Accomplice in trooper shooting attempts to flee
August 19, 2008
DENVER ” Authorities say Nichole Brownell had a one-way airline ticket to Puerto Rico Saturday, but she never got off the ground.
Brownell, 41, faces sentencing Friday for being convicted on two counts of being an accessory to the 2006 shooting of former Colorado State Patrol Trooper Brian Koch near Silt. He survived, thanks to a bulletproof vest.
But instead of time behind prison bars, Brownell had a tropical island on her mind.
Beth Bascom, chief investigator for the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Glenwood Springs, said Brownell was arrested by Denver police at the Denver International Airport after checking in for a 7:50 a.m. flight Saturday to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
With Friday’s sentence hearing plus a pending drug case from 2005, Brownell was not allowed to leave the state without permission and is legally required to make it to court appearances.
Bascom said it seems Brownell booked the one-way ticket to try to avoid punishment.
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“We believed it was an indication that she did not intend to appear, and leaving the state of Colorado without the permission of her bondsman and the permission of the court is not allowed,” Bascom said.
A man named Bud Nesius was also arrested with Brownell. He purchased the tickets for both of them. Bascom said Nesius’ bondsman revoked his bond upon hearing about the plans to fly to Puerto Rico.
More information about Nesius and his criminal case wasn’t immediately available. A Garfield County Combined Court official said Nesius posted bond in a case involving drug charges this year.
Bascom said law enforcement received information about the travel plans from an anonymous source. The information was first given to Glenwood Springs police.
“We confirmed her e-ticket out of the country. We notified the airline and also the Denver Police Department that’s located at DIA and forwarded to them the warrants we had and asked them to pick her up,” Bascom said.
If not for that, Brownell may have made the trip unnoticed until missing court hearings, because no system exists that checks names of airline passengers against names of people who aren’t allowed to leave the state due to pending court cases, Bascom said.
Police believe Koch was shot by Steven Appl during a traffic stop south of Silt on Oct. 24, 2006. Appl shot himself during a police checkpoint the next night.
Police say Cori Graham, 29, of DeBeque was driving the truck to help Appl escape and that Brownell also helped Appl and arranged the ride. Graham is scheduled to go to trial Dec. 8. Her attorney has said she only drove because she was afraid of Appl and was forced into it.
Wayne Hangs, who owned the home where Brownell was living, testified against Brownell to receive a plea deal that could allow him to avoid punishment. He was also accused as an accomplice to the shooting.
Koch suffered permanent injuries that forced him to leave the state patrol and become a safety consultant with ConocoPhillips.
Brownell was reportedly in Salt Lake City, Utah, just days prior checking in for the Puerto Rico flight. The anonymous source who tipped off law enforcement said Brownell planned to go to Puerto Rico, “and from there, intended to disappear,” an arrest warrant affidavit says.
Brownell was being held on a warrant with no bond and was expected to be brought to the Garfield County jail Monday. It was unclear if she would face additional charges for allegedly trying to escape punishment.