| AspenTimes.com

Attorneys spar over evidence sharing in Lake Christine Fire case

EAGLE — A hearing Friday in the case against the father of one of the Lake Christine Fire suspects devolved into bickering over evidence.

Craig Miller's defense attorney claimed that prosecutors have not shared all the evidence they have againt his client. The prosecutor in the case said the defense is wrong and that all evidence has been provided.

Miller is not facing charges connected to the Basalt-area wildfire, which burned 12,566 acres and destroyed three houses, a barn and an outbuilding this summer. Instead he is charged with felony burglary, misdemeanor trespassing and misdemeanor menacing after allegedly confronting his neighbors over his suspicions they tipped police to his son's whereabouts.

His son, Richard Miller, and Allison Marcus, both 23, each face felony arson charges. They are accused of firing incendiary rounds at a Basalt shooting range that sparked the Lake Christine Fire on July 3.

Craig Miller was arrested for his alleged behavior when Eagle County Sheriff's deputies received a tip July 14 that his son and Marcus were at his Missouri Heights home.

There was reportedly some miscommunication about what date in July Richard Miller and Marcus would turn themselves in.

District Attorney Bruce Brown said he interpreted it would be July 13.

Craig Miller said he interpreted it to be July 16, a Monday, and had asked that law enforcement stay away from the house that weekend because he was hosting family members.

"Today's motion discussed the prosecution's failure to turn over critical evidence," Michael Fox, Craig Miller's attorney, said at Friday's hearing. "Mr. Miller vehemently denies engaging in any criminal behavior. We look forward to clearing his name and telling his side of the story at trial."

Assistant District Attorney Heidi McCollum said prosecutors have been open in exchanging evidence with Miller's defense team.

"We have complied with and will continue to comply with the rules of discovery," McCollum said. "They have everything in the possession of the District Attorney's Office. Everything that has been requested by the defense that is in the possession of the District Attorney's Office or law enforcement has been provided, to the extent that it was discoverable."

Among other things, Fox said he is looking for an anonymous tip that brought law enforcement to Craig Miller's home, reporting that Richard and Marcus were there.

"There was nothing anonymous about it," McCollum countered. "It was a 911 call that has been disclosed through the police reports and the 911 call log."

Craig Miller reportedly became upset when law enforcement arrived, and went over to a neighbors' house to confront them, according to his arrest affidavit.

When law enforcement showed up at Miller's home, they didn't tell Miller who had made the call, although one of the officers said at the time that they received a "tip," McCollum said.

"It would make no sense to disclose who called them," McCollum said. "That is good police work."

Shortly after Craig Miller was placed in the back of a patrol car and placed under arrest, Richard Miller and Marcus exited the house with their hands in the air and said they wanted to surrender, police said.

All three remain free on bond.

Craig Miller said he's not guilty and will take his chances at trial. He's back in court March 13 at 9 a.m. His three-day trial is scheduled to begin April 8.

Chilean suspects identified in Aspen jewelry robbery

Aspen police have identified three Chilean men as suspects in the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollar's worth of jewelry from the lobby of The Little Nell hotel last month.

Three arrest warrant affidavits were filed Friday and Wednesday in Pitkin County District Court, naming the men and how they were eventually identified by Aspen police with the help of other law enforcement agencies. The men have not yet been arrested and may have fled the country, an Aspen police detective said Wednesday.

The man who allegedly broke the lock on the hotel lobby glass display case rented by an Aspen jewelry store was identified as Richard Esteban Delgado Escobar, 28. The other two men with him were identified in the court documents as Diego Miqueles, 37, a Chilean living in Reseda, California, and Guiliano Maurizio Donoso Jofre, 40.

The three each have been charged with theft, burglary and conspiracy, all felonies. Miqueles and Donoso Jofre have criminal histories in California, including arrests Dec. 13 in Brea, California, according to the affidavits.

