ID made in bizarre Basalt death
BASALT The man who died Saturday after setting fire to a Basalt woman’s home had been distraught and suicidal after she broke up with him two years ago, according to court documents.Authorities on Tuesday identified the man as John V. Kenworthy. He died of a gunshot wound to the head, according to Eagle County coroner Kara Bettis.Basalt police are working on a theory that Kenworthy might have botched an attempt to kill his ex-girlfriend at 26A Riversedge Court. They said it appears he tried to light the house on fire while she was sleeping, accidentally got consumed by the flames, then shot himself with a Ruger Mini-14 semiautomatic rifle in the front yard of the residence. The woman was unharmed. As she is a victim of domestic violence, The Aspen Times isn’t identifying her.Court documents show Kenworthy and the woman had a stormy relationship. She sought a restraining order against him in March 2005 after breaking up with him. An Eagle County judge held a hearing, but there was no order granted, court records show.Upon Kenworthy’s arrest later in 2005 for possession of pipe bombs, his ex-girlfriend told an agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that Kenworthy “is not a threat to anyone but himself,” according to an affidavit for an arrest warrant in that case.Longtime worker in AspenCourt records show Kenworthy had a lengthy history in the Roaring Fork Valley and only minor scrapes with the law between 1989 and 2005. Kenworthy turned 50 on Sept. 5, three days before his death in Basalt.He worked as a maintenance man at the Shadow Mountain Lodge in Aspen for almost 14 years, according to court records. He lost his housing at the lodge when he was laid off after the economy soured in 2002.Kenworthy dreamed of establishing his own business, but it never panned out, his ex-girlfriend told investigators in the pipe bomb case: “Kenworthy is like a toilet, on a downward spiral,” she told federal agents in December 2005.Kenworthy was homeless and living in his truck at the time. His ex-girlfriend said he collected vintage World War II weapons. He sold a snowboard and ski equipment at one of the ski swaps in the valley to raise money in October 2005.Carbondale police found Kenworthy sleeping in his parked truck with the motor running near the American Legion in November 2005 and ordered him to move along.There is no clear picture of when Kenworthy departed the Roaring Fork Valley. His last known residential address was Commerce City, and he was working in Denver at the time of his death, according to Basalt Police Chief Keith Ikeda. Kenworthy was arrested in December 1989 in Pitkin County for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana. In 2003, he was ticketed and fined in Pitkin County for turning without using a signal. He listed his address in that case as 26A Riversedge Court in Basalt.Kenworthy’s latest recorded brush with the law came on Aug. 10, when he received five traffic tickets in Clear Creek County. The alleged infractions included speeding, following too closely, possessing an open container of alcohol in a vehicle and not having insurance. His next court appearance was scheduled Oct. 16.Arrest for pipe bombsKenworthy was arrested on more serious charges in December 2005 after a set of circumstances nearly as bizarre as those in his death. Court documents in that case relate the following scenario: Kenworthy’s Ford pickup was repossessed in Carbondale on Dec. 1, 2005, after he stopped making payments on a loan. When an employee of the repo firm cleaned out the vehicle in Grand Junction the next day, he found five pipe bombs of PVC pipe and an altered 90-millimeter artillery shell.A bomb squad exploded the devices, and the federal ATF investigated. The ex-girlfriend told an ATF agent on Dec. 4 that Kenworthy had discussed killing himself with the artillery shell because of their breakup.Kenworthy told investigators that he had been trained in explosives in the U.S. Army before he received a “less than honorable discharge” in 1975. Kenworthy claimed the PVC pipe bombs were just “noisemakers” that contained match heads instead of gunpowder.”He said that he had designed the artillery shell to have a six-second fuse and he at one point wanted to kill himself with it,” court documents said. “He emphasized that he had no intent to harm anyone.”Kenworthy reached a plea bargain in which he admitted guilt on a charge of possession of an unregistered destructive device. In return, the federal prosecutor dropped the remaining charges and agreed to probation – as long as a background check produced no prior convictions of a felony or a violent misdemeanor.It’s uncertain how a restraining order would have affected that plea deal if one had been granted in Eagle County earlier in 2005.Kenworthy was sentenced in July 2006 to three years of supervised probation in the explosives case when it was determined he didn’t qualify as a career offender. He was prohibited from possessing any firearm or explosive devise and he was supposed to undergo alcohol and substance abuse evaluation and seek treatment if directed. He also was ordered to submit to mental health treatment if the probation department directed it.Basalt investigation continuesBasalt police and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation are examining Kenworthy’s background to try to determine what triggered his actions Saturday in Basalt.He entered his ex-girlfriend’s home shortly before 5 a.m. and used a flammable liquid to start the fire. The home received moderate fire damage and extensive smoke damage, according to the Basalt fire department.His vehicle was discovered about three blocks from his ex-girlfriend’s house near the entrance to Arbaney Park. Ikeda said there was a note in the car that can be construed to suggest he was going to take action, but it is uncertain if it was related to this incident. Ikeda wouldn’t disclose what the note said.The car and Kenworthy’s body were checked for explosives before they were cleared from the scene Saturday.While investigators said it was clear that Kenworthy intended to harm his ex-girlfriend, it is less certain what he had planned for himself. The investigation may be unable to determine whether Kenworthy planned suicide if the fire hadn’t forced his hand.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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