Original Air Date 09.03.2018
In This Episode
Chris Halsne, Eli, and the Ervins disclose the predominant rumor surrounding Kristal’s case. Friends and family reminisce, sharing their favorite anecdotes and character traits about Kristal. Payne makes contact with her friends in Denver, seeking out experiences from that time in her life. And then we’re back to Crestone…
Chris Halsne: 00:03 Kristal had told her landlord that she was ready to report and expose some people for sexually assaulting her at a party, just prior to when she disappeared. One of the theories is that to keep her quiet from that reporting might be one of the reasons that she was killed. On the first day I pulled out a manila folder and I wrote, missing mystic, was going to be the title of my folder. By the time I went to Crestone and came back I crossed it out and put, murdered mystic. She didn't just walk away and she's not just missing.
Payne Lindsey: 00:43 From Tenderfoot TV in Atlanta, this is Up and Vanished. I'm your host, Payne Lindsey.
Chris Halsne: 01:22 There was only one thing that everyone in town kept saying that matched up, that was kind of the common tone, and it was these guys that she was hanging out with. Everyone said they were bad news.
Payne Lindsey: 01:36 Eli, the father of Akasha, heard a similar story.
Eli Gauna: 01:39 Kristal's a very hard core, confrontational, not afraid to stand up for herself kind of person, so it's looking like she did indeed go to confront them. Which I'm sure she did, that was the kind of person she was, and they silenced her is what it's looking like.
Payne Lindsey: 01:58 So did Kristal's family, Amy and her husband Alex.
Alex: 02:01 I think we need corroboration with the people who she specifically made contact with, claiming that she had been sexually assaulted.
Amy: 02:08 Ours really that we know are-
Alex: 02:09 It's going to be hard to going to the bait at this point from those people, but ...
Payne Lindsey: 02:15 Was that before or after the drum circle, do we know?
Alex: 02:16 I think it was after.
Amy: 02:18 Actually no, I think the accusation was before.
Payne Lindsey: 02:20 But the exact date of the incident was still in question
Chris Halsne: 02:23 After she moved to Crestone there became some rumors that some seedy, rough characters were around her apartment, and that she'd gotten back into the drug scene. I think she was in with a bad crowd. And I think she knew it. And I don't know whether she tried to get out or figure out a way to be safe and it came to an end, or whether or not she didn't realize it in time. I think the people that were in Kristal's life at the very end were dangerous. Are dangerous, because they're still out there. It's not a past tense. I don't think poking around they care. They don't think anybody's going to out them. I've put a camera in accused murderers' faces. They all react a little differently. It's always a good show. They might be more willing to talk to somebody asking questions, trying to find out where she's at then they would to talk to the deputies.
Payne Lindsey: 03:35 Mary, a long time Crestonian, shared her perspective with me.
Mary: 03:41 In promoting tours into Crestone we would say we've got plenty of nothing, and that was true because no noise, no traffic, we have lots of nothing. So when you come up the road here, don't expect to be entertained. You gotta create that for yourself. I've been here for 34 years. Back in the mining days there was two newspapers in Crestone. One was called the Crestone Miner and one was called the Crestone Eagle, and they both lasted for about four, five years in the boom days. So when I started the paper up I named the paper the Crestone Eagle, 29 years ago, and it's just grown along with the community. People come here to get away from it all. People wanting to live closer to the environment, plus it's an incredibly beautiful place at the end of the road up against the mountains. People live here who want to have a quiet lifestyle. We're one of two counties in Colorado that does not have the uniform building code.
Mary: 04:49 It's still a mystery in our community. The sheriff's department will put an update out saying that they're still looking into this disappearance. From what we've heard from the sheriff's department and the deputies, they don't have enough solid evidence to actually arrest anyone. I don't think it's really gone away from people's minds. People who knew Kristal, I think they're hoping that somebody who knows something will finally speak up. There's been times where the rumor mill has really gotten going. You know, with rumors there's always some amount of truth and a lot of wild speculation. There's probably some truth, but then I think there's just, everybody's watched a lot of murder mystery television and they make things up. You get that sort of grapevine stuff that one person says something and somebody else hears it and it goes on down the line and it bears no resemblance to the truth.
Mary: 05:53 This community has a sense of people they might suspect. Whether that's true or not, we don't really know. You live in a small town, you always have people you might not like or might have a bad reputation. That doesn't mean that they're guilty. That just means people wonder if they're the ones responsible. But without the sheriff actually making an arrest, it's all speculation. So we just don't know. She walk out the door and disappear off the earth, what? I think people want to see resolution. People cared about her. They want to know what happened, to put her to rest, and then I think also to see justice done. Kind of creepy to live in a community and not know if that perpetrator is one of your neighbors or somebody that's still here.
