An Angel Silenced

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

December 2012

Emily and Florence Griffith were found dead on June 19, 1947. The two had been shot in the back of the head a day earlier, execution-style. (Detectives determined that the sisters had been kneeling with their arms behind their backs.) There were no signs of a struggle. In fact, except for the dead bodies, the scene was pastoral: The kitchen table was set for dinner with three plates and silverware, a pot of cooked beans and a pan of mashed potatoes sat on the sink, and three freshly cut slices of apple pie were laid out for dessert. Nothing appeared disturbed, and no money was missing.

On the afternoon of the murders, a deliveryman had dropped off groceries at the cabin and was greeted by the two sisters and Lundy, who lived nearby. By the next morning, Lundy had disappeared. One person said he’d seen Lundy hopping a Denver-bound freight train, and his Nash sedan was found near Pinecliffe. When police smashed the window to get inside, they discovered a suitcase filled with $555 Lundy had withdrawn from his bank accounts a week earlier, along with a note that read:

To the coroner: If and when I die, please ship my body to Roscoe, Illinois, to be buried in our family plot. No autopsy. Contact [cousin] Roy Cummings. No funeral here. Money in this briefcase can be used for immediate expenses. Thank you. P.S. Embalm in Boulder, Colorado.

Lundy also had mailed an unsigned letter to his brother the day of the murders. In it, he settled his estate. “Don’t come here,” he wrote. “Nothing serious. Just wanted to get this off my mind.”

At the time of the murders, detectives wanted to search the creek for Lundy, but June’s snowmelt left the waterway clogged and raging. By then rumors had begun churning: Lundy was in love with Emily, but it was unrequited. Emily was sick and could no longer care for her sister, and Lundy couldn’t bear to watch the sisters’ health deteriorate. Maybe it was a mercy killing.

We may never know for certain what happened on June 18, 1947. Sometime during the past six decades, after a few storage facility changes and a fire, the Griffith murder investigation files went missing from the Boulder County Sheriff Department archives. Although all the available evidence seems to point to Lundy, his death meant the case never went to trial. No murder weapon was ever identified—police were unable to determine whether the bullets came from a .38 or a .25—and no forensic evidence exists because the sisters were immediately cremated.

All we’re left with today is Griffith’s legacy, which is perhaps best reflected by a simple picture of her face etched onto a window that hangs inside Colorado’s Capitol, near the former Supreme Court chambers. Her gloved hands are tucked under her chin. She’s wearing a massive hat—no doubt probably a student’s creation—and a slight smile graces her lips. A backlight shines through the glass onto the floors below, into this hallowed place where our state’s laws are made and its future course is determined. It’s as if this pioneering woman—who played such a pivotal role in putting so many Denverites to work—is forever making sure, day in and day out, that our city still runs.