| AspenTimes.com

Police: Body left in coffin at former Silverthorne funeral home for months

Shannon, left, and Staci Kent of Leadville were arrested Friday and charged with attempted tampering with a deceased human body, a Class 4 felony.
Photos from Silverthorne Police Department

Lake County Coroner Shannon Kent and his wife, Deputy Coroner Staci Kent, were arrested Friday and charged with attempted tampering with a deceased human body, a Class 4 felony, according to a news release from the 5th Judicial District attorney’s office.

The charges stem from an incident at the former Kent-Bailey Funeral Home, 561 Blue River Parkway in Silverthorne, where police found a body in a coffin that they believe had been there for several months, according to the release.

The body was identified through fingerprinting as a 42-year-old Southern California man who died July 30 in a semitrailer crash in Park County, according to Park County Coroner David E. Kintz Jr. The body was transferred from the Coroner’s Office to the now-defunct funeral home on Aug. 11, according to Kintz. After the man’s body was found unattended, it was returned to the coroner Tuesday, and his family was notified.

Shannon Kent also was charged with violation of his bail bond conditions, a Class 6 felony, related to a previous arrest Dec. 6, 2019, in Lake County, where he was charged with official misconduct and perjury after he was indicted by a grand jury in September 2019 for having his wife serve as deputy coroner without being legally sworn in, according to the release.

The Kent-Bailey chain of funeral homes also got into trouble last year, when its operating license was suspended for locations in Leadville and Gypsum on Oct. 13. The locations were shut down following a complaint about the cremains of a stillborn child and an investigation that found unsanitary conditions at the Leadville location.

According to a state report, a client of the Leadville operation contacted the funeral home to arrange for the cremation of a stillborn child in December 2019. The client said the cremains were provided only after several calls were placed with the Leadville business. The report states that the cremains presented to the client were not labeled and did not include accompanying paperwork, which the client requested.

“(The client) noted the cremains returned to her exceeded the expected weight for a stillborn child and subsequently submitted the cremains that were provided to her for forensic analysis,” the state’s suspension order states.

The analysis determined that the cremains included bone fragments from multiple people, including the infant and an older adult. The Kents are facing a civil lawsuit related to that incident.

On Oct. 2, deputies with the Lake and Eagle County sheriff’s offices executed a search warrant at the Leadville location, where they found human biological waste, used and uncleaned medical and surgery equipment, unrefrigerated human remains and refrigerated remains that did not have identification tags or accompanying paperwork.

Shannon Kent, who was elected in 2014 and reelected in 2018, voluntarily signed an agreement with state regulators in December that required him to permanently exit the funeral home and cremation businesses in Colorado, revoking his license for his chain of funeral homes including locations in Buena Vista, Fairplay and Idaho Springs in addition to the Silverthorne, Leadville and Gypsum sites.

In relation to Friday’s arrests, bond for the Kents was set at $10,000 each, and they are scheduled to appear in court March 9. The Silverthorne Police Department is continuing to investigate.

The Vail Daily contributed to this report.

Former Basalt resident facing assault, stalking charges found dead in Denver

A former Basalt resident arrested this summer for allegedly making life miserable for his neighbors and a roommate was found dead earlier this month in the Denver area, according to a Front Range newspaper report.

Christopher Rose, 52, was found Feb. 9 beneath a bridge in Little Dry Creek in Cherry Hills Village, according to the Littleton Independent. No cause of death has yet been determined.

Rose was charged in June with stalking one neighbor in Basalt, harassing and racially taunting another and allegedly extorting a former roommate.

Rose allegedly told a Basalt police officer at the time that he planned on getting out of jail and returning to Basalt, where there was “going to be a massacre,” according to police reports.

Cherry Hills Village police told the Independent it was too soon to conclusively rule out foul play but said Rose had no gunshot or stab wounds.

Local courts will be busy once jury trials begin again

The Pitkin County Courthouse sits empty in Aspen on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Nearly all jury trials in the judicial district that includes Pitkin County have been halted for nearly a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and aren’t scheduled to start again until April.

