When someone thinks of Colorado, they typically think of skiing, hiking, and snow. Colorado offers all these things and more. From the beautiful sunset that covers the Rocky Mountains to the wide range of wildlife across the state, Colorado is a beautiful place to live.
However, like any other beautiful place, there lies a dark past behind the stunning landscape that Colorado has to offer. Over the years, many crimes have taken place in the state. Gruesome crimes have been committed in “Colorful Colorado,” including serial killings, murders, and even cannibalism.
Here are 10 gruesome crimes that have been committed across Colorado.
10 Watts Family Murder
On August 13, 2018, Christopher Watts committed the most heinous crime that the small town of Frederick, Colorado, had ever experienced. His wife, Shanann, had just arrived from the airport that morning, but her friend became concerned when she didn’t show up to a doctor’s appointment later in the day. She also would not respond to any texts or calls from her friend. Concerned, the friend called 9-1-1 to do a welfare check on Shanann’s whereabouts. When the police arrived at the home of the Watts family, Christopher was there alone. He proceeded to give the police permission to check inside the house, where they found Shannan’s cell phone, wedding ring, and a purse containing her car keys.
The next day, the police took Christopher to the station for questioning. Attempting to prove his innocence, he opted to take a polygraph test. The results would shock the entire country. Christopher failed the test and confessed to absolutely everything. He told police that he had been having an affair with another woman and had recently told Shanann that he wanted to separate. However, while arguing with Shanann, Christopher began to strangle and ultimately kill her. At the time, Shanann was pregnant with their third child.
It was later discovered that he attempted to strangle his other two daughters but was unsuccessful. He buried Shanann in a shallow grave and shoved his two daughters into different oil tanks at a site where he worked, killing the two daughters. In total, Christopher Watts murdered his entire family—Shanann and his two daughters, who were only 4 and 3 years old.
Today, Christopher Watts is serving five life sentences in prison plus an additional 48 years for the termination of Shannan’s pregnancy and another additional 36 years for tampering with a deceased body.
9 Thornton Craigslist Killer
Thornton, Colorado, is a suburb about 25 minutes north of Denver. A relatively calm area, Thornton is home to many growing families. However, like any area of the U.S., there are always a few strange and disturbing things that happen.
One of these disturbing things happened on December 28, 2018, to 19-year-old Natalie Bollinger. Bollinger was reported missing on December 28 by her family and was found dead the next day in the woods off Riverdale Road. Detectives later found out that Bollinger had previously posted an ad on Craigslist.com, which was titled, “I want to put a hit on myself.” After going through the records on Bollinger’s cell phone, a prime suspect was then found by the name of Joseph Lopez, a 23-year-old Domino’s worker.
Lopez had contacted Bollinger through the Craigslist listing and eventually met up with Bollinger that same night. When interrogated by police, Lopez changed his story many different times. Still, it was eventually found that upon meeting Bollinger, he took her to Riverdale Road and shot her at point-blank range in the back of the head. Bollinger was later found by a jogger on the road deceased and with a deadly amount of heroin in her system.
Joseph Lopez is currently serving 48 years in prison for the murder of Natalie Bollinger.
8 The Colorado Cannibal
On February 9, 1874, a man by the name of Alfred “Alferd” Packer, a Colorado Wilderness guide, led a trek into the Breckenridge mountains with five other men. The trip in total was 75 miles (121 kilometers) in the freezing Colorado winter. While the trek was originally planned to only last 14 days, the townspeople were shocked when Packer emerged from the journey two months later. An even more taxing question was, where were the other five men?
When Packer arrived, he spent an amount of money that was very unusual for a “wilderness guide” to have, including buying a new horse and a saddle, among many other things. Accusations started to arise against Packer as many people around town had seen him with different wallets and equipment. After pressing Packer, he finally admitted to the harrowing truth.
As the men were hiking, they were unable to find any wildlife to eat. The men then began to off each other one by one throughout the trek in order to survive. As one was killed, the rest would eat the remains, and their money was distributed throughout the group. However, this was found to be untrue as the bodies of the men were found at a single campsite. But the story gets even crazier.
When Packer was sentenced to death, he escaped from jail for a total of nine years until he was found in Wyoming. However, when he was found, Packer gave another version of what had happened. He told the police that one of the men went “crazy” during the expedition while Packer had lost the trail. When Packer returned, all four men were dead except for the one who had killed them. Packer then shot the man in the stomach and only resorted to cannibalism after a few days of being unable to find anything to eat on the trail.
Packer was then given a new trial and was sentenced to 40 years in prison on five counts of manslaughter. He died due to dementia.
