POCATELLO — A handful of people are working together to help build a memorial for a Pocatello girl who went missing nearly 44 years ago.
Lynnette Culver, 12, disappeared in May of 1975. The Alameda Junior High School student was on her way home for lunch at the time.
While notorious serial killer Ted Bundy, who confessed to abducting and killing Lynnette and throwing her body into a river, has received a lot of attention over the years — there’s currently a series about him on Netflix — some Pocatellans have decided it’s time that they shine some light on Lynnette.
“It’s important to recognize Lynnette as a very important person from the case who gets overshadowed and forgotten because of Bundy’s other victims. She was the second youngest of his victims,” Chris and Paula Mortensen, who operate Captain Borax True Crime Tours and More on social media, said in a statement submitted to the Journal. The couple has spent a lot of time researching Bundy’s victims. “We want to tell stories about their life, their childhood, the loss families faced. Enough stories have been told about Bundy. We want to humanize the families and victims he destroyed.”
The Mortensens are working with Crystal Douglas, founder of East Idaho Cold Cases, and Nancy Albano, Lynnette’s older sister, on a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the Lynnette Culver Memorial Bench. They’re hoping the memorial will give her family and community members a place where they can go to honor her memory.
“Unlike a lot of families whose children have fallen prey to things — horrific events like this — our family doesn’t have a body. We were never able to lay Lynnette to rest,” Albano said.
She hopes the bench will not only serve as a memorial, but also bring awareness to her sister’s case and help prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.
“I don’t say this is going to be closure,” Albano said. “But it gives something to remind people of the preciousness of their children and to teach them what they need to be safe.”
As of Thursday afternoon, 23 people had donated $375 to the campaign that is seeking to raise $3,000. Those who are interested in helping can learn more at gofundme.com/68fgvpc.
The donations will be used to build a marble bench. While it’s still being designed, it will likely be engraved with Lynnette’s name and the date of her birth and disappearance, according to the GoFundMe campaign. It might also include an etching of her face and some of her artwork.
Organizers say they are still trying to find a location for the bench, but they want to put it in a public place.
“We are scouting out areas now and narrowing down desired locations,” Douglas said, adding that they’re still trying to get approvals and going through red tape. “We’re hoping installment will be in May. The bench order must go in roughly eight weeks before installation.”
Douglas hopes they will be able to raise enough to complete the memorial. She wants to give the Culver family a place to go and remember their loved one.
“The Culver family has decided they are ready to take a monumental step in Lynnette’s case, establishing a memorial,” Douglas said. “They understand her remains may never be found or brought home.”
Before his death in 1989, Bundy confessed to Lynnette’s murder and revealed to former Idaho Attorney General Jim Jones personal details about her life that only she would know. But some believe he might have done so to delay his execution.
Pocatello police have noted that Lynnette is still considered a missing person since her body has never been found. They’ve suggested it’s possible that someone other than Bundy abducted and killed her.
They announced last August that they were going to take another look at her case along with those of other Pocatello girls who were abducted and killed in the 1970s and 1980s and search for any commonalities.
As of Wednesday, they did not have any updates to release.
Still, Albano says her family has resigned themselves to the idea that Bundy did what he said he did. They’ve never personally listened to his interview tapes — they didn’t want any of those images placed in their minds — but they know some of the dates and details he mentioned matched up.
“There’s always a chance (he was just) familiar with her disappearance,” Albano said, adding that Bundy may have had access to information about it. “It would be wonderful if they found something else and were able to recover her. As of right now, we believe Ted Bundy did it.”
Albano says her family doesn’t think Lynnette is still alive, but they would love to find her and have that closure.
Albano says her family has gone through a lot since her sister disappeared. Their dad flew all over the U.S., heading out every time someone thought they spotted his daughter. Their mother’s beautiful brown hair soon turned white after Lynnette’s disappearance, Albano said, adding that the stress took its toll. And their grandfather often went to Alameda Junior High School searching for Lynnette.
Albano said she doesn’t have her sister anymore and her children don’t have their aunt.
“It’s taken a lot away,” she said. “But we are very blessed to have had Lynnette in our lives. I recognize that very much.”
Hoping to bring the Culvers at least some peace, Douglas is asking people to contribute whatever they can to building a memorial bench for their daughter and sister.
“Even if it’s a little bit, you’d be helping a former Pocatello family reach their goal of a memorial place for their daughter and little sister,” she said.
Douglas also hopes people will come forward with any information they may have about Lynnette’s disappearance.
“We want people to remember Lynnette has been missing since May 6, 1975, when she left for lunch at Alameda Junior High,” she said. “If you remember anything about that day, or saw Lynnette on that lunch break, it’s never too late to come forward. Call the Pocatello Police Department at (208) 234-6121.”