Vail detective flew to Florida to interview him. Bundy confessed to the abduction and murder of Cunningham and said her body was in an area north of Rifle. Her remains have never been found.

In 1971, James Webb, 23, and Ben McCartt, 52, got into an altercation at the intersection of Bridge Street and Gore Creek Drive, records show. McCartt noticed Webb picking a flower from a planter and said he shouldn’t pick flowers, police said. Webb hit McCartt in the face and then picked him up from the waist and dropped him on his head, according to police.

McCartt was treated at the Vail Clinic and released. Shortly thereafter, McCartt suffered complications and died due to head trauma, police said.

Webb was later charged with voluntary manslaughter, records show. The outcome of the case was not available from Eagle County Court, the town of Vail said.

Earlier this month, Gary Bruce Kitching, 70, a Carbondale physician, was killed in a shooting at the Sandbar in West Vail. Three others were injured.

Vail resident Richard “Rossi” Moreau is being held as a suspect, and prosecutors expect to charge him in the shooting Monday.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 970-748-2929 or

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