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'A weirdo camping near them': Couple murdered while camping in Utah near Arches National Park

The Spectrum (St. George) logo The Spectrum (St. George) 8/24/2021 K. Sophie Will, St. George Spectrum & Daily News
a person standing next to a fence: Crystal Turner and Kylen Schulte were found dead in an apparent murder near Moab, Utah while camping on August 18, 2021. © GoFundMe Crystal Turner and Kylen Schulte were found dead in an apparent murder near Moab, Utah while camping on August 18, 2021.

Two recently-married Utah women were found dead from gunshot wounds after reports of a "weirdo camping near them" and a four-day search in Moab, Utah, about an hour away from Arches National Park.

On Wednesday, 38-year-old Crystal Turner and 24-year-old Kylen Schulte were found by a family friend in the South Mesa area of La Sal Loop Road where they had been camping. 

Schulte and Turner went missing Aug. 14, four days before they were found dead from gunshot wounds, according to the Grand County Sheriff's Office.

On Tuesday, Schulte's father posted on Facebook that they hadn't been to work, hadn't called, were not in the hospital and were not in jail. 

"Kylen and Crystal told close friends that there was a weirdo camping near them that was freaking them out !!! And that they should move campsites. Now they have been missing for over 4 days and nights!" Sean-Paul Schulte posted early Wednesday morning.

graphical user interface: Crystal Turner and Kylen Schulte were found dead in an apparent murder near Moab, Utah while camping on August 18, 2021. © Kylen Schulte's Facebook Crystal Turner and Kylen Schulte were found dead in an apparent murder near Moab, Utah while camping on August 18, 2021.

A friend named Cindy Sue Hunter posted on Facebook that "the desperation of your pleas for help on [Facebook], and the presence of your voice over the phone gave me the strength and courage needed to find them."

The couple's bodies were transported to the Medical Examiner's Office, which determined the cause of death as gunshot wounds, the Sheriff's Office said.

A friend found them

Hunter was prepared to rescue the two women, her friends, from anything when she left early Wednesday morning. 

But by the afternoon, she left grieving.

The 64-year-old had come to know Turner and Schulte and their family from her days as an arts and crafts store owner. 

So when she saw Schulte's father, Sean-Paul Schulte, begging for help finding his missing daughter on Facebook who had been missing for four days, Hunter packed up her car and set out to do whatever she could.

"I think the police might have missed something. I don't know what I can do but I'm going to go and I'm going to find your girls," Hunter said in an interview on Monday, recalling her thought process as she left on her search.

She checked the McDonald's where their van they had been living in and their Harley motorcycle had been located. She checked remote roads, looked over cliffs and hiked as much as she could, feeling a deep sense of urgency.

The couple, originally from Arkansas and Montana, respectively, were married just four months ago and lived in a van while working in the Moab area with no family nearby.

Sirpa Lane posing for the camera: Crystal Turner and Kylen Schulte were found dead near Moab, Utah, on Aug. 18. © Sean-Paul Schulte's Facebook Crystal Turner and Kylen Schulte were found dead near Moab, Utah, on Aug. 18.

"They lived in their vehicles. Moab has a shortage of homes," Hunter said.

John Daniel Schulte, Kylen's uncle, said Hunter closed the distance gap for the family, being their eyes and ears on the ground.

"Cindy Sue was treating them more seriously than anyone," John Daniel said to The Spectrum.

Talking to other campers along the way, Hunter followed her intuition until she saw a flash of silver out of the corner of her eye — the couple's silver van.

Rushing over to the remote campsite, Hunter stumbled upon a scene that looked "askew."

Related Facebook post

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"Things didn't look right, the tent door wasn't closed and there were things laying all over the campground," Hunter said. 

She found Schulte's bunny, Ruth, that had run out of food and water and was in her cage.

Hunter immediately called the police and waited. After the police had pinpointed her location, she called Shulte's father.

"In the five-and-a-half years I've lived here, my phone has never worked in those mountains, and it worked in every location that day," Hunter said, saying the La Sal mountains used to be a place of respite for her, though "that's been taken away from me now."

On the phone, she walked further and saw the arms and torso of Shulte, but that's all she needed to see to identify her.

text: Crystal Turner and Kylen Schulte were found dead in an apparent murder near Moab, Utah while camping on August 18, 2021. © Bridget Calvert's Facebook Crystal Turner and Kylen Schulte were found dead in an apparent murder near Moab, Utah while camping on August 18, 2021.

Running back to her car, Hunter locked her doors and drove to the main road, afraid for her safety but not wanting the police to miss the site.

She had remembered the couple had said to relatives that there was a "creeper dude" in their campsite and that they had been afraid.

Hunter thought about what would happen if she was in danger, saying that she swore to herself, teeth chattering, that she would "fight like hell."

According to Hunter and other family members, the police took between 45 minutes and an hour to arrive.

