Mystery in the Mountains: Rita Curran’s murder is Burlington, Vermont’s oldest cold case

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It’s Burlington Police Department’s oldest cold case: a young school teacher found brutally murdered in her Brookes Avenue apartment in Burlington

Rita Curran was only 24-years-old when her roommate came upon her body. The unsolved murder still has her sister, Mary Campbell, shocked and feeling hopeless.

“We don’t know any more today, 50 years later, than we knew the day of the murder,” said Campbell.

On July 20, 1971, one of Rita’s two roommates found her lying on the bedroom floor of the room they shared. Rita was sexually assaulted and beaten on the head and face before she was manually strangled to death.

“She had actually lived at home all her life until June of 1971, and she found an ad in the Burlington Free Press looking for a roommate part-time for the summer. It seemed to be a good fit and so she moved out about one month before she was murdered,” said Campbell.

Det. Tom Chenette with the Burlington Police Department said there was no sign of forced entry. It appeared as if Rita was getting ready for bed, as she was found with her curlers in her hair.

“She had been viciously attacked. She showed signs of blunt force trauma and it did appear that she fought back against the attacker,” Chenette said.

According to police, Rita received mysterious calls before her death.

“There was a piece about phone calls that had come in and some heavy breathing on the phone when you answered it,” Chenette said.

Rita was a full-time second-grade teacher at Milton Elementary school, and in the summers she worked part-time as a maid at the South Burlington Colonial Motor Inn, located next door to the Elizabeth Lund Home for Unwed Mother, where Ted Bundy was born.

Because of this connection to an infamous serial killer, many thought Ted Bundy should be considered a suspect. Chenette said the Rita’s death fit how Bundy killed his victims. “And he was active at the time,” He said. “There is debate on whether he was accounted for or not,”

Mary Campbell even wrote Bundy a letter, asking if he murdered her sister.

“We asked the FBI when they were interrogating him whether if she was one of his case, and we got a letter back from the FBI that said he did not deny it or acknowledge it,” said Campbell.

Shortly after her murder, State’s Attorney Patrick Leahy, now a U.S. Senator, wanted no information released to the public about the progress of the investigation.

“I don’t know why there was a blackout, but it was disappointing as a family to not have her in the news every day. By the time the blackout came back, you know, news gets old fast,” said Campbell.

Today, the case remains as cold as a Vermont winter day.

If you have any information regarding the murder of Rita Curran please contact Burlington Police Departments’ cold case tip line at 802-540-2421 or Vermont State Police Major Crimes Unit.

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