The theft in Aspen occurred Dec. 21 just after 1 p.m. Video surveillance showed the men parking a Ford Expedition rented in California on Spring Street at 12:11 p.m. that day, then entering The Little Nell and milling around the jewelry case before leaving at 12:40 p.m. The three men returned not long after and clustered around the display case.

Video surveillance showed the man identified as Delgado Escobar using something to help him pry open the case, then bend down and interact with a black backpack being held by one of the other men.

Just before parking the Expedition, video surveillance discovered by Aspen police showed the man later identified as Donoso Jofre paying cash for a folding knife at Ute Mountaineer at 12:05 p.m., according to the court documents.

The men were able to steal eight pieces of jewelry from the case — including diamond and gold rings, bracelets, earrings and necklaces — valued at $419,300, the affidavits state. Previous reports indicated the value of the stolen jewelry at $800,000.

Aspen police initially searched for the wrong vehicle following the theft, the documents state. When they reviewed surveillance video, they identified the Expedition and discovered it was rented Dec. 18 in Panorama City, California, by a man named "Marco Sanchez" who used a Puerto Rico driver's license.

That driver's license number later came back to an 85-year-old man who clearly didn't fit the description of any of the thieves, according to the affidavits.

The rented Expedition was found Dec. 23 in a parking garage at Denver International Airport.

DIA surveillance video later allowed Aspen police to track the three men through the airport to a Los Angeles-bound American Airlines flight that left Denver the early afternoon of Dec. 22, the affidavits state.

Delgado Escobar flew under the name "Marco Sanchez," while the other two men presented boarding passes featuring their real names. Video footage from the L.A. airport shows the men leaving the terminal separately but all getting into the same shuttle van, according to the affidavits.

A Department of Homeland Security agent later contacted Aspen police and reported that he had used facial recognition software to substantially match a picture submitted with Delgado Escobar's Chilean passport and U.S. visa application in 2014 to Sanchez's Puerto Rican driver's license photo.

Further, the agent discovered that a Chilean man who entered the U.S. on Oct. 6 under the name Raul Alejandro Escobar Bravo had the same fingerprints as Delgado Escobar, who was fingerprinted as part of his previous visa application, according to the court documents.

The other two men proved a bit easier to identify.

Miqueles' criminal history indicated he'd been arrested in January 2017 for burglary, grand theft and conspiracy in Costa Mesa, California, and for battery of a spouse in December 2017 in Fresno, California. He also was arrested Dec. 13 for burglary, theft of an elder or dependent adult and grand theft in Brea. Records also indicate he was arrested in Santa Ana, California, on Dec. 13 for the same charges as the Brea arrest.

A Brea police detective told Aspen police that Miqueles and two other men followed a woman Nov. 26 after she withdrew cash from an ATM in Brea, then "conducted a ruse where one suspect placed money underneath her vehicle and the other approached her and suggested she dropped the cash," according to Miqueles' affidavit.

"Suspects took cash from the victim's purse while she was distracted," the affidavit states.

Miqueles and his girlfriend were arrested for a similar crime in Brea in 2017, the affidavit notes.

An Aspen police detective later found a 2012 Chilean newspaper article about a man with Miqueles' similar name and age that said he was arrested at the time for his role in a $74 million robbery, though it was not clear if that was pesos or dollars, the affidavit states.

Donoso Jofre was in Miqueles' car when he was arrested Dec. 13 for the alleged Brea crimes. In addition, he matched the description of a man seen in surveillance videos "related to dozens of distraction purse/wallet thefts that the Brea Police Department had been investigating," according to the affidavits.

A Google search of Donoso Jofre's name turned up a news item from 2012, which said a 33-year-old man with the same name had been arrested "for his role as a gang member in the theft of $44 million pesos, the equivalent of $2.2 million U.S. dollars," according to his affidavit.

Pictures and video of the three men allowed Aspen police to identify them.

Donoso Jofre and Delgado Escobar have likely fled the country, Aspen Police Detective Ritchie Zah said Wednesday. Miqueles also may have fled, he said.

jauslander@aspentimes.com

Internet star Cameron Dallas arrested in Aspen, charged with felony assault

An actor and internet personality with millions of online followers was arrested early Saturday morning at an Aspen hotel after allegedly punching another man and breaking his nose, police said.

