Mys­tery of cou­ple’s mur­der still lingers

Pair left Scotts­dale in 2003, were found dead in pickup

The Arizona Republic - - News - Reach the re­porter at 602-444-8515, jpohl@azcentral.com or on Twit­ter: @pohl_­ja­son. JA­SON POHL

It’s been 14 years since Lisa Gurrieri and her boyfriend, Bran­don Rum­baugh, em­barked on an overnight camp­ing trip to cel­e­brate their oneyear an­niver­sary.

They’d planned to re-cre­ate their first date and go stargaz­ing along a pleas­ant-sound­ing road not far off In­ter­state 17 north of Phoenix.

A decade-and-a-half later, loved ones are still won­der­ing who mur­dered Gurrieri, 19, and Rum­baugh, 20, in the back of a pickup truck parked off Bum­ble Bee Road in Yava­pai County.

Their killer was never iden­ti­fied. The dou­ble homi­cide re­mains un­solved.

And loved ones are left won­der­ing, hope­ful still that some­one, some­where will remember some­thing that might bring them clo­sure and de­liver some sem­blance of jus­tice.

“There’s no rea­son why these two kids that were loved by so many should be where they are,” Paula Gurrieri, Lisa’s mother, told re­porters Satur­day. “These kids are no longer breathing. They’re in the ground some­where. And the per­son that did this is out there breathing ev­ery sin­gle day.”

“It’s not fair. It’s just not fair.”

Life

Lisa Gurrieri was known to light up a room sim­ply by be­ing present.

She worked at SRP and was known among fam­ily and friends as the em­ployee who could brighten any­one’s day — it was a run­ning joke that she would en­thu­si­as­ti­cally say “good morn­ing” to ev­ery per­son she saw.

A Mesa High School grad­u­ate, Lisa wanted to be­come a wed­ding plan­ner. She was in­spired by the film “The Wed­ding Plan­ner,” star­ring Jen­nifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey.

“She was beau­ti­ful, both in­side and out,” Paula Gurrieri said.

Rum­baugh, a stu­dent at Ari­zona State Univer­sity, built him­self up from a tall, skinny kid to a mus­cu­lar man with as­pi­ra­tions of open­ing a gym one day. He was work­ing as a phys­i­cal trainer, The Ari­zona Repub­lic re­ported in the days af­ter the killing.

They lived to­gether in Scotts­dale. Lisa Gurrieri told her mother they were en­gaged, though Mom hadn’t yet seen a ring.

“He treated her like a queen,” Paula Gurrieri said. “He re­ally did.”

Ini­tially, they planned to go to Dis­ney­land for their one-year an­niver­sary. That was too pricey for the young cou­ple, so they set­tled on a camp­ing trip about 30 miles north of Phoenix off I-17.

Lisa had never gone camp­ing be­fore, and her mother was re­luc­tant to spare the 2000 white Ford F-150 pickup that was in need of an oil change.

But she let the cou­ple bor­row it any­way.

They left Fri­day, Oct. 17, 2003, and were to be back home by early Satur­day. Rum­baugh had to work, and af­ter a hug and moth­erly ad­vice to be care­ful, take ex­tra blan­kets and call if they needed any­thing, the cou­ple headed north.

Death

Paula Gurrieri, who still lives in Mesa, said she sensed some­thing was wrong early in the week­end. A mother knows, she said.

Af­ter they didn’t re­turn when they had said, friends and fam­ily searched pos­si­ble camp­ing lo­ca­tions. Friends sus­pected the spot near Bum­ble Bee Camp, about 2 miles from In­ter­state 17 near Sunset Point in Yava­pai County.

Friends found the two ly­ing dead in­side sleep­ing bags in the truck bed, each with mul­ti­ple gun­shot wounds to the head. In­ves­ti­ga­tors ruled out a mur­der-sui­cide, said there was no ev­i­dence of rob­bery or sex­ual as­sault, and that nei­ther drugs nor al­co­hol was in­volved.

“Ev­ery­body that met her loved her,” Paula Gurrieri said Satur­day. “Ab­so­lutely loved her. She didn’t know an en­emy. She didn’t have one. That’s why it makes it even harder. As much as she was loved, why would some­body do this to her? It just doesn’t make any sense to us.”

In the days that fol­lowed, law en­force­ment fielded tips and sought leads big and small in a des­per­ate search for an­swers. Po­lice think as many as 1,000 peo­ple were stay­ing in the area near the cou­ple’s camp­site, and in­ves­ti­gated many of those who were around the area when the dou­ble homi­cide oc­curred.

Law en­force­ment also is­sued pleas for the pub­lic’s help, si­mul­ta­ne­ously try­ing to tamp down fears from campers and res­i­dents alike.

“Do we be­lieve that it was a ran­dom act and that there is a crazy per­son out there? Not nec­es­sar­ily. Can we rule it out? Not nec­es­sar­ily,” one Sher­iff’s Of­fice in­ves­ti­ga­tor told re­porters the fol­low­ing week.

Time ticks by

Shortly af­ter the killing and the con­do­lences and the fu­ner­als, Paula Gurrieri asked an in­ves­ti­ga­tor if she could re­trieve her daugh­ter’s per­sonal ef­fects — she thinks it was a cell­phone, though it’s hard to remember exactly what it was a decade-and-a-half later.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tor said they couldn’t re­lease it un­til 25 years had passed or when the case was solved. She brushed it off at the time. There’s no way it could go un­solved for so long, she thought.

“Here we are 14 years later,” she said, hold­ing back tears. “I just hope that this is solved be­fore I go, be­fore I die. I want to know who did it, but it could be that it’s not go­ing to hap­pen be­cause Lisa doesn’t want me to know who did it.”

Paula Gurrieri and other friends and fam­ily oc­ca­sion­ally leave a trib­ute to Lisa on a memo­ri­al­ized Face­book page.

Some­times Paula writes po­ems. Some­times she just asks her daugh­ter to come home.

The fam­ily is of­fer­ing a re­ward up to $10,000 for in­for­ma­tion on the case.

Any­one with in­for­ma­tion is asked to contact Silent Wit­ness at 480-948-6377. Anony­mous tips can also be left on the Silent Wit­ness web­site, silen­twit­ness.org.

“What you may per­ceive as a very small puz­zle piece might work very well in the de­tec­tive’s over­all pic­ture of this in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Sgt. Jamie Roth­schild said Satur­day. “So we need any in­for­ma­tion, whether it’s seem­ingly in­signif­i­cant or huge, all that in­for­ma­tion will help.”

“These kids are no longer breathing. They’re in the ground some­where. And the per­son that did this is out there breathing ev­ery sin­gle day.” PAULA GURRIERI MOTHER OF LISA GURRIERI

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