Glenwood murder case won’t see bid for death penalty
District Attorney Mac Myers will not seek the death penalty in the first-degree murder case against Charles McDowell, who is accused of murdering his wife, Ruth Ann, at the Glenwood Springs Rite-Aid store last September.Myers made the announcement Wednesday at the close of a preliminary hearing, in which District Judge Thomas Ossola bound McDowell over for trial.”We have reviewed the circumstances, the facts, the defendant’s background and consulted with the Capital Crimes Unit of the state Attorney General’s office and district attorneys who have handled capital cases,” Myers said.”This case does not meet the legal criteria for a successful death penalty prosecution. The death penalty is reserved for a small category of particularly heinous offenders,” Myers said. “That in no way diminishes the seriousness of this crime or the loss suffered by the friends and family of Ruth Ann McDowell.”A dozen of those friends and family gathered in Garfield District Court to hear three witnesses testify in the case against McDowell. Two relatives of the defendant also attended.Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson, Police Investigator Bill Kimminau and Dr. Rob Kurtzman, a forensic pathologist from Community Hospital in Grand Junction, explained the basics of the case in a two-hour hearing.Public defenders Greg Greer and James Conway offered no evidence, witnesses or arguments in McDowell’s defense, noting that at the preliminary hearing stage, the court must consider the evidence “in a light most favorable to the prosecution.”McDowell is set to enter a plea in the case on April 22. He is charged with first-degree murder, felony murder during the course of another crime, and aggravated robbery. If convicted, he faces life in prison without parole.McDowell is being held without bond at the Garfield County Jail.Myers would not comment on the possibility of reaching a plea bargain before the arraignment, but said, “This is a serious case and we intend to pursue it.”Under cross-examination by the public defenders, Wilson and Kimminau both said they believe that robbery was a partial motive in the case. A search of McDowell’s home after his arrest turned up a brown plastic bag, stashed in a crawl space, that held $7,009.”The money was not taken solely to dummy up the crime scene. The money was a partial motivator,” Wilson said.The police chief said his opinion is based partly on instincts, and partly on conversations he had with McDowell.McDowell suspected that his wife was having an affair with a co-worker, and he had followed her in an attempt to prove his suspicions, Wilson said.”But he came up with nothing to confirm it, so it seems like a very strong action to take based on a suspicion,” Wilson said.The action McDowell allegedly took before the murder does not fit the impulsive nature of a crime of passion motivated solely by an extramarital affair, Wilson said.McDowell allegedly slipped into the Rite-Aid store before closing time, hid in a storeroom loft until after closing, left behind a pocket knife and a liquor bottle, and used a .38-caliber bullet in his .357 magnum Smith & Wesson pistol.After the 9 p.m. shooting, McDowell allegedly drove home to New Castle and stashed the gun and money, then drove back to Glenwood Springs to stage an arrival after police were called to the scene.Dr. Kurtzman confirmed that Ruth Ann McDowell’s killing was a homicide. And Kimminau testified that the bullet found in her head matched “in class and characteristics” other .38-caliber test bullets fired from McDowell’s pistol.
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