Once they begin again, however, the impacts won’t be limited to attorneys, defendants, victims and court staff, 9th Judicial District Attorney Jeff Cheney said Tuesday.

“It’s going to take citizen resources too,” he said. “We need to tell the public because I’m sure you’ll be getting an invitation (to jury duty).”

Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Coats first halted all jury trials in the state March 16 at the beginning of the pandemic. In the 9th Judicial District, which includes Pitkin, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties, Chief Judge James Boyd has continued to follow that guidance except for a brief period in late summer when COVID-19 case numbers ebbed enough to safely allow trials, Cheney said.

At that time, a couple of Garfield County misdemeanor jury trials were held in the district’s largest courtroom in Rifle, where the jury was spread out, masks were worn and those who could not fit into the courtroom were allowed to follow on the internet, he said.

“It seemed to work out,” Cheney said. “It was different.”

Jury trials were initially set to begin again March 1 in the 9th Judicial District, but Judge Boyd on Saturday again extended that date to April 5.

As of Tuesday, 181 jury trials had been set in the three counties that make up the 9th Judicial District, including 104 felony trials, Cheney said. In Pitkin County, 10 felony jury trials currently are on the docket, while 14 misdemeanor trials are pending, said Don Nottingham, Pitkin County deputy district attorney.

That, however, is a drop in the bucket compared with those pending statewide, Cheney said.

“Between 11,000 and 18,000 are out there right now in the state,” he said. “It’s a huge number.”

Defendants are guaranteed a trial within six months of being charged with a crime, a rule often known as “speedy trial.” The state Supreme Court has had to look back more than 100 years to the time around the 1918 Spanish flu for precedent, and has made special findings to deal with the issue, he said.

Once trials finally begin again, Cheney said the impacts to his staff, court staff, courtrooms, judges, witnesses, juries, victims and defendants will be significant.

“I wouldn’t be a realist if I wasn’t concerned,” he said. “I think every prosecutor in the state is concerned. It’s going to really take a lot of resources.”

In fact, the lack of jury trials already has changed how the DA’s Office conducts business, Cheney said.

“We’ve agreed to dispositions we ordinarily wouldn’t have agreed to,” he said. “I do think we have had to make some decisions that outside of the pandemic world we might not have made.”

The exceptions are those cases that affect public safety, he said.

Georgina Melbye, an Aspen criminal defense attorney, also said she was concerned about both the district court and county court schedules once jury trials begin again. The courts will schedule two or three trials at the same time in case one cannot go, which creates uncertainty for attorneys, she said.

“That is hard for us as defense attorneys because you don’t know if you will go or not,” Melbye said.

Another concern is the jury selection process itself, she said. Often the district courtroom is full of people during that process, which likely won’t be possible in the age of COVID.

Nottingham said he may rely on juror questionnaires to try to cut down on the crowds, though Melbye said that is an imperfect solution.

“I really don’t think anything can take the place of live (jury selection),” she said.

COVID-19 also is likely to slow down the jury process, Melbye said, because it will have to be covered as part of selection. In other words, if prospective jurors are too worried about the disease to concentrate on the case at hand, that would be an issue, she said.

The 9th Judicial District usually sees between 3,500 and 5,000 cases per year, 95% of which settle before trial, Cheney said.

“There’s no possible way we could try all those cases,” he said.

Once jury trials start again in Pitkin County, Nottingham said he’s confident he and Pitkin County Court prosecutor Luisa Berne will be able to handle the caseload.

“I think we’re going to be busy,” he said.

The District Court and District Judge Chris Seldin are likely to be even busier as the judge and his staff must balance the criminal trial docket and the civil trial docket, Nottingham said.

As for the public’s duty to serve on juries, the need won’t come all at once. Each courthouse in the district will only conduct one jury trial at a time, he said.

Jail assault on deputies shines light on unsafe conditions in Pitkin County facility, sheriff says

A Pitkin County Jail inmate tried to strangle two deputies late last month, further highlighting the dangers associated with the aging facility, Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said Monday.

