Traci Cunningham's trip to car for beef jerky allegedly ends with her mom's murder
This week, Aurora's Traci Cunningham was formally charged with murder in the death of her adoptive mother, Penelope, in Eagle County. But while there seems little doubt that she pulled the trigger, the circumstances of the case practically guarantee an unusual defense.
Big photos, video below.
According to her arrest affidavit, Traci says she can't remember firing the fatal shot -- but she does recall stumbling upon a gun while searching for some beef jerky.
The Vail Daily, which has done a lot of the best coverage on this case, notes that Penelope Cunningham was a former nun turned elementary school social studies teacher at Maxwell Elementary School.
An excerpt from her Maxwell bio shared by CBS4 reads, "I am here to give my students the best fourth grade education possible. All they have to do is pay attention, participate and do their best. No lazy brains allowed!"
The 28-year-old Traci was adopted by Penelope fourteen years ago, when she was in her middle teens.
Penelope was sixty when she died. Prior to that, she and Traci lived together in Aurora.
As for the crime itself, an arrest affidavit accessed by the Daily maintains that the pair were en route to Grand Junction over the Thanksgiving break for a hiking-and-photo-taking trip. But on November 28, as they headed up Gypsum Creek Road, near the town of Gypsum in Eagle County, an argument took place that was apparently serious enough for Penelope to get out of their car and start walking.
Here's a look at the area, in a screen capture from 7News.
The affidavit's narrative maintains that Traci got out of the vehicle, too, then headed back to it in search of some beef jerky. But instead of finding a snack, she reportedly "encountered" a Springfield XDM 9-millimeter handgun.
The gun had been packed by Penelope, Traci told investigators.
At that point, Traci allegedly picked up the gun, but as she began walking up the road, she's quoted as saying that "everything goes black" -- and when the darkness lifted, she saw Penelope on the ground, mortally wounded.
She'd been shot five times in various parts of her body, including her back.
Continue for more about the death of Penelope Cunningham, including additional photos and a video.