Man faces felony for allegedly trashing Aspen home

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times

A home in the quiet North 40 neighborhood was allegedly trashed by a guest who was arrested Thursday on a felony charge of criminal mischief.

“It’s like Hurricane Katrina hit it,” said Charles Abbott, who was staying at the home with owner Michael Stranahan and suspect Paul Peak, whom authorities believe broke windows, computers and other items. “He basically destroyed everything.”

A sheriff’s deputy also found bags full of empty wine bottles throughout the house, an affidavit for a warrantless arrest warrant says.

Peak, 57, appeared Friday in Pitkin County District Court, where Judge Gail Nichols set his bond at $5,000 and said he faces a potential prison term of one to three years. A self-described transient, Peak said he didn’t work and had no money.

Abbot and Stranahan didn’t contest Nichols placing a mandatory protection order on Peak, who is forbidden from having contact with the two men.

“The economy is up, so I could get work,” Peak told the judge.

Abbott and Stranahan weren’t at the Riverdown Drive home at the time of the alleged episode. Stranahan was in Crested Butte for Christmas and Abbott, who moved into the home earlier this month, had been at Aspen Valley Hospital for medical treatment.

Outside the courtroom, Stranahan said the last time he spoke to Peak before his alleged outburst was Christmas Eve. Stranahan said Peak has lived at his house, which is in a neighborhood across Highway 82 from Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, as a guest for 10 years. Peak is a practiced guitarist, one in the mold of Eric Clapton who has been aiming for musical achievements, Abbott said.

An affidavit, written by Pitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Turner, said Turner was originally called by Aspen Valley Hospital’s emergency room at 2:30 a.m. Thursday so that he could give Abbott a courtesy ride home. Abbott told Turner that he couldn’t reach Peak for a ride home and Stranahan was out of town, prompting Turner to go the home to verify with Peak that Abbott resided there.

When Turner arrived at the home, “I immediately observed several broken windows on the exterior of the home,” he wrote. Turner also saw another broken window, covered with a blanket, on the home’s rear door. As he looked through the window, Ryan “observed that the inside of the residence was in complete disarray. I was able to see numerous broken items strewn throughout the house.”

Ryan then called Stranahan, who gave the deputy permission to enter the house. There, Turner tried to contact Peak, who was in his room and refused to come out unless he was under arrest, the affidavit says.

“Peak explained to me that he was sorry for what happened and that he was going to clean everything up,” the affidavit says. “Peak further explained to me that he would contact Stranahan and apologize for what he had done.”

Peak also told Tuner he would clean up everything and make his way to New Mexico. When Abbott arrived home, he discovered his two Apple laptop computers had been destroyed as well as a camera tripod. After Stranahan arrived home Thursday night, he told Turner that about $10,000 worth of damage had been inflicted on the home.

Both Abbott and Stranahan said Peak is a kind man, but his alleged actions were frightening to them. They said they felt fortunate they weren’t at the home at the time of the incident.

“It’s terribly sad and terribly tragic,” Abbott said outside the courtroom. “But it’s extremely violent.”

Peak is due back in court Jan. 5.


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