A 62-year-old deputy was not hospitalized after the Jan. 27 attack, but remains out of work and recovering at home from neck injuries, he said. A sergeant also suffered neck injuries, according to court documents.

“This is very serious,” DiSalvo said. “It’s violent. Losing a deputy is my number one fear.”

A month ago, Pitkin County commissioners preliminarily approved a plan to transfer most inmates to the Garfield County Jail in Glenwood Springs because of unsafe conditions at the 30-year-old jail in downtown Aspen. However, that plan has not yet been officially presented to the board so the contract with Garfield County has not yet been signed.

“We hope to get the contract signed soon,” DiSalvo said.

The Jan. 27 attack involved an inmate who’s been held at the jail since late October.

That was when Cesar Gonzalez, 24, allegedly attacked and choked a custodian at Aspen Elementary School without provocation Oct. 25. Gonzalez jumped on the 61-year-old man’s back as he was fixing a water fountain, then placed him in a chokehold that caused to man to nearly lose consciousness, according to a police report.

Cesar Gonzalez allegedly choked a custodian in October and a jail deputy on Jan. 27.

The custodian was able to fight off Gonzalez and later told police he feared for his life during the attack. At the time, Gonzalez made statements about entering a “portal” and fighting someone in another dimension and later said he had ingested LSD.

Gonzalez was being held in a padded isolation cell in the jail’s booking area Jan. 27 after he told deputies earlier that morning that he didn’t feel safe in his cell in the general population area, according to a warrantless affidavit filed in Pitkin County District Court. At about 8 a.m., the 62-year-old deputy asked other deputies to watch her, then opened the cell door and leaned her head inside to ask if Gonzalez wanted breakfast.

Gonzalez, who was lying on his back, quickly rose to his feet and overpowered the deputy as she attempted to close the door, according to the affidavit, which describes video surveillance of the attack. He pushed his way out of the cell and into the booking area, then went after the deputy.

“Gonzalez immediately wrapped both arms around (the deputy’s) head, then quickly shifted his hands, placing one on the back of her head and one hand under her chin,” the affidavit states. “Gonzalez violently twisted (the deputy’s) head with his hands. It appeared to be a serious attempt to break (the deputy’s) neck.”

A mental health professional working at the jail was the first to come to the deputy’s aid, followed by the sergeant on duty and another deputy. The sergeant and the second deputy were soon joined by a third deputy, and all began trying to wrestle Gonzalez off the deputy who was attacked while simultaneously trying to subdue him, according to the affidavit.

At one point, Gonzalez grabbed a Taser attached to the belt of one of the deputies, but other deputies were able to pry his hand off the weapon before he could get a hold of it. Once they got him off the first deputy, he grabbed for the sergeant’s neck and appeared to try to strangle him, the affidavit states.

“Gonzalez ripped half of (the sergeant’s) uniform collar off,” according to the affidavit. “(The sergeant) remembered Gonzalez having ‘supernatural strength.’”

Finally, four deputies were able to gain control of Gonzalez, and strapped him in to a restraint chair. The sergeant also saw a doctor and reported having neck pain similar to whiplash, the affidavit states.

Gonzalez had not been a problem before Jan. 27, DiSalvo said.

One possible reason for the attack may have occurred five days prior, when the deputy who was first assaulted broke some bad news to him and told him his family wasn’t able to bail him out as he expected, according to the affidavit.

Gonzalez was charged Monday with seven counts of felony second-degree assault and two counts of misdemeanor third-degree assault. He already is facing charges of burglary and second-degree assault from the October attack.

The observation cell Gonzalez was in does not have a slot to provide him food, so the deputy had no choice but to open the door to the cell, DiSalvo said. That’s yet another safety flaw at the facility, he said.

Also, the cell doesn’t have an intercom system to facilitate communication with inmates inside. The cell used to have an intercom, but it wasn’t replaced after former Snowmass Village Town Councilman Chris Jacobson tore it apart in July 2015 after he was arrested for drunken driving, DiSalvo said.

In fact, the entire booking area at the jail is dangerously laid out so that there’s no separation between inmates and deputies, DiSalvo told commissioners in January. An inmate assaulted a deputy in the booking area with a computer monitor this summer, he said.

