COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — She was a young lady looking for love, but instead, she met a brutal end, along with her two young children.
“It was extremely traumatic for the city,” said Rachel Cruz-Rodgers, a detective in the Cold Case Unit for the Colorado Springs Police Department.
It’s been 35 years since Cassanda Rundle and her two children were murdered, but for those who remember the case, the trauma still remains.
“I don’t think anybody deserves to be murdered, but especially when you start talking about children. They’re so young. There’s no reason why, nobody would have a motive to murder them,” said Cruz-Rodgers.
Police say sometime early on February 14, 1985, 37-year-old Rundle, along with her 12-year-old son Detriecht Sturm and her 10-year-old daughter Melanie Sturm, were killed inside their Ivyild neighborhood home.
“For Colorado Springs Police Department, it’s our only unsolved triple murder, and not only that, but there are two children involved, so the case itself is pretty traumatic,” said Cruz-Rodgers.
The crime shocked the quiet neighborhood, and everyone wanted answers.
“A ton of detectives were involved, not just detectives from the homicide investigation, a lot of the community was really involved in trying to solve it, a lot of people had called in and tried to give whatever information they could to help solve it. Unfortunately it still is unsolved,” said Cruz-Rodgers.
FOX21’s Abbie Burke went to the Pikes Peak Library District’s Penrose Library to dig up old articles about the incident. The horrific crime made the front page of the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph for days, and few grisly details were spared.
According to the articles, one of Rundle’s ex-husbands, Douglas Peltzer, found the bodies when he stopped by that morning with a Valentine’s present. Police said all three had been beaten and strangled, and there were signs the two females had been sexually assaulted.
“It was a pretty brutal murder for each one of them,” said Cruz-Rodgers.
At the time, police had plenty of suspects.
“They went through a lot of different people, a lot of people with different relationships with the family and the children and Cassandra, and so everybody was looked at as a suspect at the time,” said Cruz-Rodgers.
An Associated Press article published in 1985 said Rundle had taken out two personal ads in the Colorado Springs Sun just months before her death. The first ad placed in July said “Blonde, green eyes, 5’2″, 95 pounds, seeking a rugged individualist, am a free spirit, independent, well educated, somewhat shy, sensitive, thoughtful and enjoy life. Am a one-man woman looking for one good man. Please send photo and short letter.”
The second ad, placed about a month later, said, “Warm, together, bright, beautiful and modest lady seeking friendship with a gentleman of quality and character, 30-40 years old.”
Police at the time said between the two ads, Rundle received responses from 85 different men.
The potential suitors, now suspects, were all investigated by police. Officers also looked at Rundle’s ex-husband, who found the crime scene, as well as her first husband, who lived in Ohio at the time.
“Everybody was a suspect until they weren’t,” said Cruz-Rodgers.
Cruz-Rodgers wouldn’t say if any of those men are still considered suspects or if they have any new ones. However, she did say she has hope this case can still be solved.
“Generally with cold cases some of our biggest challenges is time, but that can also be one of our biggest benefits,” she said.
Like many things, technology has changed a lot over the last 35 years, which Cruz-Rodgers said is another advantage.
“DNA is a huge piece in our investigations currently, so when we reanalyze a case, we’ll re-go through the evidence to see if something might be beneficial for DNA or fingerprint testing that maybe it wasn’t back in the day,” she said.
DNA has been given a lot of credit in some recently solved cold cases, but Cruz-Rodgers said witnesses are just as important.
“People solve cases too,” she said. “One witness statement could possibly break it wide open, and everything can fall in together.”
Back in 1985 just days after the murders, Sgt. Joe Kenda told reporters he believed the case would be solved “relatively soon.” While much has changed, that belief has not.
“Just because it’s 35 years later, to us, there’s no difference in the investigation,” said Cruz-Rodgers.
If you have any information about this case, you’re asked to contact the Colorado Springs Police Department.
Currently, there are 93 unsolved homicides in Colorado Springs.