7 FBI Informant Turned Serial Killer
Another mass murderer out of the state of Colorado, Scott Lee Kimball, confessed to killing a minimum of four people between 2002 and 2004. Kimball was released on bond before this from his multiple crimes of fraud. Willing to help the FBI, he worked as an FBI informant during his killing spree.
Each of his four victims was last seen with Kimball, which helped lead to his arrest for their murders. However, during the two years that he was out of prison, it has been suspected that Kimball killed up to 21 victims. Kimball is currently serving 70 years in prison.
6 Coors Family Murder
The Coors family is perhaps the most successful and well-known family in Colorado history. Coors beer is at the center of this family’s dynasty and largely made them successful throughout the Rockies. However, despite the family’s success, they, too, have experienced tragedy.
In 1960, Adolph Coors III was in line to inherit the Coors dynasty. However, on his way to work, in Golden, Colorado, a man by the name of Joseph Corbett kidnapped Adolph. Corbett was a prison escapee who had previously been convicted of murder in California. He later demanded a ransom of $500,000 for the return of Adolph Coors III. However, months later, the body of Coors was found in Douglas County at a dump site. Corbett was captured and sentenced to life in prison. However, he was released on parole in 1980. Corbett later killed himself in 2009.
5 The Hammer Killer
In 1984, the city of Aurora was sent into shock as three family members were found murdered in their own home. Bruce Bennett, his wife Debra, and their seven-year-old daughter, Melissa, were found dead, scattered around their house. Perhaps the most disturbing thing about these murders was the fact that they were brutally killed by the use of a hammer. The only survivor was the family’s three-year-old daughter, who was also attacked with a hammer.
A man named Alex Ewing was responsible for the deaths of the family members. However, Ewing would not face trial for this crime for nearly forty years. He was also found to have gone on a 12-day rampage throughout the state, committing rape, assaults, and even murder—a woman named Patricia Smith. This crime would also remain unsolved for decades.
After the crime spree in Colorado, Ewing was arrested in Nevada after assaulting a couple with an axe handle. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison for that crime. Then, in 2018, DNA evidence surfaced that tied Ewing to the Bennett family and Smith murders. Convictions in 2021 and 2022 saw Ewing guilty of all four murders, receiving four life sentences.
4 Ted Bundy
A fact that not many people know is that one of the most notorious killers in American history, Ted Bundy, also had ties to murders in Colorado. Among his 20 confirmed victims, three of the murders took place in Colorado.
During his time in Colorado, in the year 1975, Bundy was being tried for kidnapping in a Glenwood Springs courthouse. The judge allowed him to use the courtroom’s library where Bundy actually escaped from a second-story window. Eight days after his capture, he was able to escape again from a jailhouse in 1977, where he went on to commit more murders across the country before being captured.
3 Vincent Groves
Yet another serial killer from Colorado, Vincent Groves, had murdered as many as 17 people in the Denver metropolitan area. By method of strangulation, Groves had been on a killing spree from 1979 to 1990. Preying on prostitutes, Groves was able to go largely undetected, although he had spent time in and out of prison in these years.
His first sentence was in 1982 for the second-degree murder of a 17-year-old girl. He was then released on parole in 1988, where he went on to murder more vulnerable girls and women. In 1990, Groves was finally sentenced to life in prison for the murder of a 19-year-old girl and given an extra 20 years for the manslaughter of another woman. Groves died in 1996 without giving any details about his heinous crimes.
2 William Neal—Denver Axe Murderer
In 1998, a man named William Neal confessed to the torture and murder of three women. He brought these women, who he allegedly had relationships with, to a Denver townhome, claiming that he had a surprise for them. In total, four women were at the scene of the crime.
Upon their arrival at the townhome, Neal bludgeoned two of the women with an axe and left them for dead. The fourth woman, who was kidnapped, was tied to the bed next to the bodies, raped, and forced to watch as Neal slaughtered the third girl with an axe. Neal later confessed to a TV host and later to the police. Neal was sentenced to death in 1999, but the sentence was later commuted to life in prison in 2003.
1 Richard Paul White
In November 2003, a man named Richard Paul White was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences in addition to 144 years in prison. Richard Paul White confessed to killing six victims, five women and one man, by drugging, raping, and ultimately strangling them. In his Denver home, two victims were found buried in his backyard.
Like many others on this list, White usually targeted prostitutes to carry out his crimes. The only one that wasn’t was the shooting of his friend, Jason Reichardt. Unlike the others, Reichardt was shot by White in the head. Reichardt was also found in the home in the upstairs room, with a bullet in the head.