Garfield County will charge Pitkin County $60 per inmate per day once the agreement is in place. The Pitkin County Jail will remain open for people who only need to be held as long as 48 hours, DiSalvo has said. Any inmate held longer will be transferred to Garfield County, he said.

The violent assault is the latest in a string of recent incidents at the jail, including the suicide of a 64-year-old female inmate in November 2019. In addition, a female inmate and a male inmate were left alone for two at least hours and had sex in a cell in 2017, while another inmate pried a light housing fixture from the ceiling in 2016 and used it to hack off a sprinkler head, causing more than $200,000 in damage.

Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock said Monday that the jail is outdated and that the agreement with Garfield County will buy time to allow Pitkin County to figure out how to replace it.

“Our facility was built for a different time and a different population,” he said.

Basalt teen arrested on charges of felony sex assault

A 16-year-old Basalt boy was arrested Wednesday and charged with two counts of felony sexual assault, according to sources.

An arrest report from the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office indicates the teen was arrested by the agency’s juvenile crimes investigator at the Pitkin County Courthouse.

However, the case originated with the Basalt Police Department, said Basalt Police Chief Greg Knott.

One of the two counts states the victim was “physically helpless” and did not provide consent, according to Colorado law.

No other information about the arrest was available because most information related to juvenile crimes is not public information.


Suspect in Basalt assault case enters guilty plea

Mufasta Muhammad formally accepted a plea bargain on Wednesday that could put him in state prison for seven to 10 years for an assault in Basalt last summer.

Muhammad, 24, pleaded guilty to second-degree assault, a Class 4 felony that typically would carry a sentence range of two to six years. However, it was considered a crime of violence because a weapon was allegedly used in the attack on another man in a Willits townhouse. That enhances the sentence range to five to 16 years, according to Eagle County District Judge Paul Dunkelman.

Mufasta Muhammad

The plea bargain stipulated a sentence range of seven to 10 years in prison followed by three years of mandatory parole.

Muhammad and another man, Daniel Wettstein, are accused of holding a man against his will and beating him at the townhouse the suspects shared during a night of partying on the night of Aug. 27. The alleged victim escaped the following morning from the residence after exiting a second-story window onto the roof, calling for help and jumping down.

Police from multiple agencies responded to the scene because of the victim’s report that weapons were in the house. Wettstein surrendered almost immediately. Muhammad surrendered after a SWAT team responded with an armored vehicle.

Muhammad has remained in jail since the incident occurred, unable to pay the $25,000 bond. Wettstein posted bond and is in a treatment center for U.S. military veterans facing addictions.

Muhammad will be sentenced on March 17. His attorney, public defender Kevin Jensen, said Muhammad’s mother and others would speak about his character at the hearing.


O’Grady pleads guilty in child pornography case

A longtime Roaring Fork Valley resident pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of a child by video Wednesday but got a reprieve from reporting to Eagle County Jail until he recovers from COVID-19.

Peter O’Grady’s plea bargain with the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office required him to be remanded to jail upon entering a guilty plea. He also has agreed to serve a five-year sentence in state prison, according to terms of the plea deal. But his attorney argued that sending O’Grady to jail now would present a risk to himself and other inmates since he is still battling COVID.

“He has lost a significant amount of weight, over 20 pounds,” said attorney Julia Stancil. O’Grady, 69, also is “extremely weakened by the disease” and is taking supplemental oxygen, the attorney said. Stancil said the jail cannot offer the kind of care that O’Grady needs at this point.

Peter O’Grady

Stancil filed a motion with a statement from O’Grady’s physician that said his infection is “more severe than normal” and advised that he not be sent to jail until he feels better.

“A remand at this time would not only put Mr. O’Grady at greater risk but it would also expose jail staff and other inmates to the virus,” the motion said. “Mr. O’Grady has continued to test positive but has not taken a test this week due to his severe fatigue.”

