In a homicide case that gained international attention, the death of a Swedish national in the icy peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains led some to suspect political intrigue and assassination had come to Watuaga County, North Carolina. In the end, it turned out to be a vicious crime of passion.
The corpse of Swedish national, Viktor Gunnarsson, was found naked near the Blue Ridge Parkway, he had been shot in the neck and head. The case piqued international interest because Gunnarsson had been a suspect in the assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986. He had been held briefly by authorities in Sweden before moving to America.
However, the perpetrator turned out to be lovesick former police officer Lamont Underwood, and Gunnarsson was the victim of a love triangle.
Gunnarsson was last seen alive at the home of school teacher Kay Weden on December 3, 1993, where they had dinner. Later that night, Lamont Underwood, an ex-boyfriend of Weden’s, crept into Gunnarsson’s apartment and bound and gagged him. Underwood drove the Swede in the trunk of his car to the mountains and shot him dead.
Underwood and Weden’s relationship had ended that month. Three days after he had killed Gunnarsson, Underwood confronted Weden and her mother, Catherine Miller, in a restaurant. He accused Miller of destroying his relationship with Weden.
Another three days passed before 77-year-old Miller was found shot dead on the floor of her home.
The subsequent trial marked a breakthrough in DNA forensics when Underwood was convicted using mitochrondrial DNA evidence, something no judge had allowed previously. It proved crucial in linking hair found in Underwood’s trunk with Gunnarsson’s blood.
Lamont Underwood was sentenced to life in prison plus 40 years. He died of natural causes in 2018.
Watch details of the case in the Dead Of Winter at 9/8c on Investigation Discovery.