"That made Sean-Paul realize they weren't looking for his daughter. He was very upset," Hunter said.

'He's lost two children to guns'

graphical user interface, application: Crystal Turner and Kylen Schulte were found dead in an apparent murder near Moab, Utah while camping on August 18, 2021. © GoFundMe Crystal Turner and Kylen Schulte were found dead in an apparent murder near Moab, Utah while camping on August 18, 2021.

The Schulte family has lost another family member to gunshot wounds, the GoFundMe said. Mackeon Schulte, Kylen's brother, "was shot and killed by a friend in 2015 at the age of 15."

"To have the same thing happen to Kylen, it throws the universe into such a jumbled random toss of the dice that it makes no sense. It's super tragic and super upsetting, but the fact that it happened to the same family twice, is so crazy," uncle John Daniel Schulte said.

Nearly seven years ago, Kylen Schulte reportedly received her brother's bloody clothes and said, "I can't believe I have to live the rest of my life without him," her uncle said.

Though Kylen has three other half-siblings, Mackeon was her only full-sibling. Now that Kylen's gone, her mother Val has lost both of her children to gun violence.

Hunter said she has agreed to take Sean-Paul Schulte back to the site after the investigation is over.

"When that time comes I'll be prepared to do that for him. He's lost two children to guns," she said.

'Now we fight for justice against their murderer!'

a person standing next to a tree: Crystal Turner and Kylen Schulte were found dead in an apparent murder near Moab, Utah while camping on August 18, 2021. © Facebook Crystal Turner and Kylen Schulte were found dead in an apparent murder near Moab, Utah while camping on August 18, 2021.

Schulte's aunt, Bridget Calvert, began a Facebook Group when they were reported missing entitled "Justice for Kylen and Crystal - Moab, UT" which has around 1,400 members as of Monday afternoon. 

"Now we fight for justice against their murderer! Please help push the system to do what is right. Don’t let this person continue to walk free!" the group's description says.

Members have been posting memories and sharing information regularly as the word has spread, causing cousins to step in as moderators.

The Sheriff's Office is conducting a homicide investigation, though believes there is no current danger to the public. The Office did not say if there were any suspects. 

On Monday afternoon, the Sheriff's Office confirmed that it had reached out to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Utah State Bureau of Investigation for help with the double homicide case. 

Anyone with pertinent information on the deaths of Turner and Schulte were urged to contact the Grand County Sheriff's Office at (435) 259-8115.

Investigators will follow up with any and all leads and will "provide the public with further information as it becomes available," according to the Sheriff's Office.

'She was his girl too and his heart hurts for her'

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Shared from Facebook

A candlelight vigil was held for the couple on Sunday night at The Moonflower Co-op, where Schulte worked. The vigil was live-streamed on a Facebook page called "Transparency for Kylen and Crystal."

Schulte's aunt, Bridget Calvert, organized a GoFundMe of $15,000 for funeral and transportation expenses for the couple.

As of Monday afternoon, the GoFundMe had raised double that at over $30,000 from nearly 500 donors, with a post saying the original goal was reached in under 24 hours. The Moonflower Co-op donated the most at $1,000.

"I spoke with Sean-Paul today, and he wants nothing more than to extend the donations to Crystal’s family as well. She was his girl too and his heart hurts for her," Calvert said of Schulte's father on Thursday.

'Maybe this is a gay hate crime, but I don't know if I believe that'

John Daniel Schulte said the family is planning to have a funeral in Montana when the body is released to them, and they are picking up the pieces, yet again.

Though, the family still has questions. 

Why did this happen? Did the police respond in time? Why them?

For uncle John Daniel Schulte, the most haunting fact about the case was that the couple's beloved Harley motorcycle was left unattended in the McDonald's parking lot for days, he said.

"The first time I met Crystal, I basically met the Harley," he said. "There's no way they'd leave that Harley unattended for four days."

Though theories have been swirling around the situation, no one knows for sure.

"This is really hard for me to put it in my head that maybe this is a gay hate crime, but I don't know if I believe that," John Daniel Schulte said.

Though not much information has surfaced yet about Turner, family members and friends said they loved each other greatly. 

As for Hunter, she is working on healing and trying to pick up her own pieces as the economic recession that came with COVID-19 shut down her arts and crafts store.

Hunter remembers when Schulte commissioned a piece of art for Turner, and though she can't remember the details, it was centered around the Harley.

"She was just an absolute ray of sunshine. She was a sunflower. She literally glowed," Hunter said.

K. Sophie Will is the National Parks Reporter for The Spectrum & Daily News through the Report for America initiative by The GroundTruth Project. Follow her on Twitter at @ksophiewill or email her at kswill@thespectrum.com. Donate to Report for America here.

This article originally appeared on St. George Spectrum & Daily News: 'A weirdo camping near them': Couple murdered while camping in Utah near Arches National Park

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