Homicide in El Jebel | AspenTimes.com

Homicide in El Jebel

An El Jebel-area resident was beaten to death Saturday night during a visit from a man who claimed to be his best friend, according to Eagle County authorities.

The name of the victim wasn’t released Sunday. The suspect was identified as Russell K. Thompson by Eagle County Sheriff A.J. Johnson. Thompson, 37, is being detained for suspicion of the homicide at the El Jebel residence, Johnson said.

He is being held at the Eagle County Detention Center, but no formal charges have been filed yet, Johnson said.

Thompson was taken into custody at 10:30 p.m. Saturday, shortly after he allegedly called 911 and told authorities what he had done.

“He said something to the effect of, `I’ve killed my best friend,'” said Detective Scott Hunter of the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office. “They were arguing. We don’t know why.”

The victim was a 44-year-old white male who occupied a unit at a funky old A-frame structure that was converted into a triplex at 485 Valley Road.

There are two A-frames in that enclave adjacent to the Summit Vista subdivision. The victim was killed in the A-frame to the west.

The victim suffered severe trauma to the head and face, said Hunter and Eagle County Deputy Coroner Jim Stryker. The victim didn’t suffer any other apparent injuries, Stryker said.

Hunter said no weapon is believed to have been used. The suspect allegedly beat the victim with his hands.

The man’s body was removed from the home at about noon Sunday, after investigations by the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office and Colorado Bureau of Investigation were completed. Stryker said the victim would be examined by a pathologist.

The suspect is being held without bail at the Eagle County Detention Center, according to Eagle County District Attorney Michael Goodbee.

Thompson will likely be advised of his rights today. Goodbee said he will consult with investigators and await results of the autopsy before determining the appropriate charge or charges.

Although details were just emerging Sunday, here’s the scenario laid out by investigators:

Sometime Saturday night an argument broke out between the men in the small, ground-floor apartment. They were apparently alone at the time, and no residents of the other units were believed to be home.

After allegedly killing the victim, investigators said the suspect left the A-frame, walked westerly down a small, snowy hill and knocked on the door of a nearby home. He explained he needed help and asked to use the telephone.

“He was very polite, apologetic, distraught,” said a woman who answered the telephone at the home where the suspect sought help. She said the man explained what he did and said he needed to contact authorities. She declined further comment at the instruction of police.

Shortly before 10:30 p.m., Thompson allegedly called 911 and reached a police dispatcher. He reported what he did and disclosed the neighborhood where he could be found, according to police.

The suspect waited outside the home after making the 911 call and was soon located and taken into custody by Deputy Tina Burkey.

Hunter said the man was intoxicated and crying when he was

found. He directed deputies to the unit in the triplex.

“We found a man laying on the ground in a pool of blood,” said Hunter. “He was beat up. There was blood all around the house.”

After a preliminary investigation, deputies secured the site until investigators and lab technicians from CBI arrived Sunday morning.

CBI officials would say nothing about their investigation.

The victim’s name wasn’t released Sunday because authorities had to determine his next of kin and notify them of the slaying.

A neighbor said a man named “Chico” lived in the unit where the man was killed. He estimated the man had lived there about six months. He thought Chico worked in the valley as a carpenter.

Deputies said the triplex apartments turned over frequently. They had responded to the area before but mostly for noise complaints and other minor issues.

The neighbor said Chico and a woman, apparently a girlfriend, mostly kept to themselves. According to investigators, the suspect initially said a woman had been in the apartment when the victim was killed. Based on those comments, authorities were on the lookout for a 1986 GMC van with a possible connection to the incident.

It was later determined that the woman in question was in Texas at the time. She isn’t wanted in connection with the case.

Police said this was the first homicide case in western Eagle County for as long as anyone could remember.

Summit Vista residents were shocked to hear someone was killed so close to their neighborhood.

One woman said she suspected something had happened based on all the police cars, but she said word hadn’t spread among her neighbors.

The A-frame where the crime occurred and the one next door were scheduled to be torn down soon. The property owners have received approvals from Eagle County for a multi-lot, single-family-home subdivision.

District Attorney Goodbee said facts of the investigation will determine whether he will pursue a charge of first-degree murder, second-degree murder or manslaughter.

First-degree murder would require premeditation of the intent to kill. Second-degree murder would apply for the intent to kill without premeditation. Manslaughter would be recklessly causing the death of another.

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