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Murder outside Moab

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Photo courtesy of Justice for Kylen and Crystal Facebook Group
Photo courtesy of Justice for Kylen and Crystal Facebook Group

Newlyweds Kylen Schulte and Crystal Turner, known for their love of the outdoors, often camped and traveled together in their van. So a summer weekend trip into Moab National Park wasn't out of the ordinary for them.

But while they were enjoying their evening on Thursday, August 19, things took a dark turn once nightfall crept over their campsite.

As the sun went down, the women began to take note of a "weirdo" camping in the next site over. He had reportedly been observing and following them throughout the day, and as dusk neared, they started to worry about their safety. Friends reported getting texts and calls from the couple, informing them that they would be moving from their campsite to another location due to the strange nature of their neighbor. This was the last anyone heard from them.

The police were alerted the following Monday, when Turner failed to show up to work. The couple's families began searching for them, and an official missing-person report was filed. The last anyone had seen of Schulte and Turner was when they had visited a bar outside of Moab on Thursday evening, but the haunting messages they had sent to friends later that night didn't sit right, and foul play was soon suspected.

The bodies of two women were discovered not far from Moab on Wednesday morning, in the South Mesa of La Sal Loop Road. Medical examiners later confirmed the identities of the women to be Schulte and Turner, the cause of death for both being gunshot wounds.

The investigation remains open, as police have not as of yet made any arrests in response to their deaths, nor have any suspects been identified, and so the killer is still on the loose. Furthermore, the Grand County sheriff's office issued a statement that it believes the crime to be "an isolated incident" with no "current danger to the public."

The lack of a more serious investigation points to flaws in the justice system when it comes to protecting women, and particularly LGBTQ+ women.

What would motivate a stranger to murder?
For anyone who listens to crime podcasts or grew up with parents who were eerily into The Forensic Files, there is one unnerving fact when it comes to violent crimes that police have failed to publicly address in the case of Schulte and Turner: perpetrators always have a motive.

According to a classic study out of the US Department of Justice, violent crimes are most likely to be committed by someone the victim knows, largely because of the role motives play in crime. When broken down by demographics, women are most likely to be victims of violent crimes conducted by a known perpetrator; of those, homicide is the least likely to be committed by a stranger.

With this background knowledge in criminology applied to Schulte and Turner's case, the crime becomes much more unusual. What would motivate an unknown stranger to kill these two women?

It's the elephant in the room, the factor police are hesitant to talk about. Schulte and Turner were Lesbians, and so their mere existence as a couple may very well have been the motivating factor that led an unidentified stranger to kill them. And it may also be why police are quick to dismiss the case as an "isolated incident."

If this murder is in fact the result of a hate crime, then the minimization of the case indicates a much more deeply rooted issue in the Grand County community. The assumption that someone so motivated by bigotry is not a "threat to the community" indicates exactly who the police see as members of the community worth protecting. While this killer remains at large, no member of the LGBTQ+ community is safe in Grand County, and with the precedent publicly set that the murder of Queer people is not to be thoroughly prosecuted, more bigots could be inspired to attack.

The dangers of being a Lesbian
Statistically, women and female-identifying people are much more likely to be the victims of violent crimes in their life. Nearly one in four women have experienced violence by a current or former intimate partner.

Women are also far more likely to experience sexual assault and rape, with one in five women reporting that they have been the victim of attempted rape. While these numbers are reported at much higher rates for women in opposite-sex relationships, Lesbian, Queer, and Bisexual women still face the realities of violence against women.

Due to the culture of compulsory heterosexuality and a patriarchal idea of gender norms, women are more likely to come out later in life, meaning that many Lesbian women have had intimate relationships with men in the past. Coming out to a former intimate partner or other male friends and family members can cause confusion and anger, sometimes leading men to lash out in retaliation.

This confusion and anger can sometimes be directed at women in Queer-presenting relationships by strangers as well. Patriarchy is dependent on the idea that women exist to be commodified and objectified by men. A woman who is completely uninterested in male attention and no longer subject to the male gaze removes a societal power men have been given. When Lesbians are not being fetishized by men, they can often become resented, falling victim to violence for no reason other than existing.

The fear of being a woman in America can become magnetized at the intersection of Queer identities. Simple actions people in heterosexual relationships can take without turning heads, like holding hands in public or talking about their significant other, when done by homosexual couples, can be enough to incite rage, invite a challenge, or even provoke violence.

As a country, we have accepted same-sex marriage as legal. LGBTQ+ people should be free to be themselves without the fear of violence or bigotry. But when a newlywed couple is murdered without justice, we have to ask ourselves: How safe is it, really, to be a Lesbian?

Remembering Kylen and Crystal
While investigators continue to look into the case and public speculation grows on what would have motivated such a coldhearted murder, the families of Schulte and Turner remain in shock. Bridget Calvert, Schulte's aunt, spoke to the SGN about her niece, saying, "Kylen was pure and kind. She shined love everywhere she went. She also carried Christ in her heart. She would reflect on her relationship with God and knew she could always trust in her faith."

Schulte and Turner were adventure lovers at heart. The two loved to travel and see the world, and spending time in nature was a favorite pastime for them.

It was also clear to everyone who met them that Schulte and Turner were soulmates. Calvert reflected on their special bond: "I never knew Crystal as an individual. I only knew her as a couple with Kylen, and boy, were they one from the start. My uncle put it best when he said they were a When Harry Met Sally kind of love. If you're around them you'd say, 'I want one of what they're having.' Happiness, joy, love, laughter, strength through each other, compassion, a true bond."

Schulte and Turner lived for their love, and ultimately may have died for it as well. They were cherished by their family and friends, but most importantly by each other. They were kind, loving, and full of joy, and they deserved to have a long life together to spend in that joy.

What happened to them was not an isolated incident; it was an attack on anyone who has dared to love differently and been brave enough to share that love with the world. May Kylen Schulte and Crystal Turner rest in peace, love, and power with each other, and may their families find comfort and justice in these days to come.