13 On Your Side's Arlette Yousif speaks with authorities about an unsolved 1969 case
YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA/KECY) - Unsolved crimes in the desert southwest leave many loved ones with no answers. The oldest unsolved crime is the shooting death of a young woman getting ready for her bridal shower.
On November 4, 1969, 20-year-old Rhonda Fortney visited her family in the foothills for what would sadly be the last time.
Police say she got a ride to her friends house before arriving at her apartment on south orange avenue near downtown.
Just after 9 p.m. the Yuma Police Department (YPD) received a call about a disturbance. This seemingly normal Yuma night quickly turned into a mystery that, to this day, remains unsolved.
"Witnesses in the area who had been like across the street and down the road and seen her talking with somebody. They didn't know who the person was. There was no yelling, no screaming, no disturbance, so to say, 'til there was. They heard a scream, they heard a shot. They saw a male subject, and then he takes off down Orange Avenue onto First Avenue," says Yuma Police Department Sgt. Lori Franklin.
Neighbors reportedly chased the suspect down but couldn't catch him as he got in to a green or dark colored 1966 or 1967 Pontiac and drove off down First Avenue.
Detectives checked every possible suspect, even Fortney's fiancé.
"As with everything, especially even nowadays to back then, you know, if you're somebody close with a person, you're going to be a suspect until you're eliminated. So, he was interviewed. He was out with buddies. So as far as him being the one at the scene, you know, he was not," explains Sgt. Franklin.
Fortney died from a single shot to the chest.
"Police arrived on scene. She was engaged at the time she still had her engagement ring on so she wasn't robbed when they went into the apartment or purse was in there and a bag of fruit that she got from her mother, so she had actually entered the apartment prior to this taking place probably within minutes," says Sgt. Franklin.
After several interviews with suspects and witnesses, leads dried up and the case went cold.
Eventually, Fortney’s family moved to various states. Her father, Donald Fortney, passed away in 2007 with no answers about his daughter’s murder-- just a vague description of a black man between 6 feet to 6 feet two inches with an average build.
"It's not like there was any DNA. So like some cases where maybe there was a sexual assault, you're gonna find DNA, we could test it later. There was nothing like that that happened in this instance. So there really don't have anything to go forward with," explains Sgt. Franklin.
Though a lifetime apart, another crime from just may of last year leaves the family of 18-year-old Alan Cunningham still searching for answers after he was killed in a hit-and-run on West 32nd Street.
"It's just been hard. Just thinking about, thinking about it every day. You know what I mean?" asks Cunningham's father Brent Perez.
"Much hasn't really changed since then. It's been a year and a half and we're still we're still seeking justice," says Cunningham's mother Cecilia Rodriguez.
"Seems like to a lot of people it's just business as usual, back to normal and Alan's killer is still out there," explains Cunningham's stepmother Soledad Marín.
The night of May 5, 2021 changed the lives of many in the blink of an eye. Cunningham was out with two friends when he and one of them were struck by a car in the middle of the road. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
"We gather here often… here on 32nd Street, and this where somebody decided that Alan's life was going to be taken," Rodriguez says sobbingly.
The car that police say hit the bike-riders is described as a silver 2011 to 2013 Chrysler 200 with front end damage. After following leads, and a change in detectives handling the case, Cunningham's family is left only with memories; still searching for justice.
"I don't think, you know, you're a murderer. I just think you need to do the right thing. Alan, was an angel on this earth," explains Rodriguez.
"The grief really has kind of made us isolate ourselves a bit. It's really difficult like we haven't gone back to our lives," says Marín.
Cunningham's mom explains she won't forget her son, saying "the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen in my life and I can still remember his smile I can remember the way he would move his little hands. I remember a lot about Alan."
Vivid memories of that dreadful night are accompanied by tears and seclusion.
"I think if it was accidental, you didn't do it on purpose. Then come forward," pleads Marín. She continues, "there are lots of days when we're just, you know, going about our business and then any tiny little thing will remind us of Alan and you know sometimes actions into this you know, conversation calling happy memories and sometimes it's just too painful and it just kind of puts a dark cloud over everything.
Sadly, these are just two of the countless unsolved crimes in Yuma.
YPD continues its efforts to try to solve these crimes and others just like them. If you have any information about the Rhonda Fortney shooting or the hit-and-run that killed Alan Cunningham or any other unsolved crimes, you are asked to contact YPD at 928-373-4700 or 78-CRIME to remain anonymous.