Deputy District Attorney Johnny Lombardi did not oppose Stancil’s motion to keep O’Grady out of jail but he told Eagle County District Judge Paul Dunkelman that O’Grady should not get credit for jail time while he is at home recovering after entering the guilty plea. The judge agreed.

Dunkelman asked O’Grady if his physical issues have created any mental hardships that affect his ability to understand the court proceedings and the implications of the plea deal. O’Grady said they did not and he entered a guilty plea.

O’Grady was arrested June 30 after the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant at his home in Missouri Heights to confiscate computers, storage devices and cellphones. The search allegedly resulted in “large amounts of suspected online child pornography being recovered as evidence, and the suspect being arrested,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a news release issued in July.

He was released from jail on $5,000 bond. O’Grady owned and operated a catering business for numerous years in the valley.

In a court hearing in November, Lombardi said an investigator was examining more than 800,000 pictures and video files of possible evidence in the case.

Sexual exploitation of a child by video is a Class 4 felony punishable by two to six years in the Colorado Department of Corrections. The attorneys and O’Grady agreed to five years, though Dunkelman has the final say on the prison term at March 24 sentencing. O’Grady also will be required to register as a sex offender.


Aspen gas line sabotage continues to perplex investigators

One of the natural gas stations in unincorporated Pitkin County that was sabotaged Dec. 26. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

In more than two decades with the Aspen Police Department, Sgt. Rick Magnuson has been involved in only two other cases that rise to the level of the gas line sabotage that occurred here the day after Christmas and left thousands without heat.

The first was the string of violent armed robberies committed by a group of Aspen teenagers in 1999, while the second was the case of Aspen native Jim Blanning, who left four gasoline bombs disguised as holiday gifts around town on Dec. 31, 2008 before killing himself.

“In the 25 years I’ve been here, this is the one I really want to solve,” Magnuson, who heads APD’s investigations unit, said this week. “This is one I want to get.”

However, despite nearly a month of intense investigation by two APD detectives, two investigators with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and help from an FBI agent in Glenwood Springs, the case is progressing slowly, he said.

“It’s a big puzzle we’re trying to solve,” Magnuson said. “We’ve got the outside done and we’re trying to build it. We’re working our way to the middle.”

The sabotage occurred Dec. 26 at three locations around Aspen: two in unincorporated Pitkin County and one within the city limits. At the request of police, The Aspen Times is not releasing the exact locations.

Black Hills Energy — which owns and operates the natural gas pipeline — was notified about 8:30 p.m. that gas pressure at a location in Aspen was non-existent, police have said. Approximately two-and-a-half hours later, a resident near the sabotaged location in the city called police and reported unusual noises that sounded like a gas leak.

When officers and Black Hills technicians responded to that location, where the gas line protrudes from of the ground, they discovered the building that houses the pipes had been burglarized and locks securing gas valves that control flow had been cut, according to Magnuson and previous statements by police.

Sheriff’s deputies and Black Hills techs later discovered similar sabotage at the two county locations, which are out in the open and not housed in buildings. The saboteur or saboteurs wrote “Earth First!” in what appears to be black marker on gas line infrastructure in two spots at each of the two county locations, Magnuson said.

Similar graffiti was not found inside the building that housed the gas pipes within city limits, he said.

Earth First! is a radical environmental advocacy organization founded in 1980 here in the southwestern U.S. with the slogan, “No compromise in defense of mother earth,” according to encyclopedia.com

At first, the problem that Saturday night didn’t appear to be a huge issue, Magnuson said, though police clearly recognized the unusual circumstances and made the case a high priority. Black Hills techs initially were able to turn on the gas valves again, though some residences did not regain gas service.

The magnitude of the problem became clear the next day – Sunday – when Black Hills realized it would have to manually turn off gas meters at approximately 3,500 residences in Aspen, re-pressurize the system, test it, then re-boot each of the 3,500 gas meters again. Those homes would remain without heat or hot water for three days as temperatures dipped into the single digits at night, and a snowstorm bore down on the area.

Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor, who was on vacation though still in town, cut short his time off and marshaled his officers and detectives, Magnuson said.

“He said, ‘Whatever you need, you got it,’” he said, adding that Sheriff Joe DiSalvo did the same.

