(BONUS) The Campers

Park Predators Season 2 has wrapped, but Delia is bringing listeners one more story…an active murder mystery in Utah that has outdoor enthusiasts and the world wondering who shot two women in their campsite in August 2021? The FBI and state police are working tirelessly to catch a killer that is still lurking in the La Sal Mountains.

The Episode

Hi park enthusiasts, I’m your host Delia D’Ambra…

I know the summer has come to an end and all of season two’s 15 episodes are out for you to catch up on or binge, along with all the episodes from season one, but I couldn’t help but put out one more story on this feed.

It’s a harrowing tale that’s details are literally developing in real-time. It’s a story that hundreds of you sent me links to suggesting I feature it as a future episode.

The recent August 2021 murders of newlyweds, Kylen Schulte and Crystal Turner in Moab, Utah have been all over national headlines.

These women were enjoying the best part of their lives, enjoying those amazing first few months of their honeymoon phase when they were brutally killed in the wilderness of the La Sal Mountains by someone who is STILL at large.

This episode is not going to be nearly as long as the ones you normally hear on Park Predators, mostly because the mystery is still unraveling and there is still so much information, we don’t know…but I wanted to use the platform that this show has garnered to get Kylen and Crystal’s story to everyone, so that maybe, just maybe we can help find them some justice…

This is Park Predators.

*Car horns/street traffic*

On Monday morning, August 16th, 2021 workers at a Mcdonald’s in the small town of Moab, Utah noticed that one of their co-workers, Crystal Turner, was a no show for the second day in a row.

Normally Crystal never missed her shift and if she was going to be running late or had something come up, she’d always call. Her missing work the first day was off but her skipping out for a second time, was just straight up out of character for the 38-year-old.

They’d gotten no calls from Crystal…no texts…nothing. Concerned that something bad had happened to her, her coworkers called the Moab City police department and informed officers that she was missing.

According to KSL 5 TV’s reporting, Moab City police took a report about Crystal’s absence and sent a few officers out to a popular camping area about an hour east of the town of Moab called Warner Lake to see if she was there. According to Crystal’s co-workers that was an area, she was known to camp at and had been temporarily living there with her new wife, 24-year-old Kylen Schulte.

Officers searched around the lake and surrounding woods for a few hours but they didn’t find Crystal or Kylen. There was also no sign of their silver Kia or their makeshift van they’d turned into a camper that their friends said they drove.

Something that I think is important to note here is the fact the La Sal Mountain range sits about 2 hours Southeast of Arches National Park and 2 hours Northeast of Canyonlands National Park. It actually spans from Utah over the Colorado border. So, we’re talking about hundreds of miles of mountainous wilderness.

According to American Southwest.net, most of the range is part of the Manti-La Sal National Forest. There are many parts that are remote, but a lot of it is well-known for having a vast network of defined trails and roads. One of which is the 37-mile long La Sal Mountain Loop Road which connects directly to the town of Moab.

A lot of visitors go to these mountains because they offer different kinds of hiking terrain and opportunities for hunting. Some areas of the La Sal Mountains are smooth and easy to trek, while others are steeper and rockier and hug streams and lakes. There are three established campgrounds…one of which is at Warner Lake, where Crystal’s co-workers told Moab Police, she might be.

It’s hard to tell from the research material that’s out there so far on this case…but based on reports I’ve read, after Moab PD made that first pass at trying to locate the women on Monday, nothing really seemed to happen with the case…at least in terms of a full-blown search and rescue operation. A few community volunteers gathered together and set off into the mountains and woods on Monday afternoon and went out again on Tuesday morning…but no formal search was organized by law enforcement.

From Sunday, August 15th to Monday, August 16th the family of Crystal’s wife, Kylen, had also become concerned because they’d not heard from Kylen for a few days. They knew the last time anyone had spoken with her or Crytal was on Friday and Saturday, August 13th and 14th but after that, radio silence.

Kylen who everyone knew by the nickname ‘Ky” was no stranger to exploring, backpacking and hiking. When she was growing up her mother and father, who lived several hours North, near Billings, Montana, often took her on trails in national parks and forest lands as a kid. Her dad, Sean Paul, told news outlets that by the time she was a young adult, Kylen wanted to move to Moab, Utah to live and work near the La Sal Mountains.

Crystal, who some people referred to as Crystal Beck, was originally from Hot Springs, Arkansas and eventually moved to Utah, where she met Kylen in 2019.