Payne Lindsey: 07:10 I was back in Denver. After getting an initial feel for Crestone, I wanted to dig deeper into Kristal's life before she went there. Who were her friends? Where'd she hang out at? It was time to explore Kristal's past life more in depth. We spoke to a friend of Kristal's, a roommate who knew her before she moved to south Colorado.
Danielle: 07:39 My name is Danielle. I'm originally from Grand Junction, Colorado. I've been here my whole life, so I guess maybe sometimes I take it for granted because I wake up to the mountains every day. Yeah, it's beautiful here. There's a lot of Native American history, and so I think that's the spirit of Colorado, that's what draws people here. I think that's why I like it. Kristal had such a connection to this place, you know? She was hypnotic. A lot of people were drawn to her. Her eyes, I don't know, I'm sure you've seen pictures, but she had beautiful Kristal blue eyes. It just looked like you were staring into a reflection of water, and I feel like she truly did have an intuitive gift. Incredibly intuitive. I consider her to be a little bit tapped in. The odd and the strange, she worked really good with.
Angela: 08:40 Kristal, even with everything that she had been through in her life, she was still a happy, bubbly person.
Payne Lindsey: 08:50 This is Angela. She's the mother of Kristal's closest college friend, Mikey, and very much a mother figure in Kristal's life.
Angela: 08:57 Her laugh, you could hear her from a mile away, literally. Oh, there's Kristal. She had her demons, but once she had that baby she stopped all that, and we would talk about that. She said now that I have Akasha, I will never go back to that. She was a wonderful mother. She was so bubbly and happy, and Kristal would always call and check in with Akasha.
Amy: 09:23 She's got Kristal's eyes, which is amazing, and then she's got the best hair. So jealous of this child's hair. She has Kristal's personality and Eli's looks. You're like, darn it, you're so cute. If she didn't have an option we absolutely would have adopted her, 100 percent, if she didn't have [Lala 00:09:45] or Eli, 100 percent we would take her. I still wish we could. Akasha's had support from day one between our family, Eli's family, all of these different support systems, so it's like Akasha is getting the chance that Kristal never had in her soul as to look out for other people, and to make people feel good, and to make people feel like somebody. That's what Kristal did.
Debbie: 10:12 Akasha is such a mini Kristal, but she was brought to us before we lost Kristal. She makes up her own songs and she sings.
Amy: 10:20 The one that I love, this is just a short clip, but she has the best taste in music. [singing] This is stuff she makes up. [singing]
Debbie: 10:54 Akasha was between two and three, so she has memories, but the thing she comes up with now, even though Kristal's been gone for two years, the gestures, the attitude ...
Amy: 11:09 Just says eerie things. She said to her grandma Sylvia, her grandma Lala, she was hugging her on the bed and Akasha said, my mom says thank you for loving me. Kids do say the darndest things, but the things she says are very articulate, insightful, and just too much of a spiritual mother daughter connection.
Chris Halsne: 11:38 Every time I see Akasha, she says mommy told me, or something like that. I'm going, man she is, she's talking to her, and she's trying to tell us something. Did you guys go up by the drum circle? Well we stopped a little bit up there, and along a river Akasha just stopped and she goes, mommy's here. She wants us to come get her. I lost it. A little kid doesn't come up with, mommy's cold in a cave. We need to go find mommy. Three year olds don't come up with that stuff. If she's not a conduit for Kristal on the other side, I don't know what is.
Debbie: 12:27 We developed kind of like a mother daughter relationship. Kristal always tried to see the best in people, and that was her downfall. She didn't see the bad people. She had a hard life. She always gave everybody the benefit of the doubt. If I would have known that she was raped, I would have been up there. I would have had Peter take me and I would have been up there in a heartbeat. She was a beautiful person. She was one of those bright lights that you don't find often, so it's just hard. I want resolution for Akasha. I want her to know. I want the remains so that we can put Kristal to rest, and I want closure for Akasha so that she knows, and justice. Justice for Kristal. She didn't deserve that. She was a good person. If she had her last dollar and you needed it, she would give it to you. Mikey was there from college and all that stuff, and he was her best friend, so he knows all about her. He'd be a good character witness.
