Phlisia Bunting’s body was found dumped in a Colorado state park two months after she finished her freshman year in high school. Phlisia Bunting’s body was found partially submerged in a lake in July 1990.
After 20 years, no one has been arrested or tried in Phlisia’s death.
Thomas M. Canfield, the Mesa County coroner, ruled Phlisia’s death a homicide caused from a nonaccidental, traumatic, mechanical obstruction of her airway, followed by drowning.
Despite statements made to police by witnesses who identified a 19-year-old as the person who caused Phlisia’s death, and his subsequent arrest, he was never charged and prosecutors dropped the case.
“They didn’t feel they had enough evidence for conviction at trial,” Stoffel said.
One of the problems, according to Stoffel, was that the stolen vehicle was returned to its owner before law enforcement knew it might be linked to a homicide. The hot, dry climate in Grand Junction was not favorable to finding fingerprints.
Phlisia’s exact time of death is unknown. However, police say she died less than 18 hours before her body was discovered, leaving enough time for the three teens to drive back to Denver.
Stoffel said he hopes that a re-examination of physical evidence will lead to an arrest and conviction.
“Over the last couple of years, we’ve been hoping new technology will help us figure out what happened there,” he said. “Hopefully, the physical evidence will tell us who is telling the truth.”
Bunting said she wants the case resolved and has a hard time knowing that the person responsible for her daughter’s death has evaded justice all these years.
“How else do we prevent this from happening again to someone else?” she asked. “Anybody that has expertise in this field, anywhere in the world that reads this … if they would offer their expertise, we need their help.”