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A tale of two nightmares
Written by Editor   
Saturday, 13 May 2006 07:10

Murder has never really been a stranger to residents of Colorado Springs--a small yet transient town nestled in the foothills of the Rockies in central Colorado. With Fort Carson and Peterson Air Force Base bordering the south and southeast, respectively, and the United States Air Force Academy bordering the north. Still, the 1985 valentines day murders shocked and horrified even the most jaded.

On the morning of Thursday, February 14, 1985, 37 year-old Douglas Peltzer found his ex-wife, 37 year-old Cassandra Rundle, and her two children, 12 year-old Detrick Sturm and 10 year-old Melanie Sturm brutally slain in their south-central Colorado Springs home. Peltzer was delivering valentines. The cause of death was strangulation. Ms. Rundle and her daughter had been raped, and both children had been beaten with a hockey stick.

I recall all too well the murder that rocked the town to its core. I was living in the springs at the time. It was a neighbor who called the police after Mr. Peltzer came running from the house screaming hysterically. He had to be sedated after discovering the carnage of his then ex-wife and her children--whom he had not only remained friends with after their 1983 divorce, but had dined with just the evening before. Although the media characterized the murders as the "Lonely Hearts murders"--due to an ad Ms. Rundle had placed in the singles section of the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph--locals refer to that terrible day back in 1985 as bloody valentines.

The murders had yet to be solved 6½ years later, when on Friday, July 19, 1991, Judy Hudson and her two children, 19 year-old Chrystal and 11 year-old Larry were found brutally slain in their Raleigh North Carolina home. The cause of death was blunt force trauma. They had been beaten to death with a bowling pin. The assailant, 24 year-old Philip Edward Wilkinson--who was stationed at Fort Bragg at the time--also attempted to rape the two women. He went AWOL shortly thereafter. Wilkinson surrendered to law enforcement on Thursday, January 9, 1992, and was subsequently tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. He has since appealed his sentence and remains on death row in the Raleigh North Carolina Central Prison.

The similarities were eerie and during the Raleigh murder investigation it was revealed that Mr. Wilkinson was previously stationed at Fort Carson. This revelation convinced Ms. Rundles father, Richard G. Rundle, that his daughter and grandchildren were slain by the same man. But there were discrepancies too. Colorado Springs investigators claim Mr. Wilkinson was in Korea in 1985. Mr. Rundle was not persuaded. And in fact, he not only "claimed to have evidence to the contrary but was so certain that Wilkinson was the killer that he attended the mans trial in 1994." Other considerations might be put forth to support Rundles contention as well. For example, from court records, Mr. Wilkinson was not only an "alcoholic" with "impulse control issues" but he was also a "serial peeping tom" who regularly engaged in "rape fantasies." From his testimony recorded at trial, he also appears to suffer from some form of "sexual dysfunction." Though the latter may argue against rather than supporting Mr. Rundles theory.

Even so, there are other considerations that seem to support the investigators view that Wilkinson was an unlikely suspect. For example, Ms. Rundle was apparently looking for romance after two failed marriages and had dated numerous strangers. The ad Ms. Rundle placed in the singles section of the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph allegedly resulted in 85 responses. Additionally, news paper accounts noted that she had met someone at a local bar shortly after her dinner with then ex-husband, Douglas Peltzer. That individual was never identified. According to information listed in the North Carolina department of correction records, Wilkinson would have been 17 at the time of the murders. Given Mr. Wilkinsons age at the time, even if he had been stationed at Fort Carson in February of 1985, it is highly unlikely he was the individual she met. The State of Colorados liquor licensing required patrons to be at least 21 years of age or older. And Ms. Rundle appeared to be attracted to men within her age range whereas Wilkinson appeared to be attracted to women within his age range.

Whatever the case, the never-ending nightmare of these two families seem inextricably intertwined in the form of an unsolved murder and a convicted killer who continues to file appeals well over a decade later. While the stays of execution bring Mr. Rundle hope that he may one day find the answer to his daughter and grandchildrens murders, the Hudson family is seemingly caught in a vortex of appellate court hearings. One, but a statistic in the ever-growing number of cold cases, the other unable to truly put the past behind them, and neither able to find the closure they so desperately need and deserve.

 

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