Cameron Dallas, 24, of Whittier, Calif., was charged with felony second-degree assault with intent to cause bodily injury and was later released from the Pitkin County Jail after posting a $5,000 bond, according to an Aspen police news release and court records.

Aspen police officers responded to an ambulance call at the Hyatt Residence Club Grand Aspen at 5:10 a.m. Saturday and "found a man bleeding from injuries to his face," the release states. That unidentified man told police he had been assaulted.

Officers investigated the claim and later arrested Dallas, who was staying at the hotel, according to the release.

Dallas allegedly punched the other man in the face and broke his nose, Aspen Police Sgt. Rick Magnuson said Sunday. Aspen Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn refused Monday to release any other details about the incident.

Dallas has millions of followers on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube and has appeared in the movies "Expelled" and "The Outfield." He also has a singing career and currently stars in a Netflix reality TV show called "Chasing Cameron."

In a tweet Monday late afternoon, Dallas wrote that “sometimes in life you find yourself in a situation where you have to protect yourself and the people you care about.”

 

 

 

Recommended Stories For You


Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a social media response from Cameron Dallas.

Colorado agencies cracking down on DUI drivers around New Year’s

DENVER (AP) — The Colorado State Patrol and police around the state are cracking down on drivers under the influence as the year draws to a close.

The Colorado Department of Transportation says there will be saturation patrols and extra law enforcement officers on duty from Friday through Wednesday, with over 100 agencies participating.

Last year, 357 impaired drivers were arrested during the five-day period around New Year’s.

The increased enforcement comes as the head of the state patrol is urging drivers to be more careful throughout the year.

As of Thursday, 600 people had died on the state’s roads in 2018, including nine in less than 72 hours.

In a video posted on social media, Col. Matthew Packard blamed “selfish driving,” from impairment to not paying attention, for the latest deaths.

Recommended Stories For You

Aspen police release video, images of jewelry heist suspects

The Aspen Police Department released images and video surveillance of the three men suspected of stealing jewelry valued at $800,000 from The Little Nell hotel on Friday.

The security video of the three suspects shows them all with facial hair, but the still images "show they may have shaved to alter their appearances," according to a press release from the Aspen Police Department.

Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn said the still images "were taken after the crime, and I don't want to give more information because we have an ongoing investigation."

Linn said it's unlikely the suspects are in Aspen.

"I think it's reasonable to say we believe they left the area," he said.

Authorities were alerted at approximately 1:17 p.m. Friday of the heist, the result of a picked lock that accessed the jewelry case that Piranesi Jewelry has rented from The Little Nell for 20 years.

Taken were diamond and gold jewelry, police said.

"There, officers learned that three male suspects had opened a locked glass display case and had taken numerous jewelry items from within before fleeing," the press release said. "The stolen items were of very high value. The suspects left the scene driving a black Ford SUV with California license 8CPU928, which is listed as a rental vehicle."

The Aspen Police Department said its release of the video and images is so "the public may help with identifying them."

Recommended Stories For You

Aspen police looking for suspects in Little Nell jewelry theft; items valued at $800k, sources say

Aspen police are looking for three male suspects after authorities received a report of a jewelry theft Friday afternoon at The Little Nell Hotel.

Multiple sources said the stolen items are worth over $800,000.

The diamond and 18-karat gold jewelry includes necklaces and other items that were taken from a hotel lobby display case rented by Piranesi Jewelry, which has a storefront at 525 E. Cooper Ave.

Surveillance video shows three men with facial hair, wearing stocking or baseball caps and puffy coats standing in front of the vitrine where several retailers have glass cases displaying their merchandise.

Two of the men were positioned on either side of the Piranesi display while the third one went in the middle of them and took the jewelry.

"It was a little lock … a not very secure case and they reached in and grabbed the merchandise," Aspen police officer Kirk Wheatley said Friday evening.

Two of the men are described in their 20s with goatees; the third one is older with a beard.