Mikey: 14:06 We met at a house party. I was 18, she was 18, and at the party she was like, you have an eyebrow ring, I have an eyebrow ring. That just means we're going to be friends. After that we just became best friends. We had a safe ride bus I remember, and it would take you home after you would go to parties. It's a college town, and there was no room to sit on the bus, and so she was like, sit on my lap! I was drunk and I was like, nobody ever holds me anymore. Then she was hugging me and she wouldn't let go, and then she walked me into my dorm, and I was stumbling, and she put me to bed and I told her to wrap me in like a burrito. I remember. That was our first night, and then after that we just became best friends forever.
Mikey: 14:50 We started a little red book. It's called my 10 percent. Basically I have everybody write one quote they live their life by, but a lot of Kristal's literature is in it. She was a huge inspiration in my life when I was young, because I was dealing with family issues coming out of the closet. But yeah, she was ... Me and her were like this. She was spiritual. I'm spiritual as well. Pretty empathic. She loved rock and roll, she loved to sing, she had tattoos all over her. She was always the center of the room. I'm sure people told you, you could hear her laughing blocks away. She's been a huge influence on my life and my family's life, and I'm her best friend.
Payne Lindsey: 16:59 Mikey, Angela's son and Kristal's best friend, has been trying to find Kristal since she disappeared.
Mikey: 17:04 The week that I found out that she was missing, I went crazy. I didn't really know the type of people that she was hanging out with. I was going through Facebook, mutual friends. When I was messaging her there was one moment, and I wrote her, hey hey hey, how are you, how are you? I'm trying to get ahold of you. You know when you message somebody on Facebook and the little thing shows that they saw it?
Payne Lindsey: 17:38 Yeah.
Mikey: 17:38 Somebody was on her Facebook.
Payne Lindsey: 17:43 After she went missing.
Mikey: 17:45 For a while. So somebody must have. I don't know who did it.
Payne Lindsey: 17:53 AJ, another friend of Kristal's, had a very similar experience.
AJ: 17:57 About a year ago I got a friend request from her on Facebook, and I got on there, was like hey, where have you been? Everybody's been looking for you. I just freaked out. I was like, oh my god, I miss you, I love you. Then I was going through her Facebook and I noticed that she was still missing. I was like, what the hell is up with this? She was always my friend on Facebook, so for me to get a friend request from her she would have had to have not been my friend and then sent me another friend request. I don't know how. I accepted the friend request and then I messaged her immediately, like where have you been? And I posted on Facebook, this is my friend. I just got a friend request from her. She's been missing. I don't know if this is a sick joke that somebody's playing. If this person is doing that then they have to know her immediate friends, because why is this happening to her immediate friends? I'm like, is she out there lost and trying to get ahold of somebody, she can't talk? It's just so bizarre.
Payne Lindsey: 19:14 I asked Mikey to show me what he and Kristal liked to do together in Denver. I wanted to go somewhere Kristal had gone before, somewhere esoteric and strange, like the way Danielle described Kristal.
Payne Lindsey: 19:23 Where did Kristal hang out at in Denver?
Mikey: 19:26 Me and her, every Sunday we used to drive all the way from Gonoson to Denver to go to the church nightclub on Sundays. It's an alternative night, it's like a goth night. Kristal was never goth or anything like that, but me and her liked the scene. One of my events is Denver's largest alternative goth night. I call it the safe zone for all expressionists. Goths, gays, fetish, burner, who cares, transgender, nobody cares. Just very nice people. You would think that goth people are angry and stuff but they're actually the sweetest people. They're all artists and pretty spiritual, cool peeps. We just loved the music, you know? She loved rock and roll, she loved to sing, she had tattoos all over her. Yes I dress in black, but it doesn't mean I'm goth. I one day dress with color and some days I don't. But yeah, goth night is a lot of fun. The church nightclub is where we used to go out all the time when we were kids. I could take you guys tonight.
Payne Lindsey: 20:25 Mikey offered to take me to Kristal's old stomping grounds, a club in Denver called church.
Club Bouncer: 20:33 The crowd itself no matter how busy, how slow, never causes a problem. It's the people who come in and want to screw with people.
Club Patron 1: 20:40 It's a very good crowd. These are some very good people here.
Club Patron 2: 20:45 I came out of the closet here.
Club Patron 3: 20:47 Doesn't matter what you dress like, what music you want to listen to, any sort of sexual preference. This crowd doesn't care. If you just want to come in and have a good time, that's what everybody's here for. Nobody wants to fucking give anybody grief for anything, and as long as they just are here to have a good time, there's never problems. It's when you get that one or two people who think that they have the right to judge other people that the problems arise. We try and protect our crowd.
