Stay on the Trail

Original Air Date    08.20.2018

In This Episode

Host, Payne Lindsey, introduces us to the story of Kristal Anne Reisinger, as we know it. He travels across Colorado and Los Angeles to meet her family and friends and learn more about her and what drew her to the small town in a rugged, remote area of Colorado where she disappeared.

“You just don't stumble across things out there, you stay on the trail.” - Chris Halsne, Investigate Reporter


Payne Lindsey: 00:08 I'm on the top of a mountain. It's dark, really dark actually. And I can barely make out the faces of people talking.

Roy: 00:25 Roy.

Payne Lindsey: 00:26 Nice to meet you.

Roy: 00:26 You look familiar.

Payne Lindsey: 00:27 Do I?

Roy: 00:27 You being here before?

Payne Lindsey: 00:28 I have.

Roy: 00:28 Okay, I've been here a long time.

Payne Lindsey: 00:30 Okay. Nice to meet you.

Roy: 00:30 Yeah. Welcome. Where you from?

Payne Lindsey: 00:32 Atlanta.

Roy: 00:32 Ah.

Payne Lindsey: 00:32 Yeah, Georgia.

Roy: 00:35 Came out just for this drum circle?

Payne Lindsey: 00:37 Yeah, pretty much.

Roy: 00:38 I have an instrument. It's made out of steel. It's that round thing down there. It's called the tongue drum. The guy here makes it. They're ends of propane tanks, and he welds them together and there's little cuts, slits, that ...

Unknown 1: 00:49 How fucking amazing is this steel tongue drum?

Unknown 2: 00:56 Fucking amazing. Whoever made that is fucking amazing.

Unknown 1: 00:58 Out of a propane tank shell.

Unknown 2: 01:00 Yeah?

Payne Lindsey: 01:11 Everyone's grabbing for instruments. And even though they can barely see each other, they're all playing strangely in sync.

Roy: 01:20 Good evening!

Unknown 1: 01:20 Hitting it really blew me off.

Payne Lindsey: 01:48 I'm holding my recorder next to my hip. Pacing around, trying to find the right time to ask just one question.

Payne Lindsey: 01:59 Do you know anything about the woman who went missing from here?

News Clip 1: 02:51 Long before this land was called America, native people danced in a circle around the drum. For celebration, fellowship, renewal, and healing.

Payne Lindsey: 03:24 For generations and throughout many cultures, people have gathered in celebration each month during a full moon. Around a fire, they sing, they dance, and they play the drum. A tradition more commonly known as a "drum circle." From ancient ritual gatherings, to casual parties in the desert, drum circles have become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon.

Payne Lindsey: 03:50 Just two years ago, in July 2016, 29 year old Kristal Anne Reisinger went to a full moon drum circle. By the time the night was over, Kristal would disappear, and she has never been seen since. But this story doesn't start at the drum circle. It starts in Los Angeles. From Tenderfoot TV in Atlanta, this is Up and Vanished, Season Two. I'm standing outside the Loews Hotel in Hollywood, California. I'm about to meet with the former boyfriend of Kristal Reisinger, who went missing in July of 2016.

Elijah Gauna: 05:01 My name is Elijah Gauna, I'm a ex-boyfriend of Kristal, father of our daughter.

Elijah Gauna: 05:08 And what's your name, Akasha? Say it right here, right here into the mic. Say your name.

AKasha: 05:14 My name is Akasha.

Payne Lindsey: 05:20 How old are you Akasha?

Akasha: 05:22 Five.

Payne Lindsey: 05:23 Five?

Akasha: 05:24 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Payne Lindsey: 05:24 We'll you're pretty big.

Payne Lindsey: 05:28 Kristal and Eli had a daughter together, and she lives with Eli here in Los Angeles.

Akasha: 05:32 Can you put this in your pocket, so I can save them for-

Elijah Gauna: 05:32 Yeah, okay, enough babe, no more, honey girl.

Akasha: 05:37 No, put them in your pocket so I can save them for later.

Elijah Gauna: 05:44 Bless you baby.

Payne Lindsey: 05:44 Bless you.

