LITTLETON - Only two miles separated 15-year-old Marilee Burt from her home.
It was a walk that she had made plenty of times before on nights like Feb. 26, 1970. This time, though, she would never come.
She was expecting her mother, Sherry Burt, to pick her up that night after a basketball game. Somewhere along the way there was a mix-up and Marilee, still in her cheerleader’s uniform, set out on foot from Goddard Middle School to her home in Columbine Valley.
After briefly stopping at a friend’s home, she headed out on Middlefield Road. That’s where her older brother Ramone, who was driving home from high school, saw a girl walking by. He also noticed a vehicle going in the opposite direction with a man inside.
“And then I looked in my rearview mirror as I was going by,” Ramone Burt said. “I saw him stop and she turned and was talking to somebody.”
Ramone didn’t realize the girl was his sister.
“He was the last person, except for the killer, to see her alive,” Arapahoe County investigator Marvin Brandt said.
When Marilee didn’t come home that night, the family began searching for her.
“I went back to see if she was there and she wasn’t there,” Ramone said.
Marilee’s naked body was found the next day under a bridge in Deer Creek Canyon 15 miles from her home. She’d been raped and strangled.
Her clothes, books and purse were all gone. To this day they’ve never been found.
Marilee was the daughter of one of Colorado’s most successful car dealers, and her death sent shockwaves through her tiny community.
“We didn’t even know what crime was,” Ramone said. “And then all of a sudden here’s this horrible thing that happens.”
Police found DNA on Marilee’s body, but a crime lab analysis still hasn’t come up with a match to anyone in local or federal databases.
Ramone was able to offer police a vague description of the man that Marilee stopped to talk to. He described him as a 30 to 40-year-old white man. He had dark brown hair with a receding hairline and long square sideburns.
Sherry Burt spent decades trying to help find her daughter’s killer. She died in 2013 without ever learning the truth.
“She was just tormented her whole life,” Ramone said. “I think she’s the one who really felt guilty.”
PHOTOS: The murder of Marilee Burt
The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office still gets tips on Marilee’s death. The most recent one came at the end of 2016.
So far, none of them have panned out.
“I want the family … to be satisfied,” Brandt said. “I want them to know who did this.”