The editor of a Utah newspaper has issued an apology for its “gruesome” coverage of a double murder after a backlash from readers.
The Times-Independent, based in Moab, southwest Utah, published a headline revealing sordid new details of the unsolved murders of Kylen Schulte, 24, and Crystal Turner, 38, who were found dead on 18 August at a campsite in the South Mesa area of the La Sal Mountains.
Unsealed search warrants filed in court this week said the newlywed couple were found partially undressed in a nearby creek with multiple gunshot wounds to the bodies. It had only previously been reported that the women were shot.
The Times-Independent changed the headline on the story after receiving complaints.
Editor Doug McMurdo told The Independent via email that the story “hit like a sledgehammer”.
“We should have been more restrained and I was the only one in a position to know this.”
McMurdo said many of the 5,000 residents of Moab, including he and his staff, had known the women.
In his apology on the paper’s website, he said he should have “crafted a less striking headline, a more thoughtful report”.
“We should have honored the friends and family of those two women and not subject them to such gruesome details,” he wrote.
“I failed The Times-Independent, which trusts me to make better decisions. I failed you, readers. For all of that, I offer deep regrets and sincere apologies.”
McMurdo explained that the paper had “covered horrible crimes before, more than I can count, truly, and still I was profoundly affected.”
“Stories like these are why the majority of Americans favor the death penalty,” he wrote.
Moab, a popular tourist destination, has been on edge since the double murders just over three weeks ago.
On Facebook, readers were appreciative of the action taken by the paper, a family-owned business that has operated in Grand County since 1896.
“Thank you for taking responsibility, it’s a quality missing from a lot of folks these days,” one wrote.
“Disturbing as it is, I appreciate the truth,” another said.
Others said the article should have contained a “disturbing content” warnings, and had been too graphic and distasteful.
The newly unsealed documents stated that Ms Schulte had told friends there was a “creepy man” near their campsite that had been intimidating women there.
“Investigators were informed that Kylen had mentioned to her friends that if something happened to them, that they were murdered,” the document said.
The couple, who had only recently married, were last seen at Woody’s Tavern on 13 August. Security footage from the bar shows them leaving at around 8.30pm.
KUTV reported that the Grand County Sheriff’s Office believe someone killed the women and fled the area. They are yet to identify a suspect in the case.