Elijah Gauna: 05:50 I had a good buddy of mine. We've been friends for years. He had a friend that he wanted to introduce me to, it was like a friend of a friend introduction kind of a thing. And when we met, it was kind of like fireworks immediately. It was one of those things where we kind of fell in love really fast. The relationship moved really fast. It seemed like it was fast forward to instant relationship kind of a thing and we were moved in together. It was just, yeah, awesome, wonderful experience.

Elijah Gauna: 06:22 My first impression was like, "Where were you my whole life?" She was very sweet, very intelligent, very deep thinker. Covered in tattoos, piercings, different looking, kind of a wild looking person. My type of girl.

Payne Lindsey: 06:37 Eli had met Kristal in Denver, and they fell in love almost instantly. At first, things were great. They moved in together, Kristal gave birth to their Akasha, but after a few years Kristal expressed to Eli that she was ready for a big change in her life.

Elijah Gauna: 06:51 She really wanted to get of the city. She was always on a spiritual journey, she was always on a quest, like always trying to go deeper and deeper into things.

Payne Lindsey: 07:02 According to Eli, Kristal was always on some sort of spiritual quest, and she found herself drawn to a tiny town in south central Colorado called Crestone.

Elijah Gauna: 07:10 She went to Crestone, Colorado, which is known to be a big spiritual gathering place. She believed Crestone was just energetically, just a great place to channel and be and the energies there were amplified, the earth's natural energies. She was very sensitive to a lot of things so she was really sensitive to like the earth, the rocks, plants, people, animals, it didn't matter. She was just real sensitive to energies and stuff, so she felt that was a great place to align her energies with the earth's energies.

Elijah Gauna: 07:42 It's just such a tiny, isolated place. It's way out in the mountains, kind of southwest Colorado. I don't know where it's near, really. It's just so isolated, it's literally in the mountains. It's just out there in the mountains.

Payne Lindsey: 07:58 Even though Kristal had moved nearly four hours away from Denver, she kept in touch with Eli and her daughter Akasha daily.

Elijah Gauna: 08:04 I mean, she did not miss more than a day at the most, without keeping in touch. So-

Payne Lindsey: 08:09 Kristal was enjoying Crestone, she was happy there. And Eli supported this. It had always been in Kristal's nature to want to know more about the world around her, to find her purpose. And for the first time, she seemed to have found her place. Kristal had this keen sense of the world's energy around her, and was always seeking a higher level of understanding. But that wasn't the only unique thing about her.

Elijah Gauna: 08:31 Well, I gotta include this, so Kristal was pretty psychic. She was kind of a clairvoyant. She would know things or have premonitions of things and they would always happen.

Elijah Gauna: 08:49 One time, she called me up and she had a really bad premonition. Something bad was gonna happen to both me and her. It was gonna be something violent and something that we may not survive. She couldn't tell me exactly what it was gonna be, but it was gonna happen soon, within a few days. "It was something that was unavoidable, it was something that couldn't be changed," was what she said.

Elijah Gauna: 09:16 I knew not to take it lightly, coming from her.

Elijah Gauna: 09:21 Two days later, I was on my way home from work and I have no memory of the events but I just remember waking up in the hospital. They were working on my face, I had been stabbed in the face, beaten, brutally beaten. All the bones in my face are pretty much broken. I have blown out orbital sockets and everything.

Payne Lindsey: 09:39 He'd been attacked by a stranger, and nearly beaten to death. But from there, things took an even darker turn.

Elijah Gauna: 09:46 So she came down and took care of me immediately from Crestone till I could take care of myself. And then, two days after she got back to Crestone, she disappeared.

Payne Lindsey: 09:58 Had you seen her since then?

Elijah Gauna: 09:59 No. No. She disappeared and that was the last I'd seen of her.

Elijah Gauna: 10:12 After a couple of days of not hearing from her, and I was calling her and no reply, I definitely had a bad feeling. I got ahold of the police and they said that someone had already filed a missing persons report, it was her landlord. So I got ahold of her landlord and immediately, things didn't sound good.

Elijah Gauna: 10:32 She said it wasn't like her not to come home, that she just disappeared, nobody knew where she was. The police were trying to steer it one way, where it was like, definitely was looking like she killed herself but I knew there was no way. Me and her stepdad went out, scoured the whole town, we went all around the vicinity. In the woods, we were looking for her, hiking all around. Couldn't find her, we questioned I think every person in that area, like within that town. I think we definite ...It's a tiny, tiny place, you can barely call it a town it's so small. But we definitely encountered everyone that lives there, questioned them, asked them if they'd seen her, you know? Everything that we could.

Payne Lindsey: 11:42 Kristal had vanished without a trace. Two years later, Eli still has no answers, and it's changed him as a person.

Elijah Gauna: 11:51 I'm just a hole. Like something just ... so big and profound in my life, is gone. I'm so incomplete. If it wasn't for our daughter, she has just been a healer. Just like Kristal said, this whole time, she's kept me strong. She's healing me. I just ... I can't imagine where I would be without her, without our daughter but ... I feel like, like I have a phantom pain. Like if you lost a limb suddenly, like I feel like I have like this phantom pain like she's still here but I can feel her. But she's not.

Payne Lindsey: 12:39 As I wrapped up my interview, Akasha leaned across the table and whispered something to me.

Akasha: 12:49 My mommy's in the spirit world.

Payne Lindsey: 12:50 "My mommy's in the spirit world."

Flight Crew: 12:53 At this time we'd like to ask our flight attendants to please, take your seats for landing.

Payne Lindsey: 12:57 Next I was off to Denver, Colorado, to meet with Rodney, the father figure in Kristal's life. And the family that raised her.

Meredith S.: 13:13 Good to see you. Thank you for having us over.

Rodney: 13:14 Oh, no problem.

Rodney: 13:17 That's my wife, Debbie.

Meredith S.: 13:17 Hi.

Rodney: 13:17 This is Debbie, and Meredith.

Debbie: 13:17 Nice to meet you.

Payne Lindsey: 13:20 We met Rodney at his house.

Rodney: 13:23 Are you hungry? Did you have something to eat?

Payne Lindsey: 13:23 With me was one of our producers, Meredith. And Rodney introduced us to his wife Debbie.

Rodney: 13:29 You can generally tell a lot of people by their kids. That's what I've found. Have you met Akasha? Unbelievable little girl. And she's indicative of Kristal. She's got that sparkly, inquisitive, that just "love-you-to-death," that is Kristal. I feel like I failed her. We lost a son, years back, to suicide. And I never wanted to feel that again, and this is bringing all that back. What I should have said or what I should've done, or you know, I lay awake at nights thinking about what I should've done or should've said.

Rodney: 14:19 You really start dissecting just about every two minutes of the past 15 years. And it's amazing, the things I remember and the things I don't remember. She used to be in here. She had this whole downstairs to herself, for a couple of years. The bed was right here. There was a nightstand over here. And mascara all over the floor. It just ... it really hurts. I can't explain it any better than that, I just ... You know, when we're talking and when I'm talking about the mascara on the floor and all that stuff, you start thinking back in the past and you start thinking about the really stupid crap that you get upset about, that in hindsight is really what it is, just crap. It's part of living and everything else, I failed to protect, I failed to be able to help. And when people keep saying, "You know, you shouldn't live in the past," and everything else, but you know.

Rodney: 15:56 It warms my heart that you're even considering this. I hope we can find Kristal before I die. Kristal was just a wonderful, lost soul, so to speak. But she kept going forward.

Rodney: 16:29 She lived with us for a number of years. When she was 15 and a half, she met our son.

Payne Lindsey: 16:38 I asked him about Kristal's upbringing, and he became the father figure in her life.

Rodney: 16:42 She's from Arizona and she was a ward of the court. They sent her up here to live with an aunt. Evidently the aunt was off the wall, so she didn't really have a place to stay so there started our saga. We finished the basement and we let her stay in a room down there. And then over the years, you know, we've helped her get into college and moved her. It was just like having another child.

Payne Lindsey: 17:10 Rodney's biological daughter Amy was just a few years apart from Kristal, and they grew up in the same home. According to her ...

Amy: 17:17 She was incredible. Unforgettable, really. You don't meet many people like that who have this intense, cool, crazy energy that everybody vibes with. She laughs a lot, she laughs at everything even if it's kind of a fucked up thing to laugh about. She'll laugh about it anyways. She smiled a lot, pale as a ghost, just like me.

Rodney: 17:40 She's an absolutely wonderful person, she had an incredible ability to keep going. She really, really wanted to succeed at something and some, excuse my French, some fucking piece of shit took that away from her.

