District attorney awaits sheriff’s report on Aspen CO deaths
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado
ASPEN ” The District Attorney’s Office said Friday it is waiting for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office to wrap up and deliver all findings in the investigation of the carbon-monoxide deaths of a family near Aspen before acting on the case.
“We are going to look at the materials when we receive them,” said District Attorney Martin C. Beeson of the 9th Judicial District. “We are going to do an independent analysis. We are going to make our best judgment at the time.”
He added, “We know what our job is.”
The sheriff’s office launched its investigation into the deaths shortly after four bodies were discovered at a residence a few miles east of Aspen, adjacent North Star Nature Preserve. Sheriff Bob Braudis could not be reached for comment Friday.
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The bodies were discovered by friends in a bedroom of the home at 10 Popcorn Lane, one day after Thanksgiving.
An autopsy later determined Parker Lofgren, 39; his wife, Caroline, 42; and their two children, Owen, 10, and Sophie, 8, died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
“This is a very serious matter. An entire family lost their lives,” Beeson said. “These types of cases are tragic all around.”
The investigation, to date, has turned up a number of findings. About two weeks ago, the level of carbon monoxide in the bedroom was estimated at 5,000 parts per million according to tests done at the residence.
At that level, the family was probably killed within 20 minutes of being exposed to the gas, based on federal guidelines.
The measurement was 20,000 parts per million in the crawlspace where the mechanical equipment for the home is housed. The crawlspace sits two floors below the bedroom, where the family was found.
The test involved starting up the Munchkin boiler that powered the home’s snowmelt system and letting it run throughout one night. The air in the home was then tested for carbon monoxide levels, authorities said.
A disconnected exhaust pipe that stretched from the boiler to a chimney flue appears to have been the way the gas was able to infiltrate the home. It was determined a polyvinyl chloride pipe, more commonly known as PVC, was not hooked up at the “elbow” point where it was to allow the gas from the boiler to flow to the flue and out of the home.
“I think they are going a great job,” Beeson said. “We will wait until they complete their investigation.”
Investigators also did not locate a carbon monoxide detector in the home, even though county building records suggest the residence was fitted for such a device.
A Pitkin County building code required homes to have one carbon monoxide detector, although it was not specific as to the location at the time.
The county has since strengthened its law regarding the detectors. The law requires all residential property owners to install and maintain CO detectors in their buildings ” one near each bedroom and one located generally one each level of the structure.
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