BUENA VISTA, Colo. – Authorities announced Thursday that a 39-year-old cold case murder has been solved, but the accused suspect will never spend a day in prison because he’s been dead for 35 years.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation reopened the murder case of Audrey Hurtado, 17, in 2009. She was stabbed to death and her body left in a Buena Vista field in July 1977. She had gone on a walk, but never returned. Hurtado’s body was found three days later.
Buena Vista police and the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Department were among the agencies that worked to eventually identify 80 possible suspects, who were all investigated.
A 15-year-old boy who was visiting Buena Vista from California at the time, whom investigators have identified only as “C.K.,” was among the suspects because he had stolen a knife similar to the one believed to be used in the murder from a store that week.
C.K. was staying at a home just one block from Hurtado’s sister’s house, with whom she was staying at the time.
Investigators never found enough evidence to file charges against C.K., and he was killed in a motorcycle crash in California in 1981.
But law enforcement officers investigating the case at the time were able to collect biological samples from Hurtado and another person whose DNA was found other her fingernails. Buena Vista police said the sample collection was “exemplary” police work considering DNA testing was not available in 1977.
The samples collected from underneath Hurtado’s fingernails were tested with new DNA technology, and when cross-examined with DNA samples from members of C.K.’s family, investigators matched the DNA to C.K.
Buena Vista police say the match was presented to the Chaffee County District Attorney, who determined the case was solved.
CBI agents have since met with Hurtado’s family members to tell them about who her killer was and how they identified him.