Colorado’s crime statistics are relatively low compared to states of similar size, but according to data compiled by Westword last year, the closure rate for cold cases is low in major cities like Denver, and the overall crime rate rose by roughly 10%. Denver Police have closed 19 of 748 cold cases dating back to the 1970s with recent DNA breakthroughs, but some of the state’s most notorious cold cases are still missing victim identification.
In February 1977, the mummified body of a man in Morrison was found in a sleeping bag near Highway 285. Investigators estimated he was a Native American male between 18 and 30 years old and died from blunt force trauma to the head. According to information compiled by The Doe Network, the body was located by hikers, and little is known about the circumstances of his death and identity.
In September 1952, the charred body of a woman was found in Gilpin County “under a seven-foot charred log in an unused gravel pit in the woods,” according to The Doe Network entry. The Doe Network reported a stick with blood on it was found nearby along with a third earring presumably not belonging to the victim. An autopsy showed she suffered blunt force trauma to the head, but it was unclear at what point the fire to her body had been set and whether the fire contributed to her death. The Doe Network noted her case was called the “Pyre Case” and she was sometimes referred to as “Maria.”
In July 1994, partial skeletal remains of a woman were found by hikers near a campground commonly called “Windy Point.” According to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s case entry, the cause of death is unknown, and investigators believed the body was left at the site after her death. CBI said “the woman suffered from temporomandibular join[t] syndrome (TMJ) and scoliosis.”
These cases join roughly 1,800 other cold cases currently being tracked and updated by the CBI in a searchable online database. The Denver Police Department keeps a page on the city website that tracks cold cases by year, and hundreds of entries are logged on it. The page says, “the Cold Case Unit’s motto ‘We Will Never Forget’ is a daily reminder to pursue justice for victims and their families long thought forgotten.”