Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Cardinal Sins: Depraved murders in family establishment showcases cruelty

By Bryn Fawn

Chuck E. Cheese’s prime may have come and gone, but the pizzeria and arcade chain has still brought smiles to children and their families. However, a specific location in Aurora, Colorado, has a gruesome past.

A mass murder occurred Dec. 14, 1993. Nathan Dunlap was 19 years old at the time of the murder and a former employee of that location. 

Dunlap waited until late that December night, when the restaurant was preparing to close. Margaret Kohlberg, the manager for the night, had been watching the clock. It was close to 10 p.m., and a family had stayed late. Kohlberg went about her usual closing routine.

Kohlberg tallied receipts in the office, in the back of the restaurant. She was responsible for four other employees that night. 

Slyvia Crowell was cleaning the salad bar at the time. Crowell was doing her best with a work-life balance, as she was a full time employee and student at Metro State. Her friend and coworker, Carole Richins, had just said goodbye with an “I love you!” as she clocked out.

Ben Grant was vacuuming nearby. Grant was only a junior in high school. He was cleaning up from the kids that day, vacuuming crumbs of food and little bits of trash.

Colleen O’Connor was also helping close, but was distracted at the time. On her break, only three hours prior, her parents revealed the news that they were gifting her a car.

Bobby Stephens was in the kitchen alone. He scrubbed and cleaned. He was not originally scheduled for the day, but needed the extra money. Despite his young age, 20 years old, he had a baby waiting at home for him. It was winter time, and the holidays were soon approaching. 

The five all went about their tasks, as if it was any other night. They would all soon return home to their families, and tomorrow would be on the horizon.

That is what they had thought, at least.

Dunlap went undetected as he entered the restaurant. He headed to the salad bar first, raising his .25-caliber semiautomatic pistol to Crowell. He held the muzzle of the gun to her ear and pulled the trigger.

Crowell never realized Dunlap had come. Her body soon fell to the floor, and Dunlap couldn’t stomach the slaughter. He turned away as he had shot Crowell, and did not look at the gore nor her body.

Dunlap then targeted Grant. Grant had no time to respond before a bullet had entered his skull, nearly piercing his eye.

O’Connor had seen Dunlap. She fell to her knees before the killer, and pleaded for her life. She held her hands up to him, her hands clenched tight into fists, as Dunlap’s gun was not far away from her head.

Dunlap showed her no mercy, despite having the opportunity to stop. He could have spared her life.

Stephens had heard the gunshots, but did not realize what the sounds were. He had assumed the teenagers were killing time until their shift ended. However, he soon discovered the true reason.

Dunlap barged into the kitchen, pointing his gun at Stephens. Stephens tried to speak, to interact with Dunlap, but Dunlap gave him no opportunity.

A shot rang out. The bullet hit Stephens in the jaw, and he stumbled to the floor. He was still alive. He watched as Dunlap left him, heading to the office Kolhberg was in.

Kolhberg was still diligently working, counting receipts when Dunlap entered. He forced her to open the safe before she was shot in the ear.

Kolhberg was 50 years old. She was shot twice, even after her first fatal blow.

After about five minutes, four were dead and one was injured. Dunlap left the restaurant with a bag full of tokens, key chains, cards and about $1,500. 

Dunlap was found soon after the massacre. He was having sex with his girlfriend at the time. He had little remorse from his actions. The police asked him to come in for questioning, as they knew he had visited the restaurant earlier in the day.

Dunlap had attempted to scrub his body of evidence. He washed his hands with hydrogen peroxide and showered.

Dunlap was arrested 12 hours after the murders. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. His crime was so gruesome and heartless that jurors felt he lost his right to life.

Dunlap appealed in 2008, claiming his legal defense was ineffective in his case. The court rejected his appeal. Dunlap has appealed several times since, and has been rejected each time.

This was a crime of pure hatred and disregard for human life. Dunlap had a chance, several chances, to stop and reconsider. He never did. O’Connor begged for mercy, but was given a bullet. 

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