At that point, police and sheriff’s office personnel established a multi-agency task force and got to work collecting evidence from the three crime scenes.

Detectives could discern footprints in the snow that appeared to lead to and from the three sites, though they were of dubious quality because of the number of Black Hills techs who had, by that time, tromped all over the areas.

“It was a little frustrating,” Magnuson said, adding that it was not possible to determine suspects’ footprints from Black Hills workers.

However, police are working under the theory that the person or persons responsible for the sabotage used a vehicle to get from location to location, he said. He declined to comment on which site was hit first or whether all were hit simultaneously, though police have said previously they were targeted at about the same time.

Investigators also focused on the gas valves that were tampered with.

The sabotage was not just a matter of turning one valve, Magnuson said.

“It was not quite that simple,” he said, declining to say exactly how it was done.

The gas outage that occurred was solely focused on the city of Aspen and narrowly avoided affecting Aspen Valley Hospital in the Castle Creek Valley. Affected areas included the downtown core, Aspen Mountain and Aspen Skiing Co. infrastructure, Red Mountain, Cemetery Lane, Mountain Valley and up Highway 82 toward Independence Pass just past McFarlane Creek, according to a Black Hills outage map.

“This was a targeted attack on the city,” Magnuson said. “That allows you to think about who would have the motivation to do that based on who was harmed.”

Almost certainly, the sabotage took special knowledge.

“Any person on the street would not know how to find these stations or how to turn them off,” Magnuson said. “That’s the thing we’re going on based on consultations with experts.”

Detectives also went to every house between the first location and the second location, which included about 50 homes, looking for video that might help. They received video from three, but it didn’t yield any significant leads, he said.

They also looked at video from Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses that were running the night of Dec. 26, though that wasn’t productive either, Magnuson said.

In the course of the investigation, detectives have interviewed approximately 15 people they though might have been involved. Some of those interviews included the Glenwood-based FBI agent, he said. Most “were not local residents,” he said. He declined to say whether any were current or former Black Hills Energy employees.

“’We looked at people who might have a grudge,” Magnuson said. “No one rose to the level of a suspect I would say.”

A second Earth First! tag on a site in Pitkin County that was sabotaged Dec. 26. (Photo courtesy Aspen Police Department)

Finally, there’s the issue of Earth First!

A representative of “Earth First! Journal” responded Dec. 30 to an email from The Aspen Times and clarified that Earth First! is a “decentralized, autonomous network of groups and individuals around the world.” Typically, a group or person who wants to take credit for an action might publish a “communiqué” on animal/earth liberation websites, the email said.

“Whoever is called to use the Earth First! slogan when taking action to defend the wild is able to use it since EF! is not an organization and does not have members,” the unidentified person wrote. “Someone may have written the slogan on the pipe with no affiliation to the movement at all. It happens all the time.

“The Journal has no comment on the action taken in Aspen. We are currently on hiatus and had nothing to do with this event.”

No communiqués have been found, and the FBI hasn’t detected any “chatter” before or after the gas line sabotage, Magnuson said. Detectives are working with the FBI – which employs specialists – on handwriting analysis of the Earth First! tags, he said.

Aspen investigators and the FBI also haven’t found any similar events in the United States in the past 10 years.

“It’s possibly someone from Earth First!, though they have disavowed it,” Magnuson said. “Or it could be a red herring.”

He said investigators currently do not consider the sabotage to be “domestic terrorism.”

“We consider these to be felonies,” Magnuson said.

Aspen Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn said labeling the event domestic terrorism implies a motive and a political outcome investigators simply can’t confirm at this time.

“In our world, that is a politically loaded term,” Linn said. “Terrorism has a specific intent to cause a political action. We’re not there yet.”

Meanwhile, Black Hills has beefed up security at the three sites that were tampered with, Magnuson said.