Payne Lindsey: 18:06 Since Kristal went missing, Rodney's been doing some investigating of his own.

Rodney: 18:10 There is a lot of inconsistencies in the actual last time that she was seen. For some reason, the 13th is the one that sticks with me. July 13th of 2016.

Payne Lindsey: 18:24 When she was first reported missing, Rodney drove down to the town of Crestone and met with their police department.

Rodney: 18:30 They were telling me, at that point, she was a wild partier and having these noisy parties in her apartment. If she was having such wild parties, the apartment would reflect that. And it did not in any way, shape, or form, reflect that.

Payne Lindsey: 18:50 Kristal lived in a small apartment by herself, in the center of town. Rodney canvassed the area himself, along with the police.

Rodney: 18:57 A day or so before she disappeared, she had bought all her normal health foods. Veggie burgers, her almond milk, her organic vegetables. They have a record of her using her food stamp card. As far as when she bought the stuff, I think it was on the 12th or the 11th of July, just a couple days before she went missing.

Rodney: 19:19 She stuck to making sure she had contact with Akasha. You know, if that's an indication of a person that's completely off the rails and going south, ah, I don't buy it. That's a crock of shit that the police and a few people in that town are spreading around.

Chris Halsne: 19:46 Rodney took her in, let her live in the basement in the house. Made sure she got to school, gave her money for clothes and fed her.

Payne Lindsey: 19:55 This is Chris Halsne. He's an investigative reporter from Fox News in Denver. And he's the only TV reporter to ever cover Kristal's story.

Chris Halsne: 20:04 He just saw a need. He saw this poor girl and no way to survive without just living on the street. And he took her in. What a kind hearted guy.

Rodney: 20:15 This is the file of different things that we got out of her apartment. I guess you could go through it and see if there's anything that's even of interest to you.

Chris Halsne: 20:29 When she went missing, he was the first one to get in his truck and drive five hours and start handing out these flyers. Because he had always taken care of her.

Meredith S.: 20:41 This is from Kristal?

Rodney: 20:44 Yes. This was in her apartment. If you want to take this-

Payne Lindsey: 20:47 While at Rodney's house in Denver, he gave our producer Meredith and I a box of Kristal's belongings, from her apartment in Crestone.

Rodney: 20:53 See if there's anything that-

Payne Lindsey: 20:54 It was full of mostly pictures, dating back to when she was a child. There were also tons of documents, bills and receipts. All kinds of things. Rodney encouraged us to go through it ourselves, to see if there was anything helpful.

Debbie: 21:07 She managed to keep all of the things that were important to her.

Rodney: 21:10 And there were things in here that we didn't know about. You know, classes she had taken, and you know, she did things like filed for bankruptcy because ... I didn't know about it but ... it's a little bit of a glimpse into her life.

Debbie: 21:30 I'm assuming that was her grandmother, because that's who raised her.

Payne Lindsey: 21:34 Rodney's wife Debbie showed me several pictures of Kristal and their family together. Kristal had long blonde hair and bright blue eyes. She often wore head veils and flowing dresses.

Rodney: 21:45 She always tried to move forward and always was able to survive. And one of the things that always struck me was that she just wanted to be a good person.

Payne Lindsey: 22:02 After two years of searching for Kristal, and still no answers, Rodney wants as many people as possible to hear her story.

Rodney: 22:08 I don't know if this is the tipping point, but there comes a point where it's like, "Man," as you guys start making your presence known, and Fox News. Chris. Chris said that he's gonna push more.

News Clip 2: 22:28 Kristal Anne Reisinger dropped off the face of the Earth last July.

News Clip 3: 22:32 Yeah, she was living in Crestone, a town of less than a thousand people in South Central Colorado, not far from the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Investigative reporter Chris Halsne traced Reisinger's final days to discover it is unlikely she simply walked away.

Chris Halsne: 22:47 Only three by three blocks long, Crestone at first glance is just another sleepy, laid back, hippy town. The surrounding mountains and sand dunes hold a raw, peaceful beauty. But the nearby hills may also be hiding some very dark secrets. Considered sacred ground by the Navajo, this place has lately been attracting truth seekers of a worldwide, New Age religious movement. Kristal Reisinger was one of those drawn to Crestone's soul.

