FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Almost 45 years after Ted Bundy's last known Colorado victim vanished, her case has finally been closed.
Denise Oliverson, 24, was last seen biking away from the Grand Junction home she shared with her boyfriend on April 6, 1975. She would never come back or be seen again.
The next day, on April 7, a railroad employee spotted her sandals and yellow 10-speed bicycle under a viaduct just a block from her home, according to statements from 259 pages of newly released reports and documents relating to Oliverson's disappearance.
Earlier this year, the Grand Junction Police Department decided to revisit the case after renewed public interest in Bundy.
Due to increased requests from media – including the Coloradoan, which released its special podcast series, "Hunted: Inside Ted Bundy's Trail of Terror," in January – Grand Junction investigators worked to confirm reports that just minutes before his 1989 execution, Bundy confessed to murdering Oliverson and throwing her body in the Colorado River.
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After reviewing confession tapes and talking to investigators who interviewed Bundy on death row, the Grand Junction Police Department reclassified Oliverson's disappearance from a missing persons case to a homicide case in May. They also closed the case because Bundy, their lead suspect, had been dead for 30 years.
"At the initial time we started the investigation, we didn't believe that she was anything other than a missing person," former Grand Junction detective Jim Fromm told the Coloradoan earlier this year for "Hunted: Inside Ted Bundy's Trail of Terror."
"We started to interview more and more people, and the more people we interviewed, the more concerned we got," Fromm told the Coloradoan then. "It just, it did not make sense."
Linda Pantuso, one of Oliverson's high school friends who still lives outside of Grand Junction, told the Coloradoan on Tuesday she remembered hearing the news of the disappearance from Oliverson's mom, whom she worked with.
"We were just in the bathroom one day and I asked how Denise was doing," Pantuso, now 70, recalled. "She went, 'You haven't heard? She's been missing.' "
"I was just in shock," Pantuso added. "She was just a really great person."
In his previous interview with the Coloradoan, Fromm recalled that the young divorcee had no reason to disappear and the discovery of her bike and sandals furthered the idea that foul play was involved.
In August 1975 – four months after Oliverson's disappearance – Bundy was arrested during a traffic stop in a Salt Lake City suburb. He was soon linked to, and convicted of, an attempted kidnapping in Murray, Utah, the previous year.
His arrest would soon shoot him to the top of suspect lists for murders and disappearances of young women across Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.
Using gas receipts, detectives were ultimately able to place Bundy in Grand Junction on the day Oliverson disappeared.
Documents show interviews and polygraph tests conducted over the years. As recent as 2013, the Grand Junction Police Department collected DNA samples from Oliverson's mother in case they ever found remains. Oliverson's mother died in 2017.
Investigators were also able to link Bundy to the 1975 murders of Caryn Campbell in Snowmass and Julie Cunningham in Vail.
Though Bundy confessed to Cunningham's murder while awaiting execution, the 26-year-old ski instructor has never been found and her missing persons case remains unsolved with the Vail Police Department.
With the news of Oliverson's case closing, Cunningham's case is now the only unsolved one directly linked to Bundy in Colorado.
This article originally appeared on Fort Collins Coloradoan: Ted Bundy: Case closed for Colorado victim Denise Oliverson