Friday, November 1, 2013

The Demise of Kristi Kurtz - November 1990

My girlfriend during the years covering the Washtenaw County coed killings (1967-1969) was Kristi Kurtz. When we met up, she had just dropped out of Eastern Michigan University and managed a small boutique called Stangers near Ned's Bookstore on West Cross Street in Ypsilanti.

I worked part time evenings at the university and took classes during the day. We lived together one block up the street from the boarding house where John Norman Collins lived on 619 Emmet St. and walked past that house daily unsuspecting the eventual notoriety of the place.

Kristi was a vibrant, outspoken, and fiercely independent young woman who found solace in her love of animals. They were the center of her life. Tragedy struck Kristi's young life when her father and mother were killed in a private plane crash. Her father owned a steel company in Detroit and had provided well for his orphaned family. Losing both parents so early in life had a lasting impact on her, and she became more independent because of it. 

Kristi and her older sister and brother grew up in Grosse Pointe and were raised by her aunt who kept tight control of the children's trust fund which was sizable. But after Kristi dropped out of college, the money dried up. Kristi wasn't twenty-one and had limited access to her money, so she worked just enough to get by, against the day when she would inherit the money outright.

Kristi liked animals better than people, and she wanted to raise and board horses on a small farm of her own. As soon as she was able, she bought the 113 acre Firesign Farm on Trotters Lane in Webster Township north of Ypsilanti. Kristi set out to live her dream, but I decided that finishing my education was more important than being her horse groom. We parted ways but remained friends. It was a defining moment for both of us.

Twenty years later, I'm living in California, and I get a phone call from a mutual Michigan friend of ours that I hadn't heard from in over ten years. "I've got some tragic news for you," he says. "Kristi's body was found shot to death and discovered buried under some bales of hay in her barn. She's been missing for a month."

It took me a few seconds to wrap my head around what I had just been told, then I heard what few details were known at that time. Two days after Thanksgiving on Saturday, November 24th, 1990, Kristi was last seen by a friend. When Kristi disappeared and hadn't fed her nine horses or other animals for a day or two, her neighbors got worried and contacted Kristi's sister who lived in Colorado. She called the Michigan State Police and filed a missing persons report on Monday, November 26th.

Then on Wednesday, December 26th at 10:15 AM, the day after Christmas, the Good Samaritan neighbor who had been caring for Kristi's horses and dogs, Rick Godfrey, removed another bale of hay to feed the horses, then he recognized her leather boots sticking out. Godfrey had given them to her as a Christmas gift two years before. He moved another bale and saw her frozen, fully clothed body. She had been missing for thirty-two days.

Twice the police had searched the barn with canines but felt the pungent smells confused the dogs. The barn cats had managed to find her body though. Dental records were required for a positive identification.

Check the link for archival news footage about the capture of Kristi Kurtz's murderer: