Welcome to Crestone

Original Air Date    08.27.2018

In This Episode

A rugged, remote, small town is the last known whereabouts of Kristal Anne ReisingerIt’s history. Locals discribe Crestone as an extremely safe place where people don’t lock their doors. You just have to be aware of the wildlife. This is bear and mountain lion territory. People with interests in spiritual pursuits are attracted here. Native Americans consider it a sacred valley. Some say it is a portal to other universes. Welcome to Crestone, CO 37.9964° N, 105.6997° W

“People who come to Crestone are dreamers.” - James McCalpin, Crestone History Center


Payne Lindsey: 00:31 The drive from Denver to Crestone is beautiful. A far more scenic route compared to my drives from Atlanta to Ocilla. On the way to Crestone you curve around mountainsides, and dip into valleys, passing by a series of ranches and small former mining towns. Picturesque, but tired. As you approach the Sangre De Cristo range of the Rockies it's wide open sky, wide open road, and just mountains. Once you hit the small town of Moffat, you turn left onto Colorado road T, and at the end of that road, there's Crestone.

Jim McCalpin: 01:20 People that come to Crestone are dreamers. Their dreams would cost money to come to fruition, and no-one here has any money, but that doesn't stop them from dreaming. Economically this place has struggled since the mines gave out, 110 years ago.

Jim McCalpin: 01:45 Now, flash forward 110 years, there are very few Colorado towns left like Crestone. I have been here full-time since 2000, so 18 years. There is low-level crime. People don't lock their doors here. We police ourselves, and everybody understands this.

Jim McCalpin: 02:11 I haven't been in a city for so long, I don't know what people think is an average amount of crime. You know, when I leave my house I don't lock the house. There is no police presence in this town. The closest policeman when you pick up a phone and dial 911 is in Saguache, a 45-minute drive away.

Jim McCalpin: 02:35 So for the first 45 minutes that you're dealing with some nutcase, you're on your own.

Payne Lindsey: 02:41 (singing) From Tenderfoot TV in Atlanta, this is Up And Vanished. I'm your host, Payne Lindsey.

Jim McCalpin: 03:36 In this museum time stops, history stops, in 1981.

Payne Lindsey: 03:41 This is Jim McCalpin who dedicates his time to preserving Crestone's past at the one and only Crestone History Center.

Jim McCalpin: 03:50 They're not interested in the mining story, the story they're interested in is from 1981, to present. How did this thing turn into a spiritual center? Where is this woman? I think she's in blue. Hanne Strong did it.

Maurice Strong: 04:05 I am convinced that the prophets of doom have got to be taken seriously. In other words, doomsday is a possibility. I'm equally convinced that doomsday is not inevitable.

Payne Lindsey: 04:16 This is Maurice Strong, husband of Hanne Strong. A Canadian businessman, and former member of the United Nations. In the late '70s, Crestone was merely just a ghost town, but Hanne and Maurice Strong had a remarkable vision for it.

Maurice Strong: 04:30 Today, man's own activities have reached the scale where they are the principle determinants of his own future. We are now effecting more changes in the composition of the atmosphere, and the composition of the waters of the world. The natural world in which man lives and on which we depend is indeed deteriorating, is being destroyed in many instances. Whether we are pessimistic or optimistic depends really on what we think about the nature of man. Whether we really believe that man, in light of this evidence, is going to be wise enough and enlightened enough to project himself to this kind of discipline and control.

Payne Lindsey: 05:12 Hanne and Maurice Strong purchased thousands of acres throughout the San Luis Valley, outside Crestone, and established an area called the Baca Grande with a grand vision in mind, to create one of the largest interfaith communities in the world. Hanne Strong granted over 2,000 acres to various spiritual and environmental groups, making it the largest of its kind of in North America. Today, Crestone consists of over 15 different spiritual centers.

Jim McCalpin: 05:40 I have seen a lot of the planet. I come back home, and I compare the places that I've been to, to this place, and this place always comes out on top. So, I'm not likely to move. The bar is set kind of high. This is a world class place that nobody knows about.