Payne Lindsey: 21:39 It was dark and loud, but it wasn't off putting. All walks of life, just dancing in their own space, in a place that wouldn't judge them. Everybody seemed happy. If anyone seemed strange it was me, wearing a backpack and holding a microphone, trying to imagine Kristal's life in Denver before she went to Crestone. Mikey pulled out a little red book that he shared with Kristal. He wanted to share a passage Kristal had written, so we walked outside on the patio away from the music.
Mikey: 22:16 "One day I know, I'll say many things, but for now I'd like to tell you, you're an angel, light hearted, stepping gently around the cracks in the ground, looking away from the sun, eyes burning, wings steady on your back. How beautiful to be this way. Michael, wonderful, lovely, misunderstood boy. You are my light, you are my joy. There is so much learning to do, and we can close our eyes. We run together. We will see so much clearer in the end, so this is for my amazing and wonderful super best friend. Kiss." If there was a fire in my house, that's the first thing that I would go grab.
Angela: 23:03 When she first went missing we were on the phone 24/7 with everybody and anybody who would talk to us, and they weren't talking back. A year of writing emails to all these news stations trying to get her story out there, and finally Chris Halsne calls me. Thank God for Chris Halsne, because he was instrumental in getting that story out there. Swatch county has six officers, two police what is essentially the size of Rhode Island. It's kind of a scary situation, you know? I would think that that would make it harder to investigate. If there's any ounce of remorse or if you have any ounce of goodness in your heart, you'll come forward and turn yourself in. But I don't think you will, because I think you're an evil person, and what you did is a very evil thing. And you took away a mother from a baby. Now that little child has to live knowing that she'll never see her mother again, and that's what makes you the most evil person. The problem that I see with this is, no one's going to talk unless they move out of Crestone, because they going to disappear too. Finding out exactly everyone that's in that group is going to be important.
Chris Halsne: 24:56 There's a drug culture that's hidden in Crestone. Some of it is because Colorado, they legalized marijuana and everybody can go out there and they feel that that can be part of this experience that they're looking for. That has drawn in some harder drugs to the area. The Swatch county sheriff's office has sometimes four deputies to cover 1000 square miles. Unless something really awful happens, they have very few resources to tackle any kind of drug distribution network out there. And a cold case like this is so full of rumors and innuendo that you need to cut through it to try to come up with an idea of what's most viable, because it's our job to filter all that stuff.
Payne Lindsey: 25:50 How do you cut through it?
Chris Halsne: 25:52 I cut through it simply with multiple sources. Being as honest with my viewers and readers as I can be. If something is a rumor I say, this is a rumor. We heard it from two or three or four people. Just a rumor. I'm not telling them that's a fact. I'm not telling them that's something I found. I found a whole bunch of people that told me the same rumor, one that we couldn't confirm. And most of the time we wouldn't even put a rumor in an investigative story, but in this case almost everything's rumor, and I think as along as you tell people who are listening what people mostly believe and leave it in that realm, I think it's fair to report. And I let people then understand that that's our flaw.
Payne Lindsey: 26:41 Almost a year later there was a party in Denver, and a friend of Kristal's was at that party and she was having a conversation with a girl.
Jenny: 26:49 It was a late night party in Denver. It was coming towards the end of it. People were kind of winding down I guess, and I was on the back porch smoking a cigarette. Throughout the time that I had heard that Kristal was missing, whenever anybody mentions Crestone I just always was like, oh Crestone, do you know Kristal? This girl there was talking to a different couple of people on the porch, and I overheard her say, I'm from Crestone, I live in Crestone. So I immediately without really expecting any kind of a response was just like, oh, you're from Crestone. Do you know Kristal? She turned to me and gave me this crazy look. I knew that she knew something.
Jenny: 27:45 I see it so clearly in my head. I don't know really how to explain it. She's not guilty in the least. I don't believe this girl has anything to do with this, and it took a lot of guts for me to come forward with this information because I didn't want to get this girl in trouble, because she just started pouring whatever she could tell me about it, understanding that Kristal was my sister.
Jenny: 28:10 She mentioned that she had a feeling that her ex husband was involved, because she knew. Because she knew what happened. Well then where is she? I was trying to be like, okay, you've heard that, which means that somebody told you, which means somebody you know that was there, well then where is she? She knows people that were at this party and they told her what happened.
