Defendants plead not guilty in Aspen carbon monoxide case
ASPEN – A district judge Monday denied motions to dismiss felony negligent-homicide charges against a sub-contractor and a former building inspector in connection to the carbon-monoxide poisoning deaths of a Denver family of four in an Aspen-area home in 2008.Instead, Marlin Brown, the sub-contractor, and Erik Peltonen were arraigned on four charges each of negligent-homicide. Both men pleaded not guilty through their attorneys. A trial was set to begin Nov. 28.Brown and Peltonen were indicted on the charges in July 2010 after a Pitkin County grand jury held private court sessions for more than one year.Colleen Scissors, the attorney for Brown, and Abraham Hutt, the attorney for Peltonen, had filed motions to dismiss the charges based on alleged prosecutorial misconduct and lack of probable cause. Scissors said there were “five or six” primary motions to dismiss the charges against both defendants. District Judge James Boyd denied them all.Boyd said there was “some inaccurate information” presented to the grand jury, but there wasn’t a prejudicial error that harmed the defendants. Boyd also said “mistakes” were made by the prosecutor during the grand jury deliberations, but he didn’t find them significant enough to dismiss the charges.Boyd didn’t elaborate on the inaccurate information or mistakes made during the grand jury hearings.Accounts of the grand jury deliberations are sealed from public review, so the evidence against the two men is unknown. Boyd, in issuing his oral rulings Monday, spoke in vague terms about his denial of the motions to dismiss the charges. He said his written rulings, which will be sealed, will go into the details of his decisions, including information from the private grand jury sessions.Brown, 57, of Glenwood Springs, is owner of Roaring Fork Plumbing & Heating. His company performed work at a home at 10 Popcorn Lane, where the Lofgren family was found dead.Peltonen, 69, of Basalt, is a former city of Aspen building inspector who assisted Pitkin County when the Popcorn Lane house was undergoing government inspections during the construction process.Scissors said after Monday’s hearing that she was “disappointed” by Boyd’s denial of motions to dismiss the charges.The next court battle will likely be whether the cases against Brown and Peltonen should be tried together or separately.”I think we should try all these cases together,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Arnie Mordkin said during the hearing. “They are the same acts and the same activity. I believe they’re together.”Separating them would be a waste of judicious time, Mordkin said. Hutt countered that they are separate cases and should be tried separately, even if it does take more time. He contended case law supports that the cases should be treated independently; it’s Mordkin’s burden to prove they should be tried as one case.Motions hearings will be held this summer to decide the issue.The attorneys estimated the trial will take three weeks, potentially double that period if they are tried separately.The house where the Lofgrens were staying on a long weekend did not have a carbon-monoxide detector at the time of their deaths. High levels of carbon monoxide killed Caroline Lofgren, 42; her husband, Parker, 39; and their children, Owen, 10, and Sophie, firstname.lastname@example.org
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