Glenwood Canyon rest stop stabber sentenced to 20 years prison

Ryan Summerlin
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Delbert Willeford

A judge sentenced Delbert Willeford to 20 years in prison Thursday afternoon, following his guilty plea in a 2015 stabbing and robbery at a No Name rest stop.

Prosecutors say that Willeford went on a multi-state crime spree, which peaked in violence when he robbed a pair of sisters at the Glenwood Canyon rest stop and stabbed one in the process.

The two sisters from Cincinnati were road tripping to Los Angeles in September 2015 when they pulled over to a rest stop in the night to use the bathroom. In that bathroom, a masked man with a large black knife demanded their belongings, threatening to kill them.

One of the women, trying to protect her sister, charged the man, and he lunged at her, stabbing her in the chest, according to a sheriff’s office report.

At first she didn’t realize she’d been stabbed, but she then lifted her shirt to find lots of blood, she reported to authorities. Physicians would find that the stab wound was a little deeper than 1 centimeter, but that was enough to possibly puncture her diaphragm.

He took her purse, phone and credit cards and fled the bathroom.

Investigators later used an iPhone locator application to track the victim’s phone to the side of the interstate, where prosecutors say Willeford dumped it.

This was simultaneously Willeford’s smartest move, as he was trying to avoid being tracked by law enforcement, and his dumbest move, as authorities were able to retrieve his DNA from that phone, said Deputy District Attorney Barrett during Thursday’s sentencing hearing.

Garfield County investigators would later find that Willeford and a 47-year-old woman accompanying him, had been on a multi-state crime spree, and the case would eventually involve authorities across Colorado, Missouri, New Mexico and Texas.

Along the way, Willeford had stolen a Harley Davidson motorcycle in Ozark, Missouri, then fled police and crashed the same. He and Kent were also arrested in Chaffee County in a stolen truck five days after the stabbing.

But his connection to the rest stop stabbing wouldn’t be made until July 2016 when the Colorado Bureau of Investigation would match the cellphone DNA to Willeford’s DNA on record with the Missouri Offender Database.

In September 2016, arrested alongside him in Texas was Kent, who pleaded guilty to felony aggravated motor vehicle theft in July 2017 and was sentenced to two years in prison.

Following the sentencing arguments by attorneys on Thursday, Willeford insisted on a making a direct apology to Barrett, which the deputy district attorney called a rarity in such serious criminal cases.

While the judge was in chambers considering his final sentencing decision, Willeford told Barrett that he was truly remorseful for what he had done to the sisters, and he was adamant that his apology should reach them.

Willeford said, “I had a breakdown and made horrible, horrible mistakes. And I’m looking to atone for them.”

His defense attorney, Alex Haines, said that Willeford would accept whatever sentence the judge handed down. And Willeford told the deputy DA that he wanted to express his true remorse, not to get a lighter sentence.