Payne Lindsey: 06:03 Around 1900, Crestone hit its mining boom. But the resources were limited and the boom subsided quickly, dropping Crestone into a long stretch of economic decline.

Jim McCalpin: 06:14 When I moved to Colorado in 1972, there were a lot of towns like this. There aren't anymore. By default, this town is now unique.

Payne Lindsey: 06:26 According to the U.S. census, the town proper has a total area of point two square miles.

Jim McCalpin: 06:32 There are very few employers here. The hardware store is one. A grocery store is another. So, you're not gonna get rich, but you can live pretty cheap in this town.

Payne Lindsey: 06:48 Most people that identify with Crestone don't actually live in town. They live in the Baca, the vast surrounding residential area. I've never seen houses like the ones in the Baca. Earth ships, domes, lots of geometric shapes. There's no building code. The homes here certainly reflect their inhabitants.

Jim McCalpin: 07:12 Sometimes the characters that show up here, you go, "Ah," first of all you could tell they're not here long-term. And then you hope they don't do too much damage while they're here. But all sorts of loose people in society, kind of the shake, if you were to shake down a bunch of dope and the stems and seeds were to fall into a little crack, those are the people. The stems and seeds of society.

Payne Lindsey: 07:44 Just outside of town along the highway, is a tall watchtower overlooking the valley.

Candace: 07:51 When I first looked at it, I thought, Oh, that's a big white bird. Then my brain kicked in and went, "Wait a minute. That's 40-some miles away. That's no bird." So I watched it for two to three minutes. Then it started to blink, it stroked, and was gone. I saw one ship. It was a round ship being chased by a jet. And another one was just sitting in the sky, it was blinking different colors, and I'm looking at it going, "Mm," and all of a sudden it scoots about a quarter of the way across the sky, comes to a dead stop. When they stop or make sharp angle turns, that's a dead giveaway right there. That is a UFO.

Candace: 08:39 Welcome to the UFO Watchtower. There have been documented sightings here in this valley since the 1560s. The conquistadors actually wrote in their journals about the strange lights that they saw here.

Payne Lindsey: 08:52 This is Candace. She helps operate a UFO watchtower just outside of Crestone. A two-story structure providing a clear view of the sky. For the price of just two dollars, you can use the observation deck yourself.

Candace: 09:03 It's really, really cool. Since Judy opened in 2000, we've had 157 documented sightings. That's not counting sightings that people have had that have not written them down for us. Judy's seen 27. I've seen 14. The Native Americans consider this a sacred valley. And it is, it's filled with energy. We have our delightful little garden out there. Since Judy opened, there have been over 25 psychics who've told her the same thing. There's two major vortexes in the gardens. The vortexes are portals to parallel universes. Each one is filled with energy, and each one has a guardian. As you walk through the garden, be aware of your body. Because you can feel the energy, 99% of the people feel the energy. If you have any issues you're working on, physical, mental, emotional or spiritual, you can ask the guardians for assistance. And if you are open to receive, don't be surprised what happens. We've had reports of miraculous healings on all levels in the garden.

Candace: 10:24 At night, you're above any highway lights, and you have an unobstructed view, horizon to horizon of the most phenomenal sky you've ever seen in your life.

Candace: 10:48 Everybody please sign the guest book.

Rodney: 10:55 We want to do whatever we have to do, within the legal means of finding the people.

Payne Lindsey: 11:04 Crestone is remote, and even though it's four hours away, Rodney is determined to get answers for his family.

Rodney: 11:10 The people that I've talked to there, keeping this alive, it's gonna be lighting a fuse, and that moving is keeping the story alive and putting pressure on people.

Rodney: 11:24 Buckle up, get ready for the ride. 'Cause it's just starting.

Rodney: 11:29 Thank God for social media, eh?

Payne Lindsey: 11:32 The internet.

Rodney: 11:32 The internet. I was just in Comcast complaining about my internet.

Chris Halsne: 11:39 Rodney's a guy who, he's spent 15 years trying to help Kristal in every way he could like a second daughter. And I know the guy lays awake at night wondering if he could have done things differently so that she would have been in a different place, and maybe not put herself in danger if she did that night. And every time I talk to him, he's got this guilt about it. And I have to keep reminding him there are a fraction, a small percentage of people in this world who would take in a teenage stranger to help them out of an awful life circumstance. We need more of him in this world. When it comes to getting this solved, I think he literally would sell every possession he had if he knew it would bring her home.

Payne Lindsey: 12:28 This is Chris Halsne again. From Fox 31 Denver.

Chris Halsne: 12:33 It is amazing the number of people who don't pay attention to anything. It's incredible. Small town like that, I can imagine that a lot of them are trolling through their own social media accounts every day ten times. I don't even know if there's a TV station that they can get if they don't have some kind of satellite. I think they move there for a simpler life. A lot of people to get away from all that chaos of the news. So, more important than ever to have that flier and her picture up, and people talking about it. Because the only way you get news there might be to encounter somebody else who tells you that news. And that might be what it takes.

Chris Halsne: 13:23 There are people in town who don't want this solved, and we don't know all their motives. So you have to be open to that.

David: 13:39 There is a sense of wildness. I kind of like that, it almost makes me feel like a cowboy.

Payne Lindsey: 13:45 This is David, a longtime Crestone resident.

David: 13:49 Rocky Mountain High, John Denver was singing about the Rocky Mountain High. What he was relating to, I think was just the quality of what it's like to be out West with these big mountains and big sky and lots of room around you. There's just not that many people. The skies are the darkest, one of the darkest places in the country. If you look, there's just no big cities nearby, and we can see all the stars at night. Having the mountain lions at your back door and bears and oh my, yeah, it's good.

Payne Lindsey: 14:26 David told me that the wildlife here was abundant. And sometimes even dangerous.

David: 14:31 I've come face-to-face with a mountain lion. I was peering into the black depths of this darkness in the back of the cave and two eyes just came toward me. I had my umbrella ready to protect myself and my friends.

Payne Lindsey: 14:45 An umbrella?

David: 14:46 Yeah, an umbrella, 'cause you have a button and if you just push the button, it pops open, bam! I saw it on some movie and I knew that if it attacked me I could scare it with the umbrella and probably get away. Anyway, I got out of the cave and all the people I was with, I told 'em, "Be calm, just move away slowly," and I always ... Five people running down the mountain, running down the mountain, oh my God.

David: 15:14 So, I ran too!

Payne Lindsey: 15:19 The mountain lions usually steer clear of people, unless you're wandering around in a cave. But some of the animals often find their way into town, and cause disturbances.

David: 15:28 The bears, the bears we deal with the most. They know what refrigerators look like, if they see a refrigerator in your house they'll break open a window and get in, and open a fridge and eat everything, eat your frozen food, bust down your cabinets and eat your nuts. It's crazy.

David: 15:45 Coyotes, they'll eat everything. Bobcats. It's a very dynamic place, because the animals are in our faces.

Payne Lindsey: 15:54 Recently, one of David's friends had a frightening encounter with a bear.

David: 15:58 Yeah, she left some food in her car and a bear came up and fumbled with the door and managed to open the car door and crawled into the car. Door closed, locked, behind the bear. It couldn't get out. Yeah. It ate her car, it ate her car. Destroyed her car from the inside out. Ate the steering wheel off, ate the dashboard, shredded the seats, shredded everything. She found a raging bear inside of her car, eating her car. She lost that vehicle, it was done. They said, we can't fix this. They totaled it. Yeah.

David: 16:39 Once I was here, I couldn't go back to the big city life. It's like the, I don't know, the valley. It's pretty magical. It's quite a mix of people. All age groups of course, and a lot of the older people actually I think came here for spiritual pursuits. A lot of the religions seem to be open to other people too, I like it, because it's not so, you know, we're the ones and you're not. Everybody seems to accept one another, which is nice.

David: 17:09 Just the presence of the place, you know, the quality of the land and the sky, and vastness in the sky, yeah. You know, many of our spiritual traditions they use the vastness of the sky as like a reference point for mind.

Payne Lindsey: 17:26 In recent years Crestone has seen its fair share of newcomers.