Payne Lindsey: 28:48 Kristal's friend was certain this girl was telling the truth and that she had intimate knowledge about Kristal's disappearance. She only knew her by her nickname, but was uncomfortable sharing that information with me. I eventually found her on Facebook and asked if I could talk to her about Kristal. She responded saying, "As far as I'm concerned when she went missing I was not around the area for a couple years. Her and I never lived in Crestone at the same time. I wish I could help more. I hope her and her family find peace." I looked for an ex husband or an ex boyfriend, but I didn't find much. Kristal's friend believed there was a real connection here, but at this point it was only rumor.
Rodney: 30:26 This is the thing that really bothers me, is the thought of her going over into hard drugs and being totally irresponsible. I just didn't see it. It all goes back to that apartment. It irritates the shit out of me when people say that, maybe because I don't want to believe it. I'm sure that's it. To me it's kind of like a smear campaign after somebody's gone.
Payne Lindsey: 31:00 Rodney's frustrated with the way some people have portrayed Kristal. The idea that she was on drugs and abandoned her daughter and family. Rodney's right, Kristal didn't abandon Akasha. In fact, Akasha was back and forth between Denver and Crestone the entire time she lived there. For whatever reason, Kristal wasn't happy in her relationship. She wanted a fresh start. During her time in Crestone she traveled back and forth to Denver with Akasha, and when she wasn't with her in person, she'd call her every single day. In reference to the rumor Kristal was using drugs, Rodney kept going back to the apartment.
Rodney: 31:35 For her, the place was really clean. Unless somebody staged it. Well, I don't believe that for a second. Yeah, her clothes were scattered out in front of the bathroom where she hangs them, but that was her usual stuff. There wasn't one beer can, one beer bottle, there was no alcohol bottles. Invariably when people have a big party or they're doing a lot of partying, there's going to be some evidence somewhere. Unless somebody came in and cleaned the place, not a chance.
Payne Lindsey: 32:08 At this point, one thing seemed very clear. Kristal was in with the wrong crowd, a bad crowd, and she claimed to those close to her just a few weeks before she went missing that she was raped. I knew there was obviously more to the story, and it wasn't in Denver. I really hope I have service, because that would not be fun.
Payne Lindsey: 32:38 Back in Crestone, I had rented a house out in the [Bacca 00:32:41]. The cell service and my GPS was pretty spotty, so David, one of the locals, offered to let me follow him to the address. This it?
David: 32:54 You flash your lights and shit?
Payne Lindsey: 32:59 No.
David: 32:59 Really? It's trippy to be back. Wild effect. I kept thinking, he must be sitting flashing himself trying to tell me [crosstalk 00:33:06] cool, I can deal with that. So this road, this is Camino Bacca Grande. This is the main road.
Payne Lindsey: 33:32 When I got to the house, I dropped my bags down and went outside for a few minutes. I was amazed by the absolute silence. It felt like a vacuum. The next day, David offered to take me up to the side of the drum circle.
David: 33:56 These are all junipers. Normally it's pinions. This happens to be a juniper forest. It's always great on the full moons. We got a big moon. You can see everything. You see people's faces, you can see everybody. But this is ... This dark place with no lights, that just a vast tract of wilderness. It's just held and protected.
Payne Lindsey: 34:32 What was the vibe like that night?
David: 34:37 It wasn't clear. It was a little awkward for me. I remember leaving early. Leaving early that night, just it wasn't as comfortable as usual. Wasn't quite as much fun as usual. There was a different element of people there too. There was a different element of people. Some of these druggies, yeah, it was very noticeable. Disappointing when that happens. There's a pretty solid row of people about this far away from the fire, right? Solid row of people, especially the people who have instruments and stuff. Well last time I saw her she was standing right there. Standing right there.
Payne Lindsey: 35:32 Later that week, David invited me to the drum circle ceremony on the night of a full moon. I met up with him in town and he offered to ride with me. I was anxious to see what this thing was all about.
David: 35:43 If it's not cloudy there's so many stars that you can actually see by starlight. But cloudy like this it definitely gets pitch black. It'll be dark. It'll be almost hard to get around, you know? Turn right. This goes all the way to the drum circle. That's it. Turn left right there. Welcome to the north Crestone drum circle.
Meredith S.: 36:55 Up and vanished is an investigative podcast, told weekly, produced for Tenderfoot TV by Payne Lindsey, Mike Rooney, and me, Meredith Stedmann, with 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 Halley Bedol. Original score by Makeup and Vanity set. Our theme song is Ophelia, performed by As a Rose. Our cover art is by Trevor Eiler. Special thanks to the team at Cadence 13. Visit us on social media via @upandvanished, or you can visit our website upandvanished.com, where you can join in on our discussion board. 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.