Aspen residents claim heaters outside of the Aspen Police Department to heat their homes during a gas outage on Monday, Dec. 28, 2020. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

A Black Hills Energy spokeswoman declined Friday to comment on the situation, including how much the sabotage cost the company. Magnuson declined to speculate on that amount, though he noted that it was likely substantial as the company imported about 200 technicians from neighboring states to fix the problem while paying them overtime, per diem and hotels, as well as bringing in 4,000 space heaters for local residents.

An FBI spokeswoman in Denver said in an email Friday that the agency does not comment on investigations and referred a reporter back to Aspen police for information.

Black Hills continues to offer a $10,000 reward for information that leads to the conviction of anyone for the crime. Anyone with information relating to the case can call the Aspen Police Department at 970-920-5400.

“We’re still looking for help from the public,” Magnuson said. “Most cases like this are solved with a tip or an eyewitness, but that hasn’t happened here.”

DA’s office files four charges against Old Snowmass man after midvalley dogfight

An Old Snowmass man is facing a felony charge for allegedly throwing a handgun into the Roaring Fork River after firing the weapon during a fight between his dog and another.

The Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s office filed a charge of tampering with physical evidence against Robert Guion along with felony menacing and two misdemeanors — disorderly conduct and reckless endangerment.

Eagle County deputy sheriffs arrested Guion Jan. 4 after an alleged altercation near Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel. The police report states Guion and his wife were walking their two golden retrievers on a trail along the Roaring Fork River when they encountered another man walking two dogs. Two of the dogs got into a fight. The Guions said one of their golden retrievers was attacked twice by the other dog of mixed breed.

Guion allegedly threatened to shoot the other man’s dog during the fight, according to the report. Another man who was on the trail told Guion he could not shoot the dog. Guion allegedly pulled out a handgun, fired one round and said he could “shoot whatever he wants,” according to the deputy’s arrest report. No dogs or people were injured.

Deputies responded to the area after a witness called 911. They talked to the parties involved and Guion allegedly said he didn’t have a weapon and allowed the deputy to pat him down.

While sorting through the stories, Guion allegedly admitted to a deputy that he had fired the handgun and then threw it in the river.

Guion, 72, was arrested for felony menacing and the two misdemeanor charges. He bonded out of Eagle County Jail after posting $2,500.

Robert Guion

The DA’s office filed a criminal complaint and information on Jan. 17 that added the charge of tampering with physical evidence to the three charges Guion faced upon arrest. The charge contends Guion knew an official proceeding was pending or about to be instituted, so he allegedly tampered with the evidence to make it unavailable in an official proceeding.

The felony menacing charge, the most serious of the four filed, claimed Guion “knowingly placed or attempted to place (the victim) in fear of imminent serious bodily injury by use of a deadline weapon, namely: Bersa .380 semi-automatic caliber handgun.”

The misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment alleged that Guion’s actions “created a substantial risk of serious bodily injury” to a witness.

The misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct was filed for discharging the firearm in a public place.

Guion had a permit to carry a concealed weapon, according to the incident report.

Attorney Lawson Wills filed an entry of appearance for Guion. He declined comment on Tuesday. Guion was scheduled for a first appearance in Eagle County Court on Tuesday but the hearing was not held. He is scheduled to appear Feb. 23 for a disposition hearing.


Basalt police seeking man who allegedly provided tobacco, pot products to youth

Basalt police are seeking help identifying a man who allegedly has provided nicotine, vaping and marijuana products to middle school kids on multiple occasions in recent weeks.

“We’ve received information from 10 middle school-aged kids of this person selling nicotine products to them,” said Police Chief Greg Knott.

The suspect appears to be between 20 and 30 years of age. “We haven’t had the most consistent description,” Knott said.

The kids are allegedly placing orders via social media. The man meets with them at designated locations along the Highway 82 corridor between Basalt and El Jebel to deliver the products, according to Knott. Most of the activity was during the school break for the holidays.

Basalt police were tipped off about the activity from middle school officials. In interviews with kids, officers learned that some of the exchanges also included marijuana edibles, Knott said.

If caught and convicted, the man could face charges of delivering tobacco products and marijuana products as well as contributing to the delinquency of a minor, Knott said.

Anyone with information is urged to contact the police department at 970-927-4316.