David: 17:29 There's a lot of young people come in now, and like anywhere else, there's drug people and there's crazy people, but you know, for the most part I think it's a fairly unified community. Being awake, you know, being a kind person, not being sectarian, not being radical. Although we do recycle. Ha.

Payne Lindsey: 17:54 I asked David how the community feels about Kristal's unsolved disappearance.

David: 18:00 I mean it's really terrible 'cause everybody knows about it, and, kind of hard to live with. I mean, we're just not that kind of place, you know, it's like everybody's welcome here, and people aren't generally disappearing and people are not settled with it.

David: 18:15 It's not okay that she disappeared and going on two years, I guess, and people still talk, people are, "I heard this," and "Did you hear that?" and all these kinda notions about what might have happened to her. And some people think, oh maybe she just went somewhere, maybe she went to a different country or something like that. But then other people think she might have got mixed up in a bad element, or that she might have met the wrong people, and nobody's knows, but there's awful lotta, I don't know if it's speculation or things that people actually heard.

David: 18:52 No-one really knows what happened to Kristal. We wanna know. We all wanna know.

David: 18:58 A person can only disappear on account of some wrongdoing by the wrong people. We're a community of mixed people and there's bad eggs in there, there's bad eggs. And we know it.

Payne Lindsey: 19:13 Within my first few days in Crestone, I definitely met my fair share of interesting people. But no-one seemed to know any details about Kristal. I reached out to the Saguache County Sheriff's Department, who's in charge of the case.

Dan Warwick: 19:25 I'm Dan Warwick, I'm the Sheriff here in Saguache County. I am the chief law enforcement official in the county, and that's really what the job is, is making sure that people's rights are not violated. Their safety is priority over anything else, making sure the public in these communities is safe.

Dan Warwick: 19:45 The county itself is right around 3200 square miles, so it's a very large county to cover.

Payne Lindsey: 19:53 Jim McCalpin from the Crestone museum, had expressed that Crestone was a place that policed themselves. I asked the Sheriff about this.

Dan Warwick: 20:00 It's not taking people, dragging them down the street and, you're gonna clean this yard for community service. That's not what we mean by police themselves. They actually try to work it out amongst themselves, do it in a peaceful way, talk to each other about it. You know, you caught Johnny this kid stealing something from the store. Store owner grabbed Johnny by the head, and said come here boy, and called his parents, parents come in, they deal with it. Lotta times the kids will have to do some community service for the store owner. That does happen here quite often, which, that's okay. Heck, in my day that was a way that it got handled quite often.

Dan Warwick: 20:37 If the store owner would have whipped your butt for it too, great. When you got home you were still gonna get whipped by your parents, and you're still gonna do the things the store owner expected.

Dan Warwick: 20:46 The majority of the people up here I think are very good people, came up here for the peace and tranquility of this area, but we do have, I'm gonna say the trust fund kids and things like that, that have come up here, that are not responsible, that mommy and daddy didn't want them around them, because they're such a pain in their ass, so they send them down here for everybody else to deal with.

Dan Warwick: 21:09 I blame the parents of a lot of these kids, quit enabling your children to be trash. You know, your kids are using drugs and everything else, but you're still funneling money to 'em, buying them their house, and paying their bills. Knock it off. Make these kids grow up and get a life. The people up here are here because they paid their way here, they're enjoying the area, they love the beauty of the area, and they're destroying it.

Payne Lindsey: 21:39 It seemed like Dan was making a public service announcement to a particular group of people in town, where he referred to as the trust fund kids. I asked him about the condition of Kristal's apartment after they first learned she was missing.

Dan Warwick: 21:52 Saw that her cell phone was there, milk in the fridge was not too far expired, but it showed that she had recently purchased it. Wasn't something that she bought six months before, or nothing like that. It was purchased within probably a week of her actual time of coming up missing.

Payne Lindsey: 22:08 When you walked in her apartment, what was your first impression of the way it looked?

Dan Warwick: 22:12 Little disorganized, some things thrown about, things like that. Little bit of a mess, but not like somebody went in there and ransacked the place.

