PARACHUTE, Colorado — Law enforcement agencies have not done enough to locate Paul Cunningham, 26, a Battlement Mesa man who has been missing for more than a week, according to the man’s relatives.
At least two members of his family are worried that Cunningham has been killed, although police believe he has gone into hiding.
“We’ve all been working together to try and find Paul,” said Cunningham’s 23-year-old ex-wife — and mother of his two young children — referring to a network of family and friends.
The ex-wife said Parachute police have declined to listen to what she felt were threatening voicemails left on Cunningham’s cell phone. The ex-wife asked to not to be named out of concern for the safety of herself and her children.
She, along with her mother, Connie Martin of New Castle, said Parachute police and the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office seemed uninterested in searching actively for Cunningham, or in pursuing any theory that he may have met with foul play.
Law enforcement authorities dispute that allegation.
“We’re not refusing to do anything,” said Parachute Police Chief Cary Parmenter. “We have no reason to believe there was any foul play,” he said of Cunningham’s Feb. 19 disappearance.
Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario told the Post Independent, “We have remained in contact with the Parachute Police Department and have offered and provided assistance in the way of follow-up, running down leads, etc., at their request.”
Cunningham was last seen running from Shommy’s Restaurant in Parachute, at about 8 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 19.
Parmenter reported that Cunningham had just been in a fight at the bar and restaurant, and that Parachute officers searched for him that evening as a suspect in an assault.
Since then, Parmenter told the Post Independent, Cunningham also has been listed as a missing person. That status requires any law enforcement agency that encounters Cunningham to pick him up and hold him, Parmenter said.
In addition, after Cunningham failed to appear Tuesday for a previously scheduled court hearing in Glenwood Springs, District Judge James Boyd issued a bench warrant for his arrest.
The family’s concern continues, in part because they are worried that their own safety may be at risk.
“It has something to do with drugs,” said Martin, referring to her son’s disappearance.
She said that the family is not about to give up on its aggressive efforts to find Cunningham and reveal what happened to him, and that they fear that if Cunningham has been killed, his killers may target them, too.
“I’ve heard that Paul was beaten and thrown into the river,” Martin confided.
“There is word that Paul was a snitch for drugs,” she said, and had been threatened by people involved in the local drug trade.
Cunningham’s former wife acknowledged that he has been in trouble with the law, noting that he was on probation from a burglary conviction when he disappeared.
But, she said, he has a steady job as a welder in the gas industry that he likes, is paying his child support regularly and is keeping in touch with his kids.
“He’s still my best friend,” she said. “This is the lifestyle he lived, and I couldn’t do it anymore with my kids.”