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17-year-old hitch-hiker beaten, killed


Victim’s name: Linda Hutchings, 17
Investigative agency: Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office
Date killed: Aug. 15, 1979
Cause of Death: Not disclosed.
Suspect: None

Linda Hutchings burst out of the front door when she saw her older brother Alan strolling up the sidewalk of their Arvada home.

“Look, look,” Linda squealed almost breathless as she pointed up at the sky and thrust binoculars at him.

Linda Hutchings, 17, courtesy of Jefferson County Sheriff's Office

Linda Hutchings, 17, courtesy of Jefferson County Sheriff's Office

A thunderhead was billowing high above them.

That was Linda, recalled her brother while fighting back tears. The pretty blonde girl, who often flashed a gleaming smile, was thrilled by simple pleasures.

When the family went to her uncle’s cabin in the mountains she would unroll a sleeping bag outside on the pine needles and lay under the stars. She loved nature.

Linda often scampered after squirrels, threw frisbees and when Alan got out his harmonica, she ran into the kitchen to retrieve spoons to play on her knees.

Linda loved to draw portraits of people and animals and dreamed of becoming a professional artist. She would pull out her favorite records and play them over and over.

The last time her family heard her joyous voice was on Aug. 15, 1979. On that day she went to her boyfriend’s apartment in Lakewood.

Family friend Ron Weaver said her boyfriend was several years older than Linda. He was drinking heavily that night. There was a good chance they were also using drugs, acknowledged Linda’s brother Alan.

Weaver said her boyfriend fell asleep. She was going to school the next morning and had to get home. Her boyfriend had a temper and she didn’t want to wake him up, he said.

She left a note in the early morning hours saying she was headed home. She didn’t mention how she was going to get there, whether she found someone to give her a ride.

Linda was wearing white jeans, a white peasant-style top with embroidery and tennis shoes. She may have been wearing a red coat.

It was too far to walk, so friends and family believe she did what many teens did back then: hitch-hike.

Later that morning, the frantic boyfriend drove to the Hutchings’ home. He had a bad feeling about it. He was right. Linda hadn’t made it home, Alan Hutchings said.

Carmalina Hutchings, Linda’s mother, immediately called Arvada police. She was very worried. But a police officer told her that she probably just ran away. He told the family more time had to pass before she could file a missing person’s report.

“We were in a panic and they kept insisting there was no problem,” Alan Hutchings said.

But Linda had never run away from home before. She had always been reliable and loved school.

The Hutchings family looked everywhere they thought she might go including truck stops and called everyone they knew who had any contact with her with no luck.

The tall girl with an effervescent personality had vanished.

Two weeks later, a family was doing the same kind of thing Linda would love to do – picking cattails – when they made a gruesome discovery.

Linda’s body had been tossed down an embankment near Indiana and West 82nd Avenue. Whoever left her body had beaten her, said Cheryl Moore, cold case investigator for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

Soon afterward, professed serial killer Henry Lee Lucas confessed to Linda’s murder as part of a nation-wide rampage in which he killed 600. But his boasts would prove to be lies and he later recanted. No new suspect has been identified, Moore said.

“It’s just a huge mystery,” Weaver said. “Who did she run into that night? Who murdered her? It was a sad shocking thing to all of us.”

Moore said no DNA tests have yet been performed in her case.

Alan Hutchings said he hopes authorities do everything they can to solve his sister’s murder including DNA tests.

Contact information: Cheryl Moore of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office can be reached at (303) 271-5625, or cmoore@jeffco.us.
Denver Post reporter Kirk Mitchell at 303-954-1206 or mitchell@denverpost.com

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