Aspen Mountain shack resident arrested in library
Aspen police on Thursday arrested the 57-year-old man they suspect has been living in a makeshift cabin on Shadow Mountain for at least the past few months and possibly more than a year, an officer said.
A sharp-eyed patron at the Pitkin County Library spotted James Hogue using a computer in the facility’s basement at about noon Thursday and called emergency dispatchers, said Aspen police Officer Dan Davis. The person recognized Hogue from a picture snapped by Aspen Skiing Co. employees Tuesday and published in both Aspen daily newspapers Thursday, he said.
Davis said when he arrived downstairs at the library soon after the call, Hogue’s back was to him and he wasn’t sure if it was him.
“Then he looks over at me, and I thought, ‘Oh, that’s him,’” Davis said.
Hogue saw Davis’ police uniform “and it was like an ‘Oh crap’ moment for him,” he said. Hogue got up out of his seat, turned away from Davis and began walking away along the back wall of the library, Davis said.
Davis said he followed and asked Hogue to stop and talk to him, which he did. The officer asked if he was Hogue, and Hogue said he wasn’t, according to Davis.
“He said his name was David Bee … from Ontario (Canada),” Davis said. “But I knew it was him.”
Hogue had no identification on him and protested when Davis said he was going to arrest him because he believed he was Hogue.
“I said, ‘We’ll figure it out at the jail. If it’s not you, we’ll apologize and let you go on your way,’” Davis said.
Hogue admitted his identity at the Pitkin County Jail, he said.
Hogue was arrested on a misdemeanor warrant from Boulder County charging theft between $750 and $2,000. Aspen police also plan to charge him with criminal impersonation, a felony, Davis said.
The Boulder County warrant charges two counts of misdemeanor theft, though no details of the alleged crimes were available Thursday, according to a spokesperson for the Boulder District Attorney’s Office.
Police believe Hogue, a notorious con man who once posed as a high school student when he was 26 years old, built a cabin above the Shadow Mountain Condominiums atop Aspen Street near Lift 1A, and lived there for an undetermined amount of time, though it could have been a year and a half to two years, Detective Jeff Fain has said.
Police and Skico employees caught him Tuesday possibly trying to build another shack about 100 feet away from the previous cabin. Fain tried to get Hogue to come down and talk to him, but Hogue disappeared.
Fain said he spoke with Hogue in jail Thursday and he told him he’d been living in the shack on Aspen Mountain since June. That time frame, however, doesn’t jibe with details from Skico employees who told Fain they’d seen a man at the cabin last winter, he said.
Contrary to previous information, Hogue also said he hasn’t been going to Aspen’s homeless shelter for the past two years or so, Fain said.
“He didn’t even know there was a homeless shelter here,” Fain said.
Prior to June, Hogue said he’d been living in Denver since he was released from a Colorado prison in 2012, he said.
“He said he moved here to ski,” Fain said.
Police were alerted to the cabin on Shadow Mountain on Sept. 19, but when officers hiked up and knocked on the door, the man inside fled out a window and disappeared into the woods. When officers went back the next morning, the shack had been completely cleaned out. Open space employees later dismantled the shack, though they left the materials up there because they were too big to haul down the mountain, police have said.
Then on Tuesday, Skico employees saw Hogue digging a hole 100 feet west of the dismantled shack that appeared to be the beginning of a new cabin. They confronted Hogue and found tools that had been stolen from Skico maintenance and told him to leave.
They later saw him loading duffel bags into a Nissan Xterra parked in a parking lot near the Skier’s Chalet. The car had a ski patrol parking pass hanging from the rearview window, which caused Skico employees to call police. Fain showed up, saw Hogue moving stuff on the mountain and over a loudspeaker on his car asked Hogue to come down and talk.
Hogue, instead, disappeared.
Time Magazine named Hogue one the country’s “top 10 imposters” for posing as a high school student in Palo Alto, California, when he was 26 and a college student on track scholarship at Princeton when he was in his early 30s. He also was arrested for stealing $50,000 worth of jewels from a Harvard museum in the early 1990s, and then served time in Colorado prison after pleading guilty to stealing items in the Telluride area.
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Mario Ruiz came to Aspen Highlands from Bariloche through the ski patrol exchange as part of the Sister Cities program last winter. He quickly ingrained himself with the Highlands patrol. Ruiz was killed July 27 in an avalanche while working at his home ski area. The Highlands patrol is raising funds for his family.