Dead Reckoning

Only Michael Furlong knows how his wife fell to her death. But the authorities know this isn't the first time he's lost a mate.

This theory was repeated by Michael Furlong in a call he made to Robson's aunt on the reservation. "It's funny he called up here to me," says Vickie Burley. "He never had spoken to me before. He seemed very concerned and said, 'We figure she took off with a truck driver or something. She was real friendly.'"

But Robson's friends were not as easily satisfied. A neighbor had told Billy Bob Northern that early in the morning of December 28, she'd heard a woman screaming, "Michael, don't do this." When she ran to the window, she'd seen a man dragging a woman along the sidewalk.

Construction workers who lived across from Robson's apartment said they had seen Furlong's black pick-up parked outside during those early Sunday-morning hours and again later during the day.

Two weeks after Robson disappeared, her landlord asked to have the apartment cleared out so it could be re-rented.

JR had been staying with Bill Humphreys's sister, Connie Griffiths, in Ellicott--a town a few miles east of Fountain--over the holiday. After Robson vanished, Humphreys visited Griffiths. When he tried to leave, the eight-year-old JR clung to his leg. "I felt terrible," says Humphreys. "I know the boy was scared. I was scared for him."

For over four months, there wasn't a sign of Linda Robson.
Then one day in May 1987, two people dumping trash on Meridian Road in eastern El Paso County were startled to see a corpse partially covered by rubbish. The skull had been picked clean by predators, and the trunk was so decomposed that the hands had to be amputated and sent to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for identification.

The body was that of Linda Lou Robson, clothed in the tan corduroys and light-colored blouse she had worn during her last night at the Star-Lite. The heart-shaped charm with a diamond chip that Furlong had given her for Christmas was still around her neck. She was wrapped in a blanket with a horse design that had belonged to JR.

The cause of death couldn't be pinpointed, but the coroner believed Robson had been strangled or struck in the neck. At this point, the El Paso County Sheriff's Department took over the investigation. They questioned Furlong and several other witnesses, but the case was cold, and any evidence the apartment might have yielded was long gone.

The town of Fountain held a memorial service; Robson's ashes were shipped back to the reservation. Humphreys's sister continued to take care of JR. But the boy was deeply troubled. Eventually Griffiths surrendered him to the Myron Stratton Home for Boys in Colorado Springs. After his father's release from prison, JR went to live with the man he'd last seen when he was three months old.

As Patty Jacques talked about Michael Furlong with El Paso detective Weis this past spring, she learned one thing that gave her small comfort. Weis told her where she could find JR, now almost 21: serving time for armed robbery in Walla Walla, Washington.

Jacques has since spoken to JR on the phone several times, and they have exchanged letters. She has become his Aunt Patty; Sue Mattson is Momma Sue. They are determined to help him turn his life around. "We've looked for him for twelve years, and we're not gonna lose him now," says Mattson. "He knows he's got people that love him and care about him here in Fountain."

At various times, JR has said that he was present when his mother was murdered or that he saw Michael Furlong clean out her apartment. In letters to Jacques and Mattson, he hints that he knows the whereabouts of the murder weapon. But he also admits he has trouble separating what he remembers from what he may have imagined or dreamed. On one point, however, JR is adamant: He says that the blanket with the horse design, the blanket found wrapped around his mother's body, had never been taken to Robson's apartment at the Hitch-N-Post but had been left behind at the house they once shared with Michael Furlong.

The question of the blanket, as well as so many other questions connected with Linda Robson's death, has never been answered.

Current Fountain police chief Larry Baldonado agrees that Robson's disappearance was never fully investigated. "They didn't do any followup," he says. "I don't know why. There's just the missing-persons report in the computer."

After Furlong made his plea in Boulder this spring, Lieutenant Joe Breister of the El Paso County Sheriff's Department presented Detective Weis's findings regarding Linda Robson's case to the El Paso district attorney. Although there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Furlong in connection with Robson's murder, the DA asked Breister to continue the investigation.

Furlong remains under suspicion, according to Breister, and a grand jury may be convened. David Gilbert, the district attorney assigned to the case, maintains that his office has successfully prosecuted murders older than Robson's.

"I haven't heard one indication that he is going to be facing any sort of charges," responds Schild, Furlong's Boulder attorney. "I have a concern that he's been maligned about that case, because there was an investigation over a decade ago, and the fact that he was essentially cleared seems to have been lost in the shuffle."

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