After two years of dating, the couple got married in April 2021 in a treehouse in Arkansas and moved to Moab full time in the weeks after tying the knot.

One of their biggest shared interests was a love of the outdoors and spending time together camping in the backcountry or on trails that few people would dare to travel. Alongside them, always, was their pet rabbit.

Kylen’s aunt, a woman named Bridget Calvert, told The Salt Lake Tribune quote– The fact that Kylen found a way to almost always be outdoors was perfect for her and then to find someone that had that same love and passion for life and the outdoors—they just were truly meant to be together.”–end quote.

According to another piece by the Tribune Kylen’s family actually reported her missing on Sunday, August 15th, because just like Crystal, she’d missed a day of work and was unaccounted for. According to multiple news reports, when the Schulte family contacted law enforcement though, they spoke with The Grand County Sheriff’s office, a different department than Moab City Police department, where Crystal’s initial report was filed.

According to Connor Sanders reporting, the sheriff’s office did not initially treat its investigation as a true missing person’s case because they said Kylen and Crystal were both adults and could have just decided to stop contacting family and be out on their own somewhere, unwilling to let others know where they were. Basically, that whole ‘they’re adults and adults can choose to go missing scenario’ that we hear a lot about.

Crystal and Kylen’s families were not convinced that was the case at all. They told police that it made zero sense for both of the women to skip out on their jobs for several days, mostly because they needed the money. Vanishing into thin air without telling anyone was extremely out of character for Crystal and Kylen according to those who knew them.

The biggest red flag to Kylen’s aunt, Bridget Calvert, that something was seriously wrong and the couple had not just chosen to walk away from their lives or go on some big trip without telling anyone, was the fact that they’d left a Harley Davidson motorcycle they owned parked in town.

Bridget told The Salt Lake Tribune that Kylen and Crystal would not under any circumstances just leave that bike sitting alone if they were going to take off.  They would have taken it with them.

Not long after leaving the Sheriff’s office and Moab City Police department empty-handed both women’s families turned to the public and social media for help in searching for them. The tight-knit community in Moab showed up and showed out for Crystal and Kylen.

For four years Kylen had worked at a local grocery store in town called the Moonflower Community Cooperative and Crystal worked at the local McDonalds. Together, the pair made ends meet and had money to get by and do what they loved which was camp and hike. They’d spent a lot of time converting their old van into a mobile camper.

A lot of people in town knew both of them and were extremely concerned that something terrible had happened to them while camping. No one knew for sure what was going on…the two women vanishing could have been a result of an accident, an animal attack, a strange encounter with another hiker. No one knew, but everyone in Moab was aware that the surrounding area was extremely unpredictable and it was going to take every resource to try and find Crystal and Kylen.

According to multiple news reports, the women were living at campgrounds tenting or sleeping in their vehicles, because they couldn’t find affordable housing in the town of Moab. The area is very expensive to rent or buy a house in because it’s a premier tourist destination for people wanting to visit the surrounding national parks. So, it was slim picking as far as homeownership goes for two young newlyweds who worked minimum-wage retail jobs. Instead of buying or leasing, Crystal and Kylen camped wherever they could find a place to pull over and drove to and from their jobs every day. According to their families, the couple preferred camping outside of organized campsite areas where they had more privacy.

Bridget, Kylen’s aunt, quickly became the public face for the Schulte family after the women were reported missing and she started doing press interviews to bring attention to their case. She organized a Facebook page called “Finding Kylen and Crystal” and it was her daily posts on that site that got the attention of one local woman…who felt the need to do more.

According to an article by the Deseret News, a woman named Cindy Sue Hunter, who was from town and owned the Moonflower Community Cooperative where Kylen worked, saw one of the Schulte family’s Facebook posts and took it upon herself to go out with some gear and search for them.

On August 18th, four days after anyone had contact with the missing women, Cindy connected with Kylen’s aunt to get up to speed on what the family knew, which wasn’t much, and learned what kind of vehicle the women would have likely been driving. Then she began driving Southeast of Moab to campsites in the South Mesa region of the La Sal Mountains looking for any sign of Kylen and Crystal’s vehicles which were that makeshift van turned into a camper and a silver Kia.

Around 11:30 am, during one of her solo searches about 15 minutes outside of town, Cindy thought she may have found a vehicle that matched the description of the one that Crystal and Kylen drove, parked in some trees off of La Sal Loop Road.

She’d come to that specific area because she figured she would search a little further away from some of the campsites where the women’s families had said Kylen and Crystal frequented…just in case they’d gone off the beaten path.

