On the night of October 12, 1970, in Denver, Colorado, Cara Lee Knoche was planning on having a fun night with her friend. She previously dropped out of school and runaway to live at the infamous Lumber Baron Inn, but decided to get her life back on track. Before she had a chance, Cara and her friend Marianne Weaver were savagely murdered and their case is still unsolved.
Disclosure: This story includes description of a brutal murder and sexual assault. If any of these subjects are a trigger for please take care of yourself, and check out some of my other stories! I Never victim blame nor do I make excuses for people who commit these horrendous crimes. I believe in learning from these tragic events. The history of these awful people is important to think about what led up to the events and how to resolve the problem before it led to murder.
The History of the Lumber Baron Inn
John Mouat, an immigrant from Scotland, built over 200 houses from 1889 to 1892, through his lumber company, Mouat Lumber. He decided to construct a home for him and his wife and their five children in Denver, Colorado. Before his company started building homes in Denver, it was a mining camp, but transformed into closer to what it remains today. He decided to build their home along Cherry Creek, which is now a wealthy neighborhood in Denver.
John completed the 8,500 square foot home in 1890. Each room created uniquely with different types of woods and fireplaces with individual carvings. By 1906, the family moved out and transferred ownership. The property ownership changed hands multiple times, including subdivided into apartments during the early 1945. By 1970, the building transferred ownership again and remodeled as a hotel frequented by criminals, drug addicts, and runaways.
The Murders of Cara Lee Knoche and Marianne Weaver
Cara Lee Knoche was born on October 11, 1953. At sixteen, Cara dropped out of school and ran away from home. She began to work as a car wash wiper and rented a room at the Lumber Baron Inn. However, she celebrated her 17th birthday with her family on October 11, 1970 and seemed to have changed her mind about her recent life choices and planned on moving back closer to family. She found an apartment nearby and obtained a job as an office manager at her father’s work. She also talked about finishing high school.
Cara was close friends with an 18 year old named Marianne Weaver. Marianne graduated from high school and was studying computer programming. She also took pride in caring for her horse. She left her home on October 12, telling her parents that she was going to “goof off with Cara”. Marianne walked into Cara’s room and saw a man sexually assaulting her, then strangling her to death. Before Marianne could react, the man shot and killed her.
John D. LaChuga, a friend of the women, tried to call Cara, however she did not pickup. When he received no answer from Cara,he went to her room to check on her. First thing he noticed was her blinds were closed, which was abnormal so he went inside. This is when he saw Marianne on the bed with a gunshot wound. Upon further investigating, John found Cara, deceased and nude, under her bed. He quickly called 911.
The Investigation led to More Questions than Answers
Cara’s nude body and rape kit indicated sexual assault. Marianne, on the other hand, was not sexually assaulted and was clothed. Police believe that she was murdered, because she walked in on the crime. They found a small amount of marijuana and a bullet shell, but no weapon. The police believe both items belonged to the killer. After talking to over fifty people, they found little to no leads, and no possible suspects were identified.
Aftermath and Possible Paranormal Activity
Shortly after the murders, the building became condemned, until 1991. Walter and Julie Keller bought and restored the property into a bed and breakfast. The Lumber Baron Inn and Gardens became a hotspot for weddings and other special events.
Six ghosts reportedly roam the halls of the Lumber Baron Inn and Gardens. Two of these assumed ghosts include Cara and Marianne. Cara’s room and the pace of the women’s murder scene is located in what now the Valentine’s rooms. Guests and even Walter, the owner, describe cold spots and noises from unknown sources, in the hallway. A flapper, a maid, A male, assumed to be John Mouat, and the Fowler family with a pipe. In areas of the inn, there is an unknown smell of cigars that linger. Multiple TV paranormal investigators have visited the Inn. One TV series, caked Spirit Paranormal, allegedly received the name of the man who murdered the woman, but have not disclosed the name.
There are too many questions about this case to develop a strong opinion. Did Cara let someone she know inside her room? Did she answer her door and a stranger attacked her? One theory I came across was the theory that the murders could have been committed by Billy Edwin Reid, or the Denver Prostitute Killer. My resistance in this is that Cara was not a known Prostitute. I guess he could have assumed she was a prostitute because a lot of working girls, lived there. His crime spree lasted from 1977 to 1995, therefore the time frames adds up.
I do believe that whoever killed Cara had a personal relationship with her. She was strangled and raped. Strangulation shows a personal act of murder. Because Cara was shot, I strongly believe she was killed simply for witnessing the crime. She may have even knew him and could identify him .
I like to include life lessons, so these type of situations can be avoided. That being said, with not knowing what happened, it is hard to say what these women could have done differently. I will say be careful who you let in your residence and your life. Unfortunately not everyone can be trusted. I want to know your thoughts. Are there any theories you believe?
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