LAKEWOOD, Colo. — Friends say a woman found strangled in her Green Mountain home Tuesday was a nurse at St. Anthony Hospital and the mother of an 8-year-old boy.
“I’m devastated, completely devastated,” said Traci Buntenbah.
Buntenbah said Hilary Engel was a great friend and “the most giving person” she had ever met.
“She did toy drives for kids. She’d adopt families at Christmas time. She’s just the type of person that was always looking for ways to help people and help strangers,” Buntenbah said.
The two moms met four years ago at Rooney Ranch Elementary School in the Green Mountain neighborhood, where their sons go to school.
“We had no choice but to be friends,” she said, “because the boys always wanted to play together.”
Buntenbah said Engel was very accepting.
“My kids are hyper,” she said. “I get a little nervous about it. She always told me that she would never judge me, no matter what.”
Police said they were called to a home on S. Coors Circle on a missing person report, on Dec. 29.
When friends arrived, they reported finding an adult woman deceased inside the home.
Police said it appears Engel died of strangulation.
Engel’s boyfriend, Karl Aaron Bemish, 51, was arrested the following day at a hotel in Trinidad.
He’s being held on suspicion of committing First Degree Murder.
“That really bothers me,” Buntenbah said. “I knew him… he was around my kid. He had (been) at my house. It’s devastating.”
She told Denver7 she thought Bemish was “a little shady, but not evil.”
Now, her thoughts are focused on Engel’s 8-year old son.
“I know he’s okay. I haven’t got to see him yet, but I know he’s okay. He’s with family,” she said
Buntenbah said she wants others to know that Engel wasn’t just some victim.
“She was an amazing mother, and a nurse,” she said. “She saved people’s lives and she did not deserve this at all.”
Buntenbah told Denver7 she had received a text message from Engel on Monday.
“She was just checking in,” Buntenbah said. “She said she wanted to hang out. I just happened to tell her I loved her. I’m grateful I did.”
Denver7 reached out to Centura-St. Anthony for comment.
The hospital issued this statement:
“We extend our condolences to the loved ones of Hilary Engel, who worked at Centura-St. Anthony Hospital as a nurse. Our sympathies go out to her family and friends, and all the caregivers who are grieving this painful loss.