SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– It was a case that shook a tight-knit mountain community and one Summit County won’t soon forget. A woman disappeared over a holiday weekend and there was no physical evidence once her body was found.
It was over the 2010 Thanksgiving weekend when Stephanie Roller Bruner went missing. Earlier that month she had filed for divorce from her husband, Dale Bruner.
He told investigators she went for a walk during a blizzard and never returned. He waited 11 hours to call police to report her disappearance. There were no leads, no footprints in the snow.
A search that continued through the weekend found no trace of the wife and mother of three.
Dale was the person who reported her missing and would eventually be convicted in her murder.
In court his defense claimed the investigation was botched from the start.
“We always wanted to talk to Dale, the husband, son on Wednesday when I brought him in my only job was to tie him down. We knew something was wrong. The stories were kind of off. We needed to figure out what the story was,” said Silverthorne Police Detective Theresa Barger.
Stephanie’s body was found outside Silverthorne in the Blue River three days after she was reported missing. Police said she was badly beaten and still alive when thrown into the frigid river.
A coroner couldn’t determine just one cause of death, there were four.
“Then we asked him if he’d do a lie detector test and he said, ‘No.’ Basically he was afraid he was going to fail,” said Barger.
Stephanie also had secrets. She was having an emotional affair with a local man who was also married.
After Dale was indicted and arrested for her murder, the trial lasted just a week-and-a-half. The defense asserted there was no physical evidence linking Dale to Stephanie’s death.
“He had the opportunity, the motive, the ability to do what he did. To killer her by hitting her in the head, strangling the life out of her and dumping her body, lifeless, in the Blue River,” said Deputy District Attorney Kristine Word.
Prosecutors said with no other suspects, circumstantial evidence was enough.
“We don’t know the sequence of events; we don’t know how he got her to the river,” Word said. “We showed you pathways, we showed you the proximity, we showed you the ease the defendant could carry her body to the river.”
Jurors agreed with the prosecution and found Dale guilty. Nearly two years after Stephanie’s death he was sentenced to serve 112 years in prison.
Watch 48 Hours where Tracy Smith will review the entire investigation and how police zeroed in on Dale, on CBS4 Saturday at 9 p.m.