*Branches cracking*

And wouldn’t you know it, as Cindy was scoping out the remote areas, she saw something: the glint of silver and gray reflecting from way deep in some trees. She called Kylen’s dad, a man named Sean Paul Schulte as soon as she noticed what she assumed had to be their vehicle. She told Sean that she thought she’d found the car.

As she got closer, she confirmed the vehicle was a silver Kia.

According to The Salt Lake Tribune’s reporting, next to the car Cindy could make out what looked like one woman’s body on the ground. She immediately froze while on the phone with Sean and explained to him what she was seeing and told him that she thought it could be Kylen. Sean Paul told her to hang up with him and dial 911, so that’s what Cindy did.

What’s kind of interesting about Cindy is that according to Connor Sanders’ article for The Salt Lake Tribune, she said she felt motivated to go out on her own and look for Crystal and Kylen as a result of her own mother’s recent death. She told the paper that she felt guided by her mother on the day that she discovered the victims.

Right after Cindy called in the location of the gruesome scene, Grand County deputies arrived and started processing it for clues and evidence. According to The Advocate, it didn’t take them long before they discovered the remains of a second woman’s body not far from the Kia. They eventually removed the two bodies and sent them to the state medical examiner’s office for autopsies.

The next day, the doctor’s preliminary findings came back and determined that both victims had been shot to death. The case was now officially being investigated as a double homicide.

On Wednesday, August 18th, the Grand County Sheriff’s office announced what so many people in Moab were assuming at that point which was that the official IDs of the two women Cindy had found were Crystal and Kylen.

A spokesman for the department said at the press conference that based on the evidence found at the scene investigators did NOT believe the women’s death were a result of a murder-suicide. Authorities felt certain that Kylen and Crystal had been killed by a third person. They didn’t go into detail about what kind of firearm had been used in the slaying or if any shell casings were found.

What was kind of strange is that at the end of the press conference announcement, the sheriff’s office said they did not think anyone in the public was in danger, or at least no one should feel like there was a current threat of danger at large in the Grand County area.

Kylen and Crystal’s families were kind of put off by this statement because here they were dealing with the violent murders of two of their loved ones…and local law enforcement was basically telling everyone, ‘Hey, nothing to be afraid of in our county’

It definitely rubbed a lot of people the wrong way and some folks in town, including Kylen’s family members from out of state, said they felt like the police were downplaying the murders because they’d happened during the area’s peak travel and tourism season.

Law enforcement vehemently denied those allegations and said they were doing everything they could to bring the women’s killer or killers to justice. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I can only assume that what authorities meant by their statement was that they felt certain what had happened to Crystal and Kylen was isolated to the location they were in or perhaps a situation they encountered that turned violent.

But on the other hand, let’s be honest, police are never going to fuel any hint of public hysteria that a backcountry human predator could be on the loose and might strike again.

To help get their investigation moving through with more resources and personnel, the sheriff’s office called in the FBI and the Utah Special Bureau of Investigation to assist in the double homicide. According to an interview Grand County Sheriff Steve White did with KXLH news, he said Kylen and Crystal’s case was the first double homicide the Grand County Sheriff’s office had ever worked.

A spokesman for the department said that from 2020 until 2021, Grand County sheriff’s detectives had investigated three suspicious unattended deaths in the region. In all of those cases, the medical examiner determined those deaths were NOT murders.

I have to think the sheriff’s office specifically addressed these cases because they wanted the public to know that they did not think for a second that there was some killer out there who was picking off people in the La Sal Mountains. They wanted to squash any rumor or notion that previous suspicious deaths were somehow tied to Crystal and Kylen.

Steve White went on in his interview with KXLH news to explain why there had been so much confusion early on in the investigation when the women were still just missing adults.

He said that what many people perceived as law enforcement’s lack of motivation to properly investigate the women’s disappearance in the initial first few days was not what it seemed. He said that when the original information came in from the victims’ families and missing persons reports were filed. City police and the county sheriff had lag time in getting their information in sync.

He assured the public that Moab City police officers did go into the mountains and look around near Warner Lake for the women on August 16th, but didn’t find anything. After that, it took time to get both agencies on the same page.

Regardless of what information came into which agency and when…the first piece of information authorities learned once they were on the same page that helped them narrow in a timeline for what happened to the women came from witnesses who said they’d seen Kylen and Crystal leaving a restaurant called Woody’s in the town of Moab on Friday night August 13th around 9:30 pm and they were driving their silver Kia.