"We do have some leads that we are following up on," Wheatley said.

He added that the men had been in the hotel earlier Friday likely casing the place.

Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn said the APD received a call from an individual at 1:10 p.m. reporting that the theft occurred 10 minutes prior.

Tina Taylor, who works at Piranesi, said she couldn't provide many details because it's an active investigation.

"We are very sad that it happened," she said, adding that Piranesi has rented a case for 20 years in the Little Nell. "We hope they catch the suspects and find our jewelry."

Veronica Sumner, also an employee at the store, said nothing like this has ever happened before. Piranesi has had storefront in Aspen for over 30 years.

On Friday evening, Sumner had the retail store locked during business hours and was opening the door for customers. An overnight security guard had just reported for duty.

Jonathan Fillman, general manager for the Little Nell, said it was a brazen act.

"The good news is that we captured them on camera," he said. "We have checked the other locks and they are secure. Everything is in working order."

He commended the APD for its response and work on the investigation.

"I'm just glad no one got hurt," Fillman said.

Suspect shot, killed by police in Rangely during arrest attempt

An unidentified suspect was shot and killed by police Monday night in the western Colorado town of Rangely as they were seeking an arrest, according to information released by the Garfield County Sheriff's office in conjunction with the Ninth District Attorney's Office.

Rangely Police and deputies from the Rio Blanco County Sheriff's office had located a vehicle reported missing and were attempting to arrest the suspects when shots were fired, according to the news release.

One suspect was shot and later declared deceased, the news release said, but no officers were injured. The names of the suspects and the officers involved have not been released.

The incident occurred within the Rangely city limits, near the intersection of state Highway 64 and state Highway 139. Rio Blanco is part of the Ninth Judicial District along with Garfield and Pitkin counties.

The investigation into the shooting incident is being led by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, which looks at all shootings involving law enforcement officers, and is joined by the Ninth Judicial District’s Critical Incident Team.

Drunken driving homicide case from December 2017 in Rifle moves to trial

Cody Christopher, the defendant in a late December 2017 vehicular homicide and drunken-driving case who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, is set to go to trial next April.

Christopher appeared in Garfield District Court Thursday on bond, set at $50,000 in March, to enter the plea. The jury trial is scheduled for April 22-29 in Glenwood Springs before District Judge John Neiley.

Christopher, 40, is charged with vehicular homicide as the alleged driver in a Dec. 29, 2017, car crash north of Rifle where two men were killed. Matthew Smith, 36, of Rifle and Trent Johnson, 41, of Glenwood Springs were killed as a result of the crash, and Johnson’s 10-year-old son, Rylan, was injured.

At an October hearing, Judge Neiley determined that the evidence was sufficient to establish probable cause and continue the felony charges against Christopher.

The wreck occurred along Puma Paw Ranch Road, a private extension of Garfield County Road 219 northwest of Rifle Gap Reservoir near the Rifle Correctional Facility. The group was reportedly embarking on a hunting trip.

None of the passengers in the 2003 Ford Excursion were wearing seatbelts, according to a State Patrol affidavit. The car rolled down an embankment, and Smith and Johnson were both ejected from the vehicle.

After the rollover wreck, Christopher allegedly admitted to consuming two beers before getting in the car. Investigators say they found evidence that alcohol was involved in the crash, according to the affidavit.

Christopher reportedly refused a voluntary blood draw, which would have determined blood-alcohol levels when he was taken to Grand River Hospital, but submitted to blood draws after a search warrant was issued by a judge later that same day.

With the guilty plea, Christopher’s case will next go through a motions hearing in March 2019, where each side may move to suppress evidence and the defendant may present evidence that his constitutional rights were violated. A pre-trial readiness conference is set for early April.

tphippen@postindependent.com

Pitkin County commissioners include DA raise in budget

Though he didn't ask for it, Ninth Judicial District Attorney Jeff Cheney is getting a raise this budget season, along with the rest of his employees.

