An Angel Silenced

Sixty-five years after her death, Emily Griffith’s legacy still influences Denver.

December 2012

On August 16, 1947, a 20-year-old fisherman from Lakewood, James Walter Oakes, waded into South Boulder Creek and poked his fishing pole at a carcass he’d found wedged beneath a rock. He was standing on a boulder midstream, and at first he thought it was a dead animal—until he saw the legs. The body was so badly decomposed that the face was unrecognizable. Most of the person’s clothing had been ripped off by the water.

The loose-rock riverbank near Pinecliffe was soon crowded with Denver detectives, the Boulder County deputy coroner, and the local sheriff. It took nearly an hour to hoist the body from the water. The coroner could still make out a slight indentation on the male victim’s right thumb. That, and the partial dental plate on the lower jaw, would help identify Fred Wright Lundy.

What made the finding even more unusual was that the deceased wasn’t just a victim, but also a possible criminal. In the weeks before his own demise, police had wanted to question the 60-year-old Lundy about two of his longtime acquaintances—Denver educator Emily Griffith and her sister, Florence—and why they had turned up dead.