Payne Lindsey: 22:21 Based on Dan's first impression, there was no evidence suggesting a struggle inside her home. Then where did she go?

Dan Warwick: 22:28 You know, a lot of people will step outside, leave their cell phone sitting on the table and, no big deal. Other people will decide, "I've had it," and just go out the door and go for a hike, leave everything behind. It's really individually based. What kind of person is this? In this case, we don't know enough about this person.

Payne Lindsey: 22:49 Initially, the Sheriff's Department had difficulty learning more about Kristal's character. People either had few details, or just didn't talk at all.

Dan Warwick: 22:56 She seemed like she was, I guess a bit private, when it comes down to some of the things she did with her life, so a lot of people around here that say they know her really well didn't know much about her. They saw her in passing, they talked to her on the street. We ask around town, and everybody's got a different opinion. "Oh, she loved the mountains." "Okay, where would she go to the mountains?" "Well we don't know." Everyone's trying to claim they know this person so well, whereat was her favorite place in the mountains? Nobody knows.

Dan Warwick: 23:26 We're literally flying blind.

Payne Lindsey: 23:30 How was it that no-one in town was close enough to Kristal to offer more insight? Clearly these people had to exist somewhere. With no signs of foul play in her apartment, one of the first theories was that she went hiking in the mountains, and had an accident.

Dan Warwick: 23:43 A missing hiker, they're not really missing, they're just off trail. We don't know that she went hiking and got off trail, we don't know this. She's not a hunter, so we know she wasn't out hunting. Hiking, maybe, but everybody that goes hiking that I've ever known, they take supplies with 'em. It doesn't appear she took anything with her.

Payne Lindsey: 24:09 As weeks went on, other rumors surrounding her disappearance began emerging.

Dan Warwick: 24:13 Initially, a lot of people said that she wanted to follow with the Rainbow Gathering. I don't know if you know what the Rainbow Gathering is, it's a group of people, they literally go place to place camping, and things like that.

Payne Lindsey: 24:27 According to the unofficial website for the Rainbow Gathering, they describe themselves as "brothers and sisters, children of God, families of life on earth, friends of nature, and of all people." Along with that description, I found a slew of articles about the Rainbow Gathering, including homicides, and missing persons cases, all related to the group's outings. Hm.

Dan Warwick: 24:49 Quite a few people said she got in a van with these guys that were going to the Rainbow Gathering, and went with them. But then we're like, why wouldn't she take her cell phone or anything like that? Now the Rainbow Gathering, most of 'em, don't take technology with 'em, they don't want the phones and all that stuff, they wanna be off the beaten path and away from the authorities more than anybody, I think.

Dan Warwick: 25:11 We asked them to check their camps, just see if she's there. If so, just tell us, yes. That's the end of it. And we never did get a response back from them saying she was there, so we're pretty certain she probably wasn't with them. But we also called law enforcement in different areas where that gathering was being done, and asked them to check also. Never panned out. So we're pretty certain she wasn't there.

Dan Warwick: 25:33 We don't know enough about her.

Payne Lindsey: 25:37 I asked the Sheriff where he plans to go from here.

Dan Warwick: 25:40 It's a heavy burden to try to get it solved, but we need the public's help to do so, in most cases. The public learns more about these cases, probably, than we do, in a lot of times. Everybody on the street will talk to each other when they won't talk to us. The best way for us to move forward of things, is for people to come forward and say, "I'll go on any paper you want. Any type of affidavit, to get a warrant, or do whatever the heck you need to do, be willing to testify in court, that's where we can move further with the information.

Dan Warwick: 26:12 The main goal for us is to keep the community safe and to find everything that we need to get closure for the family. Let's not just let it become the typical cold case where it's stuck in a file in the back room and that's where it sits until something comes up. The second that everybody stops talking about it, that's when those files go to the back room and not looked at on a regular basis. I think it needs to be talked about a lot, and kept in the forefront. I think it's gonna take the public. I think it takes somebody coming forward with actual correct information, the actual facts, of what occurred the night of her disappearance, or the day of her disappearance, whichever it may be.

