The Times-Independent

Crystal and Kylen: ‘They were two of the best people I’ve ever met’

‘We’re still trying to find a little bit of normal’

For months, the crew at the Moab McDonald’s thought Kylen Schulte’s name was “Baby.”

Friends of Kylen Schulte and Crystal Turner have christened a tree in front of Moonflower Market, where Schulte worked, with tributes to the couple. Photo by Sophia Fisher

Every day at 11 a.m., Schulte would visit McDonald’s to visit her wife, Crystal Turner, an employee of the restaurant. “You would just hear from the front of the store, ‘Baby!’ as loud as possible,” said McDonald’s General Manager Jessica Hannum.

“Crystal was this short, little thing, and you’d see her then poke her head out and yell ‘Baby!’” Hannum said. “For the longest time, we thought Kylen’s name was ‘Baby.’ We would go, ‘Baby’s here!’”

In August, the bodies of Schulte and Turner, both Moab residents, were discovered in the La Sal Mountains in an apparent double homicide. Their deaths are under investigation by the Grand County Sheriff, the FBI, and the State of Utah Special Bureau of Investigation.

But Turner and Schulte did not just die near Moab; they also led lives here, and conversations with the women’s family, friends, and coworkers illuminate a couple full of vivacity, humor, and deep love — but also two people working hard to overcome challenging pasts.

“Their whole life wasn’t as perfect as it has appeared in Moab,” said Schulte’s father, Sean-Paul Schulte. “That was a real triumph for those girls to get to that level of love with each other that Moab witnessed.”

Indeed, Hannum described Turner and Schulte as a deeply affectionate couple. She recalled how Turner would walk hours to visit Schulte around Moab, fetch her drinks at the bar, stop working to fix Schulte’s coffee order as soon as she entered McDonald’s.

“And we would always let her do that … I wanted to say no to her, but you would see Kylen come in and Crystal would just brighten up,” Hannum said. “How am I going to say no to two people who are so in love?”

An employee at the Moonflower Market, Schulte was an “incredible person” and a “bright star” according to Moonflower patron Kristen Leigh Ramirez.

“She always greeted me in the morning in Diné … She would come out to my car to see my two girls and shower them with love and kindness,” Ramirez wrote on a public Facebook thread. “If she felt my energy was off … she always asked if she could hug me.”

On the same thread, Janet Luxner described Schulte as a “bright spot” during her near-daily Moonflower visits. “Kylen always had a beautiful smile and a cheery hello when I walked in the door,” she wrote.

Turner, too, proved a caring, reliable, and energetic employee — “a little firecracker,” according to Hannum. She recalls how Turner would ensure other McDonald’s staff remained well-fed, and learned every employee’s coffee order by heart.

“She made everybody at that store, whether they were there for a week or four years, feel like they were wanted and appreciated,” Hannum said. “A lot of people look down on fast-food [careers] … She made everyone feel like it was an actual job.”

The two didn’t always have the ideal employee-employer relationship, however. For the first few months after Hannum started working in Moab, she and Turner bickered constantly. Then, after suspending Turner for a week, something clicked.

“I’d be coming to work because I knew Crystal was going to be there,” Hannum said. “… Even if you were having a really bad day, you were like, ‘if I talk to Crystal, I know my mood will improve.’”

Eventually, Hannum started fighting “harder for her than I did for everyone else,” giving Turner the first paid vacation of any crew member during Hannum’s tenure.

“It was the way she treated other employees. It was the way she treated other people … She was the heart of our store,” Hannum said.

Though Turner still had her “bad days,” these became less frequent after getting together with Schulte. Turner had moved here “to escape some of her past,” according to Hannum.

“Crystal had a super tough childhood, and Kylen’s had a very bumpy road herself,” Sean-Paul Schulte said. “Crystal did put her checkered past behind her, and Kylen helped elevate her to a much brighter life.”

“Kylen was the person who made her happy. Kylen was the person who made her whole,” Hannum agreed.

Schulte lived “for the joy in her heart not the hatred in the world,” according to her aunt Bridget Calvert’s GoFundMe page. “Full of love and life and God,” Schulte was “a true free spirit.”

Schulte and Turner’s affection particularly impacted Hannum.

“I was one of those people who was like, ‘ew, love.’ Crystal was the one person who always used to talk about how love changed you: love made you better and greater,” she said. “Crystal and Kylen were the two people who made me more open to [that].”

“They were very much in love. It didn’t ‘seem.’ They were in love,” Hannum added.

“They were both so full of love for each other and for those they interacted with,” Wendy Lee added to the Facebook thread. “I loved when they came into City Market, arms around each other, and shopped for plants and floral bouquets.”

The couple — known to friends as “KyCry” — spent their nights camping in and around Moab, their days exploring the surrounding desert and searching for waterfalls. Turner prized her Harley-Davidson motorcycle, which Schulte often rode with her, while Schulte adored sunflowers and pursued sketching and painting.

Since the women’s deaths, the McDonald’s staff has put up photos of Turner around the store, and often make time to reminisce and reflect.

“Sometimes it doesn’t seem real. Sometimes we expect them to walk in the door and be yelling, ‘Baby!’” Hannum said. “We’re still trying to find a little bit of normal.”