A GOOD Samaritan who found the bodies of a newlywed couple slain in the Utah wilderness was terrified police were going to "frame" her for the murders after they told her she was a suspect.
Cindy Sue Hunter, 64, discovered the remains of Kylen Schulte, 24, and Crystal Beck, 38, at a remote campsite in Moab's La Sal mountain range in August 2021, four days after they were reported missing.
The couple had been shot to death and their bodies were found by Hunter floating in a creek a short distance from their tent.
The case made national news last summer after briefly being linked to the murder of Gabby Petito in Wyoming.
Prior to their murders, Kylen and Crystal had ominously warned friends about a "creepy guy" who had been lurking around their campsite.
That creep is now believed to be Adam Pinkusiewicz, a 45-year-old fast-food worker and drifter who allegedly confided in a friend that he had murdered the two women before fleeing the state and taking his own life.
But Pinkusiewicz wouldn't be identified as the likely culprit for months. And during that time, Cindy says the Moab Police Department made her life a "living hell" after calling her a suspect and seizing her phone.
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"All I could think is they can't find the killer and they're getting desperate so they're going to frame me," Cindy told The US Sun.
"I think in their eyes I made them look bad," she added. "They had a whole department and I was just one person.
"That wasn't my intention … but people were slamming the police department while praising me."
'A BRIGHT PERSON'
Cindy first met Kylen in 2016. Kylen, who was a teenager at the time, walked into Cindy's now-shuttered arts and crafts store in Moab with her father, Sean-Paul Schulter, and struck up a conversation.
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In the years that followed, Kylen would continue to visit Cindy's store and the pair became friends. Cindy would also visit Kylen at her work, a local grocery store called the Moonflower Community Cooperative, to check in on her from time to time.
"She was just a bright person and you felt good when you talked to her," Cindy reflected. "She was somebody that lifted your spirits just by saying hello."
Unbeknown to Cindy at the time, the last time she would ever see Kylen alive was around a week before she disappeared.
Spotting her at the Moonflower Market, Cindy said Kylen looked thin and unwell. Concerned by her fragile appearance, Cindy asked her if she was okay and told her not to hesitate to reach out if she needed her.
"She assured me she was okay and said that she would contact me if she needed help with anything," Cindy said.
"And that was it. That was the last time I saw her alive."
'GIVE ME A SIGN'
Cindy was first alerted to Kylen's disappearance on August 17 when her dad authored a desperate plea on Facebook, begging for information about where his daughter and Crystal were.
She messaged Sean-Paul directly, asking him whether it was common for the two camping enthusiasts to go off-grid and not reply to texts or calls for a few days at a time.
When Sean-Paul confirmed that certainly wasn't, Cindy said she was compelled by a voice within to join the search, despite having no idea where to begin looking for them.
"My gut was telling me you have to go," Cindy recounted. "That night I contacted Sean-Paul and told him that I would go look for them, that I would drive around until I ran out of gas or until it was dark."
Providing Cindy with a list of places the couple was known to frequent, Sean-Paul told her to keep an eye out for broken tail lights, headlights, and other kinds of vehicle debris, believing that Kylen and Crystal had been involved in a car accident.
Cindy began her search at the McDonald's where Crystal worked. She then started scouring surrounding mountain roads, looking over cliffs and ravines and stopping at sharp turns for signs of a wreck.
She drove around for five hours, stopping anyone she could find to show them a picture of Kylen and Crystal, asking them if they recognized the couple or had seen them recently.
The inner voice that compelled her to join the search then reared its head once again, Cindy said.
Believing the voice to be that of her late mother who had passed away just months earlier, Cindy begged the voice to give her a sign or signal for where Kylen and Crystal might be.
"I was talking to her saying, 'Mom, I don't know what I'm doing up here, I don't know where to look, I don't know where to go, you've gotta help me.'
"I honestly felt stupid, but those were the kinds of conversations I was having. I needed my mom to guide me, direct me, give me a signal – just something."
A HARROWING DISCOVERY
As her search continued, Cindy received a call from Sean-Paul, warning her about the "creepy guy" Kylen had messaged her friends about. Troubled by the message, Cindy's search suddenly became more urgent.
She made several more stops, talked to more nature dwellers, and got back in her car to drive towards Lake Warner to scope out more campsites in that area.