Dan Warwick: 26:57 I don't care if it's somebody from the public, if it's you, if it's one of my guys, somebody from another country, I don't care. If we can get it solved, that's the goal. Your story may end up bringing closure to this. It may be the ending that we're looking for, somebody may come forward with the information that is needed to actually put this to rest.

David: 27:21 Friday!

Michael: 27:21 Friday!

David: 27:26 It's Friday. Yeah!

Payne Lindsey: 27:27 It was a Friday afternoon and I met back up with David, one of the Crestone locals. He invited me to his friend Michael's house and we sat around sipping his favorite brandy, and he showed off some of their drums.

David: 27:46 Well it's kind of like a doumbek. It's a doumbek but it's got this ... did you ever figure out-

Payne Lindsey: 27:49 David and his friend Michael essentially lead the full moon drum circles in Crestone, and they were there the night Kristal vanished.

David: 27:56 I was at the drum circle. Yeah, I was. It's such a shame that, that was the last time that Kristal was seen, because it was the night of the full moon-

Michael: 28:09 It was the night of the full moon-

David: 28:11 Of July, [crosstalk] -

Michael: 28:11 ... and I saw her alive, I saw her alive.

Payne Lindsey: 28:17 I asked David to describe drum circles.

David: 28:19 It starts out slow, and people start trickling in, and a djembe here and some congas there, and a few doumbeks and shakers, and there's one fellow that shows up with a bag of instruments, and so people that don't have instruments can pick something up and play, and, got a big old fire going, and somebody that's inspired will start doing a beat, and everybody else'll kinda start seeing how they can fit into it, and sometimes somebody sings, or plays guitar, saxophone shows up every now and then.

David: 28:52 Since pot is legal, there's always pot going around and it's really quite lovely. Quite lovely.

David: 29:02 It's about having fun. When I'm at drum circles, I'm just focused on myself, basically, and drumming. Trying to harmonize with everybody else, and I can miss the little things that are going on, just outside of the firelight.

David: 29:18 I mean, there must have been 45 people, 50 people. I'm in the center of the circle and then there's groups of people just outside of the circle, and I did see her that night. She didn't seem right. She didn't seem right, I remember that much. She seemed distracted, she seemed like she had stuff going on, but since I really didn't know her personally, I didn't get involved, or ask her if anything was alright. Oh, wow. Wow, wow, wow. So I don't know. Did she leave there and go back to town? You see I have no idea if she left or if she's still up in the woods, in one of the caves or something up above the drum circle.

David: 30:05 She wasn't joyous. She was troubled, that was obvious. She just wasn't very happy person, you could tell. I'm so horrified. So horrified.

Payne Lindsey: 30:23 Kristal lived in a small apartment building right in the middle of downtown Crestone. I met up with her landlord, Ara McDonald, and she walked me onto the property.

Ara McDonald: 30:34 So you see the blue/green building right there?

Payne Lindsey: 30:36 Yeah.

Ara McDonald: 30:37 That's it. Small town stuff.

Ara McDonald: 30:37 We're redoing the fence, but this was where my daughter and I lived, just right in those french doors. And we had the courtyard to ourselves. And Kristal was at the very end corner, on the top.

Payne Lindsey: 31:04 Okay.

Ara McDonald: 31:05 So. There's three units downstairs, four upstairs, when she was living here. They're knocking out all the walls down there and turning the whole downstairs into a café. But she was in 201, which is just a studio room with a bathroom and kitchenette. And she didn't have any windows on this side.

Ara McDonald: 31:27 Her closest neighbor was in 202, which was Jeremy Sharpe.

Jeremy: 31:37 The last time I actually saw her in person would have been at the Crestone brewery, I bought her two beers, or three beers, something like that. We were just talking and making plans to hang out. I think I was waiting on food and then, I wanna say it was two or three days later when Ara first said she was curious about where she'd been. So we shared the foyer. She had like a studio apartment, she had her own bathroom or something, I had this tiny little two room thing right next to her. Ara had said she hadn't seen Kristal, Ara called me and said she was gonna contact the police and asked if I'd make a statement, and a cop showed up and Ara opened up the apartment, I mean everything of Kristal's was still there, her purse, her phone, her tobacco. I didn't know her very well but I knew her well enough that she's not somebody who would just leave her tobacco.

Jeremy: 32:34 Some people were claiming suicide and I don't feel like that was her. I mean, I got a good judge of people, she was pretty empathic and I'm pretty empathic is why we connected and like, we both read tarot cards and do that kind of thing. I knew she struggled in a day-to-day sense, with a lot of different things, I'm sure things I don't even know about, but she never seemed to me to be a suicidal type of person. And at the same time, she never didn't anything but talk about her daughter, so I can't see her just running away.

Jeremy: 33:05 Honestly, I mean, I don't even know what to think, it was one day she was here and the next day she was gone. I mean we were making plans in the following days to hang out and stuff, so it was weird that all of a sudden she just disappeared.

Payne Lindsey: 33:19 Was Kristal having parties at the house?

Jeremy: 33:22 I wouldn't say she ever had parties. I think there was maybe once or twice she had like, three or four friends stop by, but it was a bit afternoon type deal, it was never a late night drinking party that I knew of, our walls are like paper thin, so I never heard anything or was bothered by anything.

Payne Lindsey: 33:39 Do you know who used to stop by?

Jeremy: 33:42 There was a couple of random people, drifters that lived around Crestone that I would see. And most of the people that she did surround herself with were, I would say, people that I don't personally see myself ever trying to have a relationship or friendship with. They just seem a little ... I don't wanna stereotype someone but to me they seemed like meth heads, like just kinda bums, you know.

Jeremy: 34:06 I couldn't even give you names of all the people, if I saw them I would know them.

Payne Lindsey: 34:12 From Jeremy's description of these people, I couldn't help but notice the similarity to the group the Sheriff was talking about. The trust fund kids.

Jeremy: 34:19 The main rumor that I heard was, she was seen at a drum circle. You know, some people just said she went off in the woods and killed herself. Knowing her personality, I don't see her doing that. And I dunno, I had weird feelings about it, like it was very strange how she just disappeared. I personally think that somebody had something to do with it and we just don't know. I mean, that's just my personal gut feeling.

Jeremy: 34:44 This is very eerie. I feel like somebody in Crestone either did something, or knows something. I really feel like there was some sort of foul play.

Payne Lindsey: 35:01 I sat down with Ara McDonald, Kristal's landlord, to discuss everything in more detail.

Ara McDonald: 35:06 I first met her when she used to work at the brewery. She was super-intuitive, super-intelligent, extremely beautiful, almost mesmerizing. Her eyes were really beautiful and mesmerizing, she could see right into your soul. We used to do reading trades a lot. She was an intuitive, she was a psychic, we both are.

Payne Lindsey: 35:34 Why did she move here, in the first place?

Ara McDonald: 35:36 I remember her saying, to get away from the drug scene in Denver. Try to get some clarity here, she was hoping to clean up and stay clean and just be some place different, be able to breathe and relax. She was looking for a place to live, where eventually she would have her daughter come and join her, and she was trying to stay clean from drugs. She asked me if she could have one of the rooms in the building. She said she was trying to stay clean, and she wanted her daughter to come out here. I said yes, I had her move in, and then a week later, I left to go to Boston with my daughter for two weeks, and that's when I got a ton of complaints when I came back from my trip. She was having people over partying a lot, and they were super-loud and keeping people awake.

Payne Lindsey: 36:30 Contrary to what Kristal's neighbor Jeremy told me, Ara said that she received several noise complaints about parties that were being held in Kristal's apartment.

Ara McDonald: 36:37 She developed kind of a reputation here in town for being unreliable. She started slipping back into the drugs scene, she got fired from her job shortly after she moved in, and she was desperate to find a job and because of that, she was pretty much broke. She only lived in the building for about a month, and Section 8 was paying the majority of her rent. She only had to pay $50, I believe, out of her own pocket.

