Law enforcement officials finally closed the case of the Aug. 14, 2021 murders of Moab locals Kylen Schulte and Crystal Turner, ending a many months long investigation. The suspect named in May, Adam Pinkusiewicz, is believed to have committed the murder with no accomplice. Pinkusiewicz died by suicide in Iowa on Sept. 24, 2021.
Friends, family and community members remember the married couple as kind, fun-loving and palpably in love with each other. Schulte worked at the Moonflower Market Cooperative and Turner worked at the local McDonald’s, and the two lived out of their vehicles, often camping in the La Sal Mountains near Moab. The women were reported missing on Aug. 16, 2021 and their remains were discovered two days later, at their campsite in the mountains, by a friend who had been searching for them. They died of gunshot wounds.
The Grand County Sheriff’s Office and assisting investigating agencies held a press briefing on Dec. 29 explaining previously classified details of the case. The briefing was just days before former Grand County Sheriff Steve White retired from his 30 year career and new Grand County Sheriff Jamison Wiggins took on the role. White has told reporters that the double homicide is one of the biggest investigations the agency has ever taken on.
Detective Carrie Rigby of the Unified Police Department delivered background and a timeline of the case. Some of the details are familiar to those who have watched the investigation unfold, hoping for a resolution.
On Aug. 12, 2021, Schulte and Turner worked their normal shifts and went to their campsite in the La Sals, where a “creepy guy” chose to camp uncomfortably near them. Later that night they noticed the man skulking around directly in their campsite. The following day the couple met up with friends in town and described the “creepy” person, but they weren’t concerned enough to stay in town or move their camp. They returned to the campsite that night; the following morning, on August 14, audio surveillance picked up the sound of gunshots at 11:48. When the women didn’t show up for work shifts over the next two days, friends and family grew concerned and reported the women missing to the police. In the following days, sheriff deputies checked Forest Service campgrounds and other areas in the La Sal Mountains, employing the help of neighboring agencies.
Moab local Cindy Sue Hunter, a friend of the two women, saw Facebook messages about their missing status and also drove into the La Sals looking for them. Hunter found their campsite and Schulte’s remains on Aug. 18 and reported the location to police, who arrived on the scene and also found Turner’s remains.
Creepy guy, threatening coworker
Over more than a year of investigating, detectives conducted numerous interviews, received hundreds of tips from the public, analyzed video and audio surveillance footage, checked stories against cell phone data and Google timelines, issued 44 search warrants and collaborated with many agencies.
Investigators began with a wide range of theories to explain the murders, but quickly ruled out all but two: the “creepy guy” Schulte and Turner had described to their friends, or a threatening coworker. Later they concluded that the threatening coworker and the creepy camper were the same person.
Pinkusiewicz worked at the same McDonald’s in Moab where Turner worked and also lived out of his vehicle. Co-workers reported that Pinkusiewicz had behaved aggressively toward other employees in the weeks before the crime. In one incident, he got angry when a manager told him he needed to work faster—the interaction escalated with Pinkusiewicz threatening violence. He was told to clock out and leave the restaurant.
In another incident around the same time, Turner came into McDonald’s outside of her shift to make sandwiches for herself and Schulte, a common practice. Pinkusiewicz noticed this and became upset, coworkers reported to law enforcement. No one could confirm whether Pinkusiewicz ever confronted Turner directly. The two did not work the same shifts, and company policy at the time required that all employees wear facemasks while working, so it’s plausible that Turner may not have even recognized Pinkusiewicz if she saw him again—for example, camping near them in the mountains.
Pinkusiewicz was a person of interest early on in the case; he never returned to work after the homicides, and never picked up his final paycheck; he did not respond to phone calls from law enforcement.
Other key evidence
Autopsies revealed that the murderer had used an unusual brand of ammunition called Hornady Critical Defense rounds, a hollow-tipped bullet with a red plastic plug in the hollow core.
Detective Rigby said the type of ammunition was an important clue in the investigation, calling it “very unusual.”
“For as many homicides as I’ve [investigated], this was definitely something that I had not seen before in a homicide,” Rigby said.