According to KXLH news, later that night Kylen and Crystal called some of their friends and family members to let them know that they were worried about a situation at their current campsite.

An article by the Washington Post says that Kylen and Crystal told their friends on Friday night in-person at Woody’s restaurant while having drinks that they were concerned about a strange man next to their campsite who given them the creeps.

Because some reports say they told friends this over the phone and then others reported they told their family members as well on the phone, I’m not sure if it’s a combination of both things. They told some people in person, and then later spoke with family members on their phones and mentioned the same thing. It’s hard to tell.

But either way, in those conversations, both women expressed that they were planning to move to a new campsite the following day to get away from the creepy guy that was freaking them out.

Obviously, that piece of information was critical for law enforcement working to solve the case. The fact that the victims indicated they were afraid or at least concerned about their safety was a major lead that investigators desperately needed to dig into more.

The only problem was, there was nothing else to go along with it…at least not that we know of.

When I first read that bit of information about what Kylen and Crystal had told people about, my burning questions were. Okay, did they get any photos of this mystery person? Do their cell phones contain anything helpful? Were there any other hikers or campers near them on August 13th and 14th who noticed the same man?

The answers to all of those questions are, we just don’t know. It’s information that the FBI and the state police and Grand County Sheriff’s Office I’m sure are combing through right now. There’s a big part of me that hopes Kylen and Crystal did everything possible to identify that person if he’s responsible for their deaths.

According to the Washington Post, four days after Grand County Sheriff’s Office announced that Crystal and Kylen had been murdered the San Miguel County Sheriff’s office just across the Colorado border sent out a warning to campers to be on high alert.

This message was a result of authorities in Telluride, Colorado, a city about two and half hours from Moab, finding a cache of more than 30 weapons at a man’s campsite in that area. Now, there’s no way for us to know if this bust and weapons discovery has anything to do with what happened to Crystal and Kylen and police have never confirmed that, but clearly there is a heightened sense of caution throughout rural counties in the Western United States in light of what’s happened.

What investigators in Utah have been left to do, among many things, is continue to search the woods and mountains near where Crystal and Kylen were found. The sheriff’s office has sent out extra patrols and there are still deputies working long hours going out on foot trying to find hikers or anyone who might have seen or heard something the weekend of August 14th.

What has materialized from those efforts is still information that investigators are keeping tight-lipped about, but to date, no suspects have been identified.

No one tasked with officially investigating the case has come out with any information supporting the idea that the women were targeted because of their sexual orientation. Some online forums and social media posts have suggested whoever murdered Kylen and Crystal could have been specifically targeting them because they were lesbians, but no evidence so far has proven that that is the case…or at least authorities have not said that.

It’s hard to know what exactly happened out there in the woods back in early August. I have so many questions about this case, but I think the biggest thing that strikes me is that both of these victims were alert enough to recognize that someone near them at their campsite was not acting normally and they made sure to vocalize their concerns to their friends and family before their deaths.

They had the presence of mind to know when danger could be lurking in a vulnerable situation and made plans to get out of the situation as soon as they could.

That is an instinct I preach a lot about on this show: to know your surroundings, read the people you have interactions with and assess how to remove yourself from potential danger.

I think Crystal and Kylen had every intention of doing that. They just didn’t get the chance, before violence befell them. It’s heartbreaking.

The Schulte family has seen their fair share of tragedy up until this point. According to Connor Sanders reporting, the family lost one of Kylen’s younger brothers in 2015 to an accidental gunshot incident. Kylen’s murder has only compounded their pain.

As both families grieve, they’ve set up fundraisers to help pay for the costs of transporting Kylen and Crystal’s remains to their final resting places in Montana and Arkansas. Bridget Calvert changed the name of the “Finding Kylen and Crystal” Facebook page to “Justice for Kylen and Crystal” after it became clear the women were no longer missing but murdered.

Right now, this story is still unfolding and law enforcement is actively working to find and arrest whoever did this to Crystal and Kylen.

If you have any information or saw anything between August 13th and 18th that might help police, please call the Grand County Sheriff’s Office at 435-259-8115.

Park Predators is an Audiochuck Original Podcast.

Research and writing by Delia D’Ambra with writing assistance from executive producer Ashley Flowers.

Sound design by David Flowers.

You can find all of the source material for this episode on our website, Parkpredators.com.

So what do you think, Chuck? Do you approve? *howl*