When Death Came to Golden
A writer’s strange entanglement with one of the 20th century’s most prolific serial killers
By Kristen Iversen
March 5, 2018
In June 1977, following my first year of college, I took a job driving a roach coach, an old converted pickup truck that brought food to workers at construction sites near my neighborhood just outside Denver. The truck was white with diamond-patterned aluminum doors on both sides that swung up to expose ice chests filled with sodas and half-pint cardboard cartons of milk. I sold stale ham sandwiches, Cokes, and MoonPies to boys just a few years older than I was, boys who were shirtless and muscled and hungry. One day a new boy, a shy boy, bought a sandwich and, as soon as the other boys had walked away, asked if I might want to meet for dinner. Mark was quiet and polite and seemed a little lost. I said yes. We met at an Italian restaurant, where we sat on the patio under a moonlit sky. Over pepperoni pizza, our first-date conversation turned intimate and intense. Abruptly he leaned forward, his brown eyes troubled, and told me his sister had disappeared two years earlier. For months no one knew where she was. And then she was found dead.
Mark said Shelley was tall like me, five-eight or so, with hazel eyes and long brown hair parted in the middle. She was slim and pretty in a girl-next-door kind of way. The day she disappeared, she was wearing what we all wore back then: bell-bottom jeans, a T-shirt with the name of a rock band on the front—maybe Yes or Emerson, Lake & Palmer—and hiking boots. Hiking books were de rigueur for Colorado girls. We were tough. We were untethered. We reveled in all the freedoms the ’60s and ’70s seemed to promise young girls like us. We tried smoking pot and backpacking and sleeping with boys, things our mothers never did. We thought about medical school or law school, even though our families couldn’t afford it, even though our fathers disapproved. Hitchhiking was common. Everyone did it. You could hitch from Denver to Boulder or Boulder to Birmingham or ride all the way to the West Coast if you wanted.
Like Shelley, I wore my hair parted in the middle, long and straight down my back.
It turns out Ted Bundy preferred women with long hair parted in the middle.
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Kristen Iversen is the literary nonfiction editor of Cincinnati Review. Her most recent book is Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats.