Moab • Old City Park was quiet Friday morning. Mason jars and empty bottles filled with roses and sunflowers sat atop picnic tables beneath the pavilion.
The sunflowers represented Kylen Schulte, a tall, bright, lover of the outdoors. The roses represented Crystal Turner, Schulte’s leather-clad, hard-nosed, loving companion in life.
The newlyweds were found shot to death Aug. 18, their bodies located in a creek near their campsite in the nearby La Sal Mountains The colorful flowers Friday greeted residents, who slowly found their seats for a memorial and celebration of the couple’s lives.
“Kylen was the greatest thing that ever happened to this dad...” her father, Sean-Paul Schulte, told the crowd of about 70 attendees, many of whom hugged him as they arrived for the event. “Another light came into my life. It was Crystal. I loved her like my own daughter.”
The event marked nearly a month since the women were found dead. It took place the same week that North Port, Florida, police said authorities were investigating a possible link between the double homicide and the disappearance of missing Florida woman Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito, who passed through Moab while on a cross-country road trip her fiance in mid-August. Petito was reported missing on Sept. 11 — 10 days after police said Laundrie returned to Florida alone.
Moab police on Aug. 12 had investigated a “domestic problem” between Petito and her fiance. It was reported outside of Moonflower Community Cooperative in town, where Schulte worked, and did not result in any charges. But an officer opted to separate Petito and Laundrie for the night so they could “relax their emotions,” records state. Authorities have since ruled out any connection between the cases.
No suspect named
Kylen Schulte, 24, and Turner, 38, were last seen leaving Woody’s Tavern on Aug. 13. They were camping in the South Mesa area of the La Sal Mountains when they complained to friends about a “creepy guy” near their campsite who intimidated them. Schulte warned her friends that “if something happens to us, we were murdered,” court filings show.
They were found dead five days later by Moab art collector Cindy Sue Hunter, who had set out on a personal search-and-rescue mission. Hunter knew Kylen Schulte’s father because she had featured his art in her gallery. She was on the phone with him when she found the couple’s car, then one of their bodies, quickly reporting the discovery to the Grand County Sheriff’s Office.
“I want the mayor and sheriff to give the keys of the city to Cindy Sue Hunter, who is the true hero of this story,” Sean-Paul Schulte said after the Friday memorial.
The father also expressed gratitude for the efforts of the Moab Police Department, the Grand County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI, which he hoped would, “swoop in and take over the case,” he said. In an effort to scrounge up more community tips, he set up what he calls a “clue booth” two weeks ago at Swanny Park, which he said has led to some new information.
At the Friday event, the father said there would be no discussion of the couple’s killer. Instead, he told stories about his daughter and Turner as attendees ate hamburgers and listened to live music from Moab musician Gigi Love, who performed an original composition called “Lullaby for Desert Girls.”
“Kylen and Crystal, you were desert girls, swimming in the creek,” she sang. “You were mountain girls with the pines beneath your feet. In this red rock world, living life so sweet.”
Kylen Schulte first met Turner while she was on a hike with her father. Before she moved to Moab with him, she was “shut down,” he said. She had been abused and was experiencing suicidal thoughts, but she had blossomed here at Crystal’s side.
“She told me that moving to Moab saved her life,” her father said.
During the event, Sean-Paul Schulte also imitated Turner’s Arkansas drawl, reminisced about the couple’s treehouse wedding in April and talked about his daughter’s feisty demeanor. He was touched to find that someone had left a sunflower and a rose at her burial site in Billings, Montana, where the Schultes are originally from.
Turner’s family plans to give the Schultes a locket with Turner’s ashes inside, he said, which will be interred with Kylen Schulte’s body someday.
“This is what we needed,” her father said of the memorial. “There was a funeral in Billings, there was a funeral in Hot Springs, [Arkansas]. But Moab didn’t get a chance.”
Along Main Street, posters call for a “full public apology” and “immediate resignation” from Grand County’s District Attorney, Christina Sloan. A photo of Kylen Schulte hugging Turner is featured at the bottom of the flyer.
Sean-Paul Schulte said his daughter was his sunshine, and Turner was his moonbeam.
“Our job now is to keep Crystal and Kylen’s light shining,” he told the crowd.