Transient’s murder goes cold
By the time police in 1986 were told of a man’s killing and arrived at the scene, they wondered if they had a real crime scene left at all.
“It was pretty well scavenged,” Grand Junction Police Department Cmdr. Mike Nordine said. “People had removed items or and deposited them elsewhere.”
The case of Gerald Burns, 44, whose body was found Oct. 11, 1986, illustrated what Nordine describes as common hurdles when investigating crime among Grand Junction’s transient community: They frequently are distrustful police or are uninterested in cooperating with anyone.
“Particularly with this population, the chances of finding someone who knows something become less and less as time goes on,” Nordine said.
Burns’ body was found by transients near railroad tracks along the Interstate 70 Business Loop, behind a group of buildings at 1801 E. Main St., which was adjacent to a known transient camp at the time. An autopsy showed Burns was strangled and had blunt-force injuries to his head and neck.
“Nothing indicates there was biological evidence found which was dissimilar to the victim,” Nordine said.
Officers visited several locations where Burns was known to reside, including abandoned houses along D Road along with Emerson and Whitman parks, searching for witnesses.
Little else is known about Burns, Nordine said. According to a Mesa County Crime Stoppers brief published by The Daily Sentinel in the days after the slaying, Burns’ last known address was in Boulder City, Nev. The brief said police were attempting to find a man, Ralph Peckman, for questioning.
“If someone comes forward and provides us some information, it could do wonders for our investigation,” Nordine said.