Alleged victim: ‘I was a fool’ to trust Aspen jeweler William Evans

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

Local hotel owner Terry Butler, the alleged victim of a bracelet theft, testified in court Tuesday that she was “a fool” to believe that Aspen jeweler William Evans was looking out for her best interests in trying to sell her high-end jewelry.

Evans, 78, is accused of felony theft and a misdemeanor charge of false reporting to authorities in the case involving the missing Hammerman bracelet, which she bought in 1996 at a discount for $13,000. A 12-person jury trial in Pitkin County District Court started Monday and is expected to end Thursday.

A line of questioning from defense attorney Lawson Wills centered on Butler’s statements that for several weeks in late 2011 and early 2012, she desperately wanted the bracelet back, yet she also continued to communicate with Evans about selling the bracelet and also an expensive ring. Butler eventually recouped the ring, which Evans had given to another jeweler, Kathryn Penn, to try to sell inside her downtown store, Butler said.

In addition, Butler testified that she loaned Evans $1,000 after he told her he had no money for food or gas during a trip to Arizona, where he was supposed to try to sell the bracelet.

“At the same time you desperately wanted your stuff back, you’re still in conversations with him about continuing to do business?” Wills asked.

“I still believed in Bill,” Butler said. “Skeptical, but still believed in him. … I wanted to trust Bill, and I was a fool.”

Aspen police arrested Evans in early April 2012 after he had claimed about six weeks earlier that an 18-karat-gold ladies bracelet with diamonds had disappeared from the back seat of the rental car he had been driving. The vehicle was parked in the lot of City Market in Aspen when he reported to police that the bracelet was missing.

Police and prosecutors say that conflicting statements Evans made about the bracelet’s ownership and an insurance policy he took out three days before reporting it stolen are evidence of his guilt.

Evans has maintained his innocence and told The Aspen Times the day after his arrest that he had been upset and confused during interrogations by Aspen Police Sgt. Dan Davis, who was called as a witness late Tuesday afternoon and is expected to offer more testimony today when the trial resumes at 8:30 a.m.

Wills asked Butler if she stood to gain financially from a successful prosecution of Evans.

“I hope so,” she replied, referring to the restitution the court would require if Evans is convicted. “I just want my bracelet back.”

Later, under questioning from prosecutor Andrea Bryan, Butler said he also wants Evans to be held accountable for the alleged crime.

Wills sought to discredit Butler’s previous statements to Davis concerning numerous phone calls Evans allegedly made to Butler in October 2011. Wills said the phone records show that he did not call her during that month.

Wills asked Butler if she’s had trouble recalling specific dates that are relevant to the case.

“I’ve done the best I could,” she replied.

Butler also testified about a statement that Evans allegedly made to her in late 2011 after he picked up the items from her. The statement, characterized by the defense team as an innocuous joke, refers to leaving the jewelry unattended in the back seat of his car so that it could be swiped, allowing both Butler and Evans to profit from the theft via insurance.

“I was too stupid to understand it,” Butler said. “I think he was testing me. He said it was a joke.”

Asked by Wills if she told anyone else back then about Evans’ so-called “invitation to a crime,” Butler replied that she didn’t.

Other testimony Tuesday revolved around the value of the bracelet. Though Butler paid $13,000 for it in 1996, the sale price represented a deep discount, according to an expert witness for the prosecution, Becky Reanee Spratt, of Plano, Texas.

Spratt, who described herself as a gemologist, said she appraised the bracelet for Butler in 1996 at $40,000. Today, the “retail replacement value” of the bracelet would be $65,000, and the exact type of Hammerman bracelet no longer is manufactured and can’t be found in any jewelry market, she added.

The defense claims that the true market value of the bracelet is less than $10,000 based on the meltdown price of the gold and diamonds and that the Hammerman brand is not as prestigious as Butler and the prosecution contend.