State crime lab analysts were able to narrow down the weapon most likely used in the crime to two possibilities: a Glock 17 or Glock 19 9mm handgun.
Other key evidence included surveillance footage of a black Toyota Yaris driving down the La Sal Loop Road after the crime.
Putting the pieces together
As law enforcement tried to track Pinkusiewicz down, they found that his listed addresses were outdated, but they did discover that he owned a black 2007 Toyota Yaris that was sold in Waterloo, Iowa in December of 2021, about four months after the murders. It wasn’t until March of 2022 that investigators learned from Waterloo authorities that Pinkusiewicz had died by suicide in a motel room on Sept. 24. He used a Ruger Magnum Revolver with Hornady 38 Special Critical Defense rounds—the unusual type of ammunition also used in the murders.
After determining Pinkusiewicz’s death to be a suicide, Waterloo authorities released his property to his family. Pinkusiewicz was not close with most of his family, investigators said, though family members did help him occasionally with money for hotels, including during the weeks before his suicide.
The Yaris was relinquished to a tow company, and any evidence inside (including a bag of bullets that were documented but not analyzed) was lost or destroyed, but the family retained three cell phones, some documents, and a set of safety deposit box keys. Pinkusiewicz’s remains were cremated with no autopsy. The family shared relevant items with law enforcement—Rigby noted that the family has been cooperative and helpful to investigators.
Among the documents was a 2019 receipt for the purchase of a Glock 19 9mm handgun—a weapon that analysts had identified as one of two possibilities in the murder. The receipt also included the purchase of Hornady brand ammunition (though the exact type was not specified).
Text conversations and notes on a cell phone recovered from the Yaris yielded some information about Pinkusiewicz’s whereabouts and state of mind during the time of the murders, though some information had been deleted and an encryption app prevented investigators from recovering some material. On Aug. 13, Pinkusiewicz bought groceries in Moab—that afternoon, a black Yaris was seen driving up the Loop Road, and Schulte and Turner described the “creepy guy” taking groceries out of his car near their campsite that same evening.
Notes on Pinkusiewicz’s phone revealed he had persistent thoughts of raping and killing people, and that he had extreme racist views, paranoid thoughts, and anger issues. While nothing on the phone documented specific homophobic views, coworkers who witnessed incidents at work reported that Pinkusiewicz had made rude comments about his manager’s sexuality. Pinkusiewicz left a suicide note that referenced being fired by “lefty liberal bosses” for not working “fast enough.”
Pinkusiewicz left Moab on Aug. 24 and went to Waterloo, where he reconnected with a man investigators called his “significant other,” though information from Pinkusiewicz’s cell phone indicated that the relationship was “up and down.”
Investigators contacted Pinkusiewicz’s significant other, who was not in the Moab area at the time of the murder, and whose identity was not shared. The man told detectives that Pinkusiewicz had confessed to and described the crime to him; he hadn’t contacted law enforcement because he was afraid of Pinkusiewicz, and he hadn’t been aware of Pinkusiewicz’s death.
The man repeated what Pinkusiewicz had told him, including details that had not been publicly released—notably, that Pinkusiewicz had shot Schulte and Turner while they were inside their tent and later moved their remains outside the tent, where they were found.
This undisclosed detail supported the veracity of the man’s story. The man also shared Pinkusiewicz’s stated motivation for the crime: that he had worked with one of the victims, and didn’t like her because she was “bossy,” according to investigators.
Rigby explained that investigators felt confident that they had enough evidence that if Pinkusiewicz were still alive, they could arrest him and prosecutors would be able to convict him as guilty in court. The case is now closed, though Rigby added that it could be reopened if new evidence arises.
The Grand County Sheriff’s Office listed numerous assisting agencies: several from the local region, including the Moab City Police Department, San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, and Emery County Sheriff’s Office; several Utah agencies, including Utah Highway Patrol, the Unified Police Department, the Utah Department of Public Safety, the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner and the Utah State Crime Lab; and federal agencies including the FBI, the United States Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service. Many agencies from other regions also assisted, including law enforcement organizations in Florida, Montana and Iowa.