Friday, February 26, 2010

A decade later, the case remains unsolved

Even though Amber Lundgren’s murder remains unsolved a decade later, the details surrounding her death remain fresh in people’s minds and on the Internet.

“She and her mother were very close,” said Ann Adickes, who rented an apartment to Lundgren. “I mean, like I told her uncle and them, I would have loved to have her as a daughter. She was that nice a person.”

Adickes’ own home contains all the makings of a cozy place: worn but comfortable furniture, various knickknacks in the living room and an ambiance of calmness that surrounds the house.

The seriousness of Lundgren’s murder, however, dissolves any illusion of becoming too comfortable with the story.

“So, she and her two friends that she was working with at the time over near the Biltmore Square Mall, if it’s still there, they all went out together,” Adickes said. “She didn’t go out an awful lot. These girls, all of them worked together.”

Adickes recalled when she came back to town after visiting her brother, Lundgren’s car was still parked exactly where she left it.

“So I went to see my brother in Bryson City, and when I came back, her car was parked there. I was concerned and about 20 minutes later WLOS came,” Adickes said.

Lundgren planned to do more cleaning on her apartment, but the girls she worked with wanted to go out, and so they did, according to Adickes.

Also, Adickes said she saw Lundgren as a daughter.

“Well, she was very nice, very quiet, and she was very dependable,” Adickes said. “She had some friends, but not an awful lot.”

While Lundgren worked full time, she attended college at night and dated, according to Adickes.

“Well, I guess she wanted to get into some kind of business for herself,” Adickes said. “But she liked crafts, and, you know, she kept a nice apartment, you know, she’d buy things from where she worked.”

Detective Kevin Taylor of the Asheville Police Department, one of the investigators on the case, leaned back in his office chair as he retold the story.

“It was June when it happened, June of ’97 I believe,” he said. “She was just wearing normal clothing for that time of year. Jeans, I think she had on a halter top of some sort and kind of just flip-flop shoes, not really sandals. Nothing really unusual, just dressed in normal attire to go out for the night club.”

Lundgren had an outgoing personality and liked to go out to clubs, according to Taylor.

“She was working at, I believe it was Pier 1,” he said. “I don’t think she really had a steady boyfriend at the time. I mean, she dated a few guys here and there in the recent past. (She) came from a good home.”

In talking about the murder, Taylor sat up in his chair and became more serious.

“I guess one thing that might have been untypical about it was it appears that she was killed other than where she was last seen,” he said. “You know, whether she went willingly or not is still undetermined.”

Lundgren’s body was found near Azalea Road the morning after she was last seen leaving the now closed Bar Code club, located downtown, according to police.

When the police released news of the murder, city residents became angry and the news put everyone on edge for some time, according to Taylor.

“Especially with some of the other females in town, you know, it really, (they were) leery about going out to the clubs and stuff.”

Attempting to solve the case requires more than just following procedures, according to Taylor.

“It’s hard to say, to give a specific step-by-step,” Taylor said. “I mean, each case is different. You got to kind of look at the whole totality of the circumstances I guess.”

Detective Yvonne Cobourn, Taylor’s partner, talked about how the media and Internet can both help and hinder the police’s ability to solve a case.

“There are a lot of cold case forums out there where people are literally taking everything the media puts out and dissecting it,” she said.

Sometimes releasing information to the media brings out people who obsess over cases and who also try to solve the cases from old media clippings and various Internet forums, according to Cobourn.

“Fortunately, we haven’t had too many,” she said.

The captain and the chief of the department generally handle any obsessive people, according to Cobourn. Most of the time, the detectives don’t know when obsessive people contact the chief or captain.

“The captain is typically aware of our cases and our investigative process and one of the supervisors will step in,” Cobourn said.

Despite this, police take everything written on Internet forums seriously, according to Cobourn.

“I know about the cold case forums because I’m paying attention to it,” she said. “We follow all the forums whenever we release something to the media. We’re not posting anything, but you can believe we’re ready.”

However, releasing information to the media helps the police because the media keeps the topic fresh in people’s minds, according to Cobourn.

“We all strive for that in a cold case. That’s why we like seeing the article that came out in the AC-T (Asheville Citizen-Times) about the anniversary of Zeb Quinn’s death,” she said. “We want people thinking, we want people talking. We don’t want people to forget that these cases do exist, and we are still working on them and so anything that may come up or arise from that, we’re reading, we’re monitoring.”

Although the police currently investigate 23 cold cases, Taylor noted the department works with people and not just case files.

“You see it so many times, but still it’s disturbing,” he said. “I just think that Amber didn’t deserve this. She didn’t do anything to anybody. I mean, nobody deserves anything like that. Just someone, a young female like that, basically defenseless. It’s troubling.”

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