Justice still needed, 20 years afterward

Carrelyn Bunting is absolutely correct. Finding who murdered her daughter, Phlisia, 20 years ago is not just a matter of seeking justice for the Bunting family. It is an issue for all of Colorado and society as a whole.

Allowing the murderer or murderers to continue walking free means not only that justice has been denied, but that other lives could be in jeopardy.

That’s why it’s welcome news today — the 20th anniversary of the discovery of Phlisia Bunting’s body at Island Acres State Park — that the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department is continuing to push to try to solve the case.

Sheriff’s Department investigators recently took the case back from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. The Sheriff’s Department had handed the case over to the CBI three years ago, but because of that agency’s backlog of cases, little had been accomplished with it.

Phlisia Bunting was 16 when she left Denver in July of 1990 with three young men — Maurice Duerson, then 19, Wayne Irish and Wayne Kirk. Denver police arrested Duerson shortly after Bunting’s body was found, but prosecutors determined they didn’t have enough evidence to file criminal charges.

Sheriff’s Department investigator Harold Stoffel said authorities hope advancements in DNA technology and a new round of interviews with friends of the three men last seen with her can provide evidence needed to arrest and successfully prosecute Phlisia’s killer.

Doing that two decades after the murder occurred is no easy task. Evidence may be lost or be no longer usable. Witnesses disappear. In this case, Wayne Kirk died in 2001.

Still, the Sheriff’s Department is to be commended because it has not left the case to languish in a musty evidence container. Officers with the department are continuing to push for justice — for the Bunting family and for all of us.


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