A hiker’s seemingly benign discovery in California’s Joshua Tree National Park rapidly devolved into a murder inquiry. In June 2018, Henry Stange’s disfigured body was discovered partially buried at the park.
On Investigation Discovery’s season 23 episode 3 ‘On The Case with Paula Zahn: Circled by Vultures,’ the experienced journalist delves into the case of Henry’s death, which appears to be the result of a love triangle that was driven by envy and rage.
So, how about we discover more on this case?
Who Was Henry Stange And How Did He Die?
Henry Stange was a 54-year-old, Murrieta, California resident. He loves animals and enjoys being outside. He also dedicated a significant amount of time to his hobby, amateur radio.
Henry had been divorced for about ten years from his wife, with whom he had two children. Henry was last heard from on the morning of May 24, 2018, when he went on the radio.
A hiker noticed what he assumed were animal remains in the park on June 1, only to find out later that they were most likely human remains. He immediately notified the authorities.
When park authorities arrived, they discovered a rotting body buried in a shallow grave. Everything appeared to the cops that it was done uickly.
Through fingerprints, the body was recognised as Henry’s. An autopsy revealed several skull fractures and multiple lacerations, indicating a violent beating. Severe blunt force trauma was the cause of death. Henry was killed and his body discarded in the desert.
Who Killed Henry Stange?
The detectives headed to Henry’s house, where they discovered the crime scene in his garage. There was a lot of blood.
There was a strong odour of bleach, hinting that the killer tried to clean up after himself. Henry’s security cameras, which he had installed at his home, were also missing.
As the detectives dug deeper into Henry’s past, they discovered that he had been in a motorbike accident, leaving him in severe discomfort. He was a prescription drug abuser.
Authorities also learned of a young 20 woman named Ashlie Stapp, who had been in his life at the time. They followed her out and discovered she was in a committed relationship with Curtis Krueger, a 30-year-old US Marine First Lieutenant.
Suspecting them, the cops obtained their phone records, which placed them in the vicinity of Henry’s house on May 24. This was the day Henry was allegedly murdered, according to the police.
Authorities planted wiretaps on the couple’s phones and waited, hoping to enhance the case. Soon after, Ashlie and Curtis were overheard discussing Henry’s assassination and making damning accusations.
Following that, both were arrested in August of 2018. However, they were released after a few days because prosecutors thought they needed enough evidence to charge them.
Curtis was re-arrested in December 2018 after investigators were able to gather further evidence.
When presented with the evidence, Ashlie, who initially denied any involvement in the murder, chose to confess to the police.
Ashlie admitted to them that she traded sex for drugs with Henry and that she met up with him on a regular basis to get high. Curtis was unaware of her relationship, but he thought something was wrong.
After Ashlie told him that Henry had raped her, Curtis struck Henry with a hammer at his home in January 2018. Henry never told the cops about it. Curtis dumped the hammer in the desert, where it was later discovered by authorities.
Curtis allegedly threatened Henry over texts about his involvement with Ashlie, according to his phone records.
Then, on May 24, Ashlie claimed that she went to Henry’s house, did drugs with him, and had intercourse with him.
She stated she ran to the bathroom at this moment, while he went into the garage. Curtis entered the room shortly after and told them they had to go, followed by a scream.
Curtis stated at the trial that he tracked Ashlie to Henry’s house and was worried about her safety. He said that Henry had attacked him with a knife and that he had acted in self-defense when he walked inside.
Curtis and Ashlie then drove to Ashlie’s mother’s house before returning to the garage. Curtis enlisted Ashlie’s assistance in cleaning up and loading Henry, who was still alive at the time, onto Curtis’ vehicle. They went to the park, and Ashlie assisted him in burying the body.
What Has Happened to Ashlie Stapp and Curtis Krueger?
Ashlie pleaded guilty in June 2019 to aiding and abetting the cover-up of the crime after the fact. She received a sentence of ten months in prison and three years of felony probation.
She was also compelled to participate in a drug and alcohol treatment programme. She was sentenced to 180 days in a residential substance abuse programme after obtaining credit for time served.
Ashlie was arrested in November 2019 for breaching her probation and leaving her recovery programme early. Since then, she appears to have been released, but little is known about her current whereabouts.
Curtis’ trial is scheduled to begin in August 2020. “The genuine character of Curtis Krueger was that he was attempting to help Ashlie; he was wanting to stay with Ashlie,” his lawyers stated, adding that Curtis was protecting himself.
A jury found him guilty of second-degree assault and murder after four days of deliberation. Curtis was sentenced to 18 years to life in prison in October 2020. He is still detained at North Kern State Prison in Delano, California, according to prison records. In 2031, Curtis will be eligible for parole.