Ara McDonald: 37:08 It's a strange town, we're surrounded by spiritual centers of all different kinds from all different walks of life all over the globe. There's a lot of people that come out here for retreats and meditations, and just to get away, same sort of thing as Kristal and many other people come here to get some rest or get silence. It's kind of a melting pot, a lot of people that have a hard time with normal mundane society, and are trying to get away from the city, lots of solar panels and wells, and people trying to live off-grid, or live in more sustainable ways. But we also get a lot of mentally ill people, and people with various problems. We don't have police presence here very much at all, a lot of people come here that are running from the law.

Ara McDonald: 38:04 It's like the good, the ugly, the sordiest of sordy and with the best of the best, and it's all slammed in together here. There's a huge underground drug scene. There's a lot of ex drug addicts that still live in town that would never, ever, ever tell the police anything, because they hate police.

Payne Lindsey: 38:33 Ara seemed pretty adamant about a particular drug scene here in Crestone. One that was taking over.

Ara McDonald: 38:40 Everyone knows that the meth scene is here, everyone knows who cooks the meth and who sells it, and it just is allowed to continue, you know. Which leads me to believe either it's a pay-off, or they really just don't care, and they don't wanna have to do anything about it.

Payne Lindsey: 39:01 On the day Kristal was reported missing, Ara was with the police when they entered her home for the first time.

Ara McDonald: 39:05 I'd let 'em in to her place, we found her phone, her bag, her tobacco. The window was open, the fan was on in the window, some of the lights were still on. It looked like she had just left and had every intention of coming back.

Payne Lindsey: 39:22 Ara began expressing frustration with how the case was being handled, in her eyes at least.

Ara McDonald: 39:27 I was doing more investigating into her disappearance than the cops did. I mean, they basically just didn't really do much at all, even with the obvious stuff.

Payne Lindsey: 39:40 Having talked to the Sheriff myself, they've had very little information to go on.

Ara McDonald: 39:44 The minute Elijah arrives and starts to put up a fuss, that's when they send a search party out to look for her for two days, a month after she disappeared. Why would you ever wait a month to go search for someone? And it happens to be on the two days when baby daddy is visiting and wants to see that something's being done.

Ara McDonald: 40:06 There's a lot of people that would love to see justice done, because the cops didn't do anything. There's lots of rumors. There's people who believe that she just walked off and didn't wanna have anyone know where she was at, but I highly doubt that. She had a long history of taking long walkabouts when she was not feeling solid, which I can kinda relate to, I had a similar thing when I was a teenager where, if you get into an emotional funk, it helps to walk.

Ara McDonald: 40:37 She really did love her daughter a lot, and her daughter was her main reason for living. So I mean, if she was gonna walk out into the woods and purposely kill herself, I would think she would at least reach out to Elijah and say something. With my intuition I think either she accidentally overdosed, and they actually got rid of her body, or they gave her a bunch of drugs and she went out wandering around in the woods and somehow got accidentally killed by being on drugs. But I highly doubt that she purposefully committed suicide.

Ara McDonald: 41:14 What people need to realize is that people get addicted to drugs because they're in pain, originally, and they're grieving. That's their way of self-medicating.

Ara McDonald: 41:26 I think Kristal's dead. Yeah, I don't think she's alive. The only way that she would really be alive is if she's locked up in somebody's basement right now.

Payne Lindsey: 41:46 Before leaving Ara's house, she told me she had one more story to tell me about Kristal. Something that happened to her, just a few weeks before she went missing.

Ara McDonald: 41:55 She was late for rent, and that's when I went upstairs and, at first she didn't answer, but I knocked a few more times, and then she peeked out and she came in the hallway. Her whole face was blotchy and red and she'd been crying, and looked like a mess. I asked her what was wrong. She said that she had gone to a party the night before and she was pretty sure that someone had drugged her, and she was pretty sure that she'd been raped.

Meredith S.: 42:36 Up and Vanished is an investigative podcast told weekly, produced by Tenderfoot TV, by Payne Lindsey, Mike Rooney and me, Meredith Stedman. There's new episodes every Monday. Executive producers, Payne Lindsey and Donald Albright. Additional production by Resonate Recordings, as well as 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. Visit us on social media via @upandvanished. Or you can visit our website, upandvanished.com, where you can join in on our discussion board.

Meredith S.: 43:17 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.