Chris Halsne: 23:25 I've long been reporting cold case crimes. We'd been running a series of reports called Death on a Train. This friend of Kristal's had seen that series of reports and she called, teary, and said, "I saw what you could do for this other woman, can you help Kristal?"

Chris Halsne: 23:46 The tiny town of Crestone is full of big rumors about what happened to Kristal, so the Fox 31 problem solvers came here to figure out fact from fiction. What I think most people agree on is that this is the last place she was seen. It's called a drum circle.

Chris Halsne: 24:04 She was seen what they call a drum circle. It's part party, part religious experience. There's a full moon. Hundreds of people from the area around Crestone, on the full moon, go out of town to this park. And they start this huge bonfire, and they sing and they dance and they do drugs and they drink. It means something different to a lot of different people. Native Americans would be offended that it became a party, but that's what it's just morphed into in Crestone.

Chris Halsne: 24:43 Saguache County Sheriff's Deputies say they believe someone who went to the drum circle full moon ceremony knows exactly what happened later that night.

Chris Halsne: 24:55 We couldn't find anything substantial, that she was seen after the drum circle.

Payne Lindsey: 25:01 I asked Kristal's former boyfriend Eli about drum circles too. He'd been to some.

Elijah Gauna: 25:06 It's just a party out in the woods that just goes on all night. They just play their drums, pretty much all night and there's a lot of drinking and drug use going on. Apparently there was this one guy that seen her walking off alone into the forest. Other people are putting her at the drum circle. It's either walking towards the drum circle or walking just off into the woods.

Chris Halsne: 25:35 You've seen photos of her and video of her, she's hard to miss. I mean there's no way you wouldn't know Kristal, if you were from Crestone. It wouldn't take a week before you would be like, "Oh yeah! I know who she is." Wild hair and big flamboyant personality. You know, Kristal lived right downtown, in the heart of this small little town. She made an impression on that little town in a short amount of time.

Payne Lindsey: 26:20 Chris Halsne had spent several days in Crestone, developing his news story on Kristal. I asked him to describe the place.

Chris Halsne: 26:26 It's not much. It's just a few blocks of a couple little hotel, little restaurant/deli, couple little grocery stores, a liquor store. It's not much of a town.

Chris Halsne: 26:41 The population of the place really is just outside of town. This group had given away free land to all sorts of religious sects to set up houses and housing, churches, temples, just outside of town. There's a lot of little roads, electricity running out to these places, but they're very private. But that's where most of the people are is just out of town, in these religious areas.

Chris Halsne: 27:08 It's quiet, no one's gonna bother you in Crestone. And if you leave people alone, they'll leave you alone. It's the tale of two worlds there. There's 143 people that are officially registered to live in Crestone. And they're income is very low. Poverty level low. You get outside of town, into the county, there's some really nice homes and high-income, there's definitely two sets of people there.

Payne Lindsey: 27:40 Kristal's ex boyfriend Eli had gone down to Crestone with Rodney to search for her. But he didn't learn much at all.

Elijah Gauna: 27:46 Well, local people don't like to give out too much information if you're an outsider.

Elijah Gauna: 27:50 They're just like, if you can imagine, just like a really super tightknit community where everyone knows each other for generations and they don't like outsiders much even though there's a lot of outsiders coming in through the town, they kind of resent them.

Chris Halsne: 28:05 They're distrustful. She fit in there and she knew it. That's why she wasn't gonna come back to Denver. She fit in. And I don't think she wanted to leave there. I think she just found her place. And I don't think any of her friends or family think she wanted to leave.

Chris Halsne: 28:25 It's heartbreaking to see all the life in her eyes, at that young age.

Kristal: 28:32 Happy birthday dear Akasha. Happy birthday to you. Make a wish! Yay!

Akasha: 28:54 Want to start eating it.

Kristal: 28:54 Good, you gotta go-

Elijah Gauna: 28:54 Do it, mama.

Kristal: 28:54 Yay. Kashie.

Elijah Gauna: 28:54 Ah, you missed your mama.

Chris Halsne: 28:57 Running around, you know, excited about life. And when you sit down and just have a quiet moment with her, she knows exactly why you're asking the questions, and it's because she knows her mother's gone.

