Tatarovich used a forged steel process to create the sculpture, during which metal elements are heated to red-hot. [Courtesy Ekaterina Tatarovich]

“When I looked at Kylen and Crystal’s pictures, there was so much light and beauty coming out of their eyes—such purity of love,” said Ekaterina Tatarovich.

That’s what the La Sal-based artist tried to capture, creating a memorial sculpture for Kylen Schulte and Crystal Turner, who were murdered in the La Sal Mountains this past summer. The metal sculpture forms a sunflower and a rose wrapped around each other as though in an embrace, representing the married couple. According to family and friends, the sunflower was Schulte’s favorite blossom, and the rose was Turner’s.

Tatarovich had the piece partially completed in time for a memorial service held for the women in September. The sculpture will be installed in the Grand County Public Library early in 2022.

Tatarovich said she didn’t know Schulte or Turner well, but had seen them around town.

“Just seeing the light and the love in their eyes was really special,” she said.

The two women were reported missing in mid-August of 2021, and they were found at their campsite in the La Sal Mountains on Aug. 18, dead from gunshot wounds. The case is still unsolved. The Moab community has joined the women’s family and friends in mourning two people who are remembered as joyful and loving.

“For me personally, it really touched me very deeply,” Tatarovich said. “I was sad to my core. I just felt like there needed to be a piece to remember the light that these two women had.”

Tatarovich creates art and functional pieces in her La Sal workshop, called Sculpture Adventure Studios. Her workspace includes a blacksmith shop and foundry, as well as space and tools for working with wood, stone, ceramic and glass. She decided to use her skills and talent to create and donate a memorial piece to help the community remember Schulte and Turner.

“I couldn’t help in any other way. I just can do what I can do best,” Tatarovich said.

Forged steel “takes quite a while to make,” Tatarovich said. Each component is heated, pounded, shaped and twisted. The night before the September memorial service, she stayed up all night to complete the form of the sculpture. It was displayed at the gathering, though without its final finish. The completed piece will have a patina finish and another piece of azurite, and be displayed on a pedestal also made by Tatarovich.

As Tatarovich told people about the project and started looking for a place to display the sculpture, other community members offered to contribute: Bill Harrison, owner of the Blue Crystal Mines in the La Sal Mountains, donated azurite and malachite stones. Tatarovich thought they were perfect to include in the piece, as they come from the La Sal Mountains, a place she knew the women loved. When Tatarovich approached the Moab Arts and Recreation Center for help in finding a place to permanently install the piece, the MARC offered to help cover the cost of materials.

“I think everybody wants to see this happen,” Tatarovich said.

It took some time to settle on a location for the sculpture. Tatarovich wanted it to be indoors, to reduce the risk of damage or vandalism. She considered asking Moonflower Market, where Schulte worked. However, she spoke with Schulte’s father, Sean-Paul Schulte, who wanted the sculpture to be in a more neutral location, rather than a place more connected with one woman than the other. Tatarovich’s brother suggested the library, which felt like a welcoming place for all. She contacted Library Director Carrie Valdes, who said she had the perfect spot. The sculpture will be installed in early January.

Investigators are still working on the case. The Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Utah State Bureau of Investigations stepped in to help the Grand County Sheriff’s Department in September. Sean-Paul Schulte has hired a private investigator, Jason Jenson, to also work on the case. Anyone with information that could possibly advance the case is encouraged to call the Grand County Sheriff’s Office at 435-259-8115. Officials ask the public not to post tips on social media.

 “Just seeing the light and the love in their eyes was really special.” Ekaterina Tatarovich