Murders of teen couple 19 years ago still unsolved

Investigators, friends still want justice for Nick Kunselman and Stephanie Hart

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It's been 19 years since 15-year-old Nick Kunselman and his girlfriend, 16-year-old Stephanie Hart, were gunned down in a Subway sandwich shop at Pierce Street and Coal Mine Avenue in the early hours of Feb. 14, 2000.

No arrests were ever made in the case, and investigators are still hunting their killer.

"Their families and the community still want answers," said Elias Alberti, a homicide investigator with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. "We're hoping somebody knows something and is ready to come forward."

Kunselman and Hart's memories remain fresh in the minds of their former classmates from Columbine High School, where the pair were sophomores.

"They were such down-to-earth people -- very easy to like," recalled Tara Andersen, who was in the same grade, and said she was close friends with the pair.

The murders were a devastating blow to a community still reeling from the massacre at the school just 10 months earlier, Andersen said.

"Everyone was still in shock," Andersen, a Littleton resident, said. "It was like a kick in the gut."

Hart had a caring soul, remembered James Helms, who was also close to the couple.

"Steph sought out the outcasts and made them feel loved," said Helms, who lives in south Jefferson County.

Andersen and Helms fondly recalled hanging out with the couple, playing hacky sack, cruising around town and listening to music.

"Stephanie loved Marilyn Manson, Pink Floyd and Bob Marley," Helms said. "Nick was more about (the band) Slipknot and watching 'Fear Factor.' They were cool kids. They didn't deserve to die like that."

Kunselman worked at the Subway, which sits just west of Littleton, less than a mile south of Columbine High School. He was closing up the shop the night of Feb. 13, 2000, according to Colorado Bureau of Investigation cold case files. Hart came to keep him company while he closed.

A coworker driving by the shop in the early hours of Valentine's Day noticed the lights still on and stopped to check it out, according to case files. They saw a man leaving the scene, and shortly after found the pair dead inside.

The man was described as about 5 feet 8 inches tall and white, with blond hair, according to case files.

The case has drawn thousands of tips over the years, said Alberti, the investigator, but none have led to an arrest. Investigators have held some details from the public, such as whether money was taken from the shop, Alberti said, in order to verify information provided by tipsters. Several people have confessed to the murders, only to be excluded by comparing their stories with the withheld information, Alberti said.

The killer's trail went cold in 2000, in part due to a shortage of information, Alberti said.

"There weren't a lot of people talking about their theories," Alberti said. "Was the killer -- or killers -- coming after one of the victims? Both of them? Neither? We don't know for sure."

Alberti said even the smallest details could crack the case.

"People might not think those little things are important, but often cases are put together with a lot of little things," Alberti said.

Kunselman and Hart were laid to rest side-by-side in the Mt. Lindo Cemetary above Highway 285, visible from far and wide for its large lit-up cross.

Helms said he doesn't like to drive by the Subway where his friends died, but when he looks up at the mountains at night and sees the cross shining, he thinks of them.

"They loved each other," Helms said, "and they died together."

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