Chris Halsne: 29:13 Whenever I see a missing poster, I think, "Maybe there's still a chance." She was a little flaky, if she found just the right guy and ran off and wanted to disappear, that she's in Mexico or Argentina or Costa Rica. Maybe she's in a Cult somewhere and she's just fallen off the face of the earth and doesn't want anybody to find her. At least she'd be alive. At least someday, maybe she could come back to the realization her daughter's here and there's people that love her and have been looking for her. For that little girl to have an answer.

Payne Lindsey: 29:59 You paint such an interesting picture of this town, Crestone. "It's a tale of two worlds."

Chris Halsne: 30:02 Well what we found is that it's really a peaceful, meditative place and thousands of New Age religious seekers from all over the world have come there but, you know, there's a real dark side there. The drug culture is strong and a very thin police force.

Chris Halsne: 30:20 Maybe it was a religious thing for her, but more ... She was more "Mother Earth," she was more trying to connect to this planet. Because she'd done that before. For quite awhile, I think police and neighbors thought, "She's gonna turn back up. She's gonna come back. She just went on one of these journeys."

Payne Lindsey: 30:43 I spent quite a bit of time in Denver, digging into Kristal's past and meeting some of her family. But it was clear if anyone knew what happened to her, they weren't here. They were in Crestone.

Payne Lindsey: 30:57 Before I made the trip there myself, I spoke to Kristal's father Rodney one more time.

Rodney: 31:01 There's just something really, really strange about this whole deal. You know, we've been done there from time to time. I call the sheriff, I call the deputy, and very rarely does he get back to me.

Rodney: 31:20 They're undermanned and underfunded and ... I don't know. I want to trust them, but boy, I tell you, things are starting to chip away here. For one reason or another, I don't know if it goes back to they're undermanned, underfunded and overworked, and you know, everything else. Because there's only like six of them in that whole county, so Crestone alone I think keeps them busy. Boy it's easy to get lost up in all this. I find myself going different directions all the time.

Payne Lindsey: 31:52 And I met with Amy, Rodney's daughter, and Kristal's sister.

Amy: 31:57 So are you spiritual at all?

Payne Lindsey: 32:00 Spiritual? Sure.

Amy: 32:02 But you're not like ... meditating? Yeah, so you'll definitely be walking in as a total weirdo, like what-

Payne Lindsey: 32:09 Amy was with her husband, Alex, also a good friend of Kristal's. I asked her husband Alex about my safety in Crestone, since he'd been there several times himself.

Alex: 32:18 Your safety? Yeah, carry something, I don't know. You know?

Chris Halsne: 32:32 There's still hope. I think it takes one brave soul who lives in Crestone, who's on the fringe of something a little seedy, to have the courage and the heart to step forward and let the authorities know what they know.

Chris Halsne: 32:48 It is old Navajo country, and they have left it pristine and rough and unowned for a reason. Just to leave its beauty. But at the same time, you just don't stumble across things out there, you stay on the trail.

Chris Halsne: 33:24 The minute you drive into town, and buy a soda at the deli, just about everybody knows you're there. And when you ask the first question about Kristal, 10 more people know you're there. In another hour, 100 people know you're there. They really monitor outsiders. I got the feeling people didn't like me there, asking questions. They either wouldn't respond at all or would say something real homey like, "Oh you know, I heard about that. Yeah, I can't help you, sorry."

Navigation: 34:05 Starting route to Crestone. For 211 miles. Continue on I-70 West.

Meredith S.: 34:21 Up and Vanished is produced for Tenderfoot TV by Payne Lindsey, Mike Rooney, and me, Meredith Stedman. Executive producers Payne Lindsey and Donald Albright. Additional production by Mason Lindsey, Rob Ricotta, and Christina Dana. Our intern is Hallie Bedol. Original score by Makeup and Vanity Set. Our theme song is Ophelia performed by Ezza Rose. Our cover art is by Trevor Isler. Special thanks to the team at Cadence13. This episode features the song Sleeping on the Blacktop performed by Colter Wall. You can hear more at colterwall. com. Visit us on social media via @upandvanished. Tweet at us and we'll follow you back, or you can visit our website, upandvanished.com, where you can join in on our discussion board.

Meredith S.: 35:14 If you're enjoying Up and Vanished, tell a friend, family member, or coworker about it. And don't forget to subscribe, rate, and review on Apple Podcasts. Thanks for listening.