Cheney told Pitkin County commissioners earlier this week that he asked for a 3.1 percent wage increase for his employees as part of his annual budget requests, and Garfield County commissioners last month felt he should be included in the raises.

"I'm not expecting that," he said Tuesday. "I didn't ask for it and I don't know that I deserve it, but I know that my team does."

Cheney must ask commissioners in Pitkin, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties — which make up the Ninth Judicial District — to approve most of his office's budget every year. The state of Colorado contributes Cheney's salary of $125,086, leaving county taxpayers in the district responsible for $3.4 million for the 2019 budget, according to a memo from Cheney to Pitkin County commissioners.

While Cheney's salary — like that of county commissioners — is set by state law, it can be increased if counties in the district approve it. Cheney's raise for 2019 would add an extra $5,156 to the overall budget, of which Pitkin County's share would be $1,105 Cheney said.

Commissioners George Newman and Rachel Richards said they supported the salary increase, while commissioner Steve Child praised Cheney's leadership as district attorney.

"I don't read about the District Attorney's Office in the newspaper all the time," Child said. "That's a good thing to me."

Overall, Cheney asked for a 1.8 percent budget increase over the office's 2018 budget, which Child noted was less than the 2018 inflation rate of 2.7 percent.

The three counties in the district, by law, divvy up the DA's budget based on population. That means Pitkin County pays 21.4 percent, Rio Blanco County contributes 7.6 percent and Garfield County puts in 71 percent.

Pitkin County's share works out to $708,698, according to Cheney's memo. Commissioners on Tuesday gave Cheney the thumbs-up to move forward with his proposed budget.

Cheney also told commissioners he wants to apply for a grant from the state for money to fight illegal marijuana cultivation but needs their permission. Commissioners said they were open to the idea, but wanted to check with other county officials, including Sheriff Joe DiSalvo, before committing.

DiSalvo said Friday he didn't know enough about the program to comment.

jauslander@aspentimes.com

Vail employee allegedly slept with minor in Glenwood Springs

The man charged with soliciting a minor for prostitution in Glenwood Springs is a Gypsum resident and worked for the town of Vail for more than 24 years, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent has learned.

Ronald Braden, 53, appeared in Garfield County District Court Wednesday on bond, and was released with a court protection order prohibiting him from having contact with children under 18 years of age.

Judge Denise Lynch of the 9th District also ordered Braden to remain in Colorado, unless granted permission to travel from the court, according to case documents.

Braden had led information services for the town of Vail since he was hired in June 1994, most recently holding the title of director. Braden's employment with the town of Vail officially ended Monday, a spokesperson for the town said, and he was placed on leave Oct. 24.

Braden's charges are included in a larger Colorado grand jury indictment handed down Oct. 22, alleging a prostitution ring operated out of the former Plaza Inn, which is no longer in business, in north Glenwood Springs.

The indictment charges Damara Hester, 25, and Dasjuan Goode, 30, of transporting two juveniles to Glenwood Springs in July 2017 and holding them at the hotel before driving at least one of the juveniles to a sex buyer's home to perform acts of prostitution," the indictment said.

Braden allegedly was one of those who engaged in the activities during that time. The pair put ads for the two minors online and exploited them sexually for money, according to the indictment.

On at least one occasion, Hester and/or Goode "took advantage of the minors held in the hotel. According to the indictment, Braden "met the juvenile at a hotel/motel in Glenwood Springs and paid money to engage in sexual intercourse with her."

He is charged with four felony counts, including soliciting for child prostitution, pandering of a child, patronizing a prostituted child and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

A defense attorney for Braden, Alaurice Tafoya-Modi, said "Mr. Braden looks forward to addressing the allegations in a court of law."

Hester remains in custody at the Garfield County Jail with bail set at $50,000. Goode was arrested Oct. 25 and is currently being held in Brighton with bond set at $100,000, according to Adams County Sheriff records.

Ninth District prosecutors have filed to have Goode transferred from the Adams County Jail to face the charges in Garfield County, Assistant District Attorney Ben Sollars said.

tphippen@postindependent.com