As she turned on Lake Warner, Cindy said the voice within her started "screaming" that she should continue driving straight and "needed to hurry."
She followed the road down and caught what she described as a flash of silver in her peripheral vision.
She pulled over and spotted the silver Kia that Kylen and Crystal drove parked nearby a tent. She immediately ran over to the campsite and found their tent in a state of disarray.
"Something just wasn't right," Cindy remembers thinking.
She called the police, and once they confirmed they were on their way, she called Sean-Paul to let him know she'd found their camp.
As she was speaking with the worried father, she started aimlessly wandering around the surrounding area with her phone pressed to her ear.
"That's when I looked out and discovered his daughter's body floating in the creek," Cindy said.
"I just went into shock and started rambling on the phone about how pretty everything was because I didn't want to let him know what I'd just found.
"Sean-Paul then asked me 'what's going on?' and I had to make myself turn around to look back at the body.
"And then I had to tell him there's a body in the water," she said with a pause, before adding: "At this time I didn't tell him it was Kaylen because I wasn't sure.
"I couldn't see her face or her, just her body in the water."
While Cindy tried desperately to keep her focus trained in the opposite direction of the body, she listened as Sean-Paul wailed and cried on the other end of the line.
Through tears, Sean-Paul then screamed at Cindy to "get in your f**king car, roll up the windows, and lock your doors," she said.
"That's when the fear really kicked in," Cindy admitted. "I ran and got into my car as he said and called the police again to tell them about the body and that they needed to hurry."
It would take investigators almost an hour to arrive on the scene. A terrified Cindy waited anxiously inside her car at the side of the road.
During that time, she claims to have only seen one other car drive by.
The driver of the vehicle, she said, stopped in front of her and eerily stared her in the face for several seconds before speeding away.
"He never rolled down his window or asked me if I was okay or needed help," she said, "he just stared at me then sped off."
FROM HERO TO ZERO
In the aftermath of the harrowing discovery, Cindy was lauded as a hero in her local community of Moab, though she says she never felt like one.
As locals fawned over her efforts to bring Kylen and Crystal home, with some insisting she should never have to pay for a meal again or should be given a key to the city, Cindy said she struggled to get the horrific image of Kylen's lifeless body out of her mind.
She also became fearful of her safety following a succession of death threats sent to her on social media, with one troll chillingly warning her: "You're next."
Amid the threats, and following the closure of her arts and crafts store which suffered heavily during the pandemic, Cindy decided to leave town and start her life anew in Arizona.
But just a week after making the move, Cindy's hopes for a fresh start were quickly spoiled when investigators with the Moab Police Department served her with a search warrant.
"They seized my phone and told me I was a suspect," Cindy claimed. "I was devastated and just in shock – I couldn't stop crying.
"I'm a good person," she told them. "I'm the one who went out and found them. I couldn't kill anybody."
With months having passed since Cindy found the couple dead, she told The US Sun she was genuinely concerned the police department would frame her for their murders having possibly exhausted other leads.
The case was for a time linked with the murder of Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old van lifer who was murdered by her fiance Brian Laundrie during a cross-country road trip, but investigators quickly closed that avenue of inquiry citing a lack of evidence.
Three patrol cars turned up outside of Cindy's new home to seize her cell phone. The reason, Cindy says, was that she'd taken pictures of the campsite, a decision investigators deemed suspicious.
The officers denied her request to wait and allow her to buy a replacement phone, insisting she would likely delete any "evidence" they needed for the apparent case they were building against her.
"It has all been pretty awful and just completely wrecked me emotionally," Cindy said.
"I couldn't function, I wasn't eating or sleeping right, and I was just crying all the time.
"I feel a little bit better this week, but they still haven't returned my phone and I'm stuck in limbo."
WEIGHING LEGAL ACTION
Cindy says she is weighing legal action against the Moab Police Department for the "horrible" treatment they've allegedly subjected her to.
The police presence at her home has also caused her further distress, Cindy says, because her once-friendly new neighbors now shun and avoid her, refusing to speak with her in the street or exchange pleasantries over the garden fence.
"I am considering legal action," Cindy said. "Several people have reached out to me to tell me to sue the department, but I’m just so tired of the drama at the moment. I want to be happy and heal and find some peace in my life.
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"It’s been a pretty harrowing life … finding those girls was just the icing on the rotten cake."
The Moab Police Department has not yet returned a request seeking comment from The US Sun.
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