Investigators search locally for California child-abuse suspect
Investigators from California were in the Roaring Fork Valley recently searching for a man they believe tortured his own child and then fled to avoid prosecution.
The man, according to the Placer County, Calif., district attorney’s office, is known by many names and has been moving around the United States for the past year.
He reportedly has at times passed himself off as an ex-Navy Seal, although Placer County District Attorney David Brose says the man actually washed out of Seal training.
His name is Aaron Bigelow, according to investigators, and for more than a week he reportedly was living in El Jebel with valley resident John Chmielewski (an employee of The Aspen Times).
But one day in September, Chmielewski said, he came home from a weekend trip to find the man missing and a private investigator at his door asking where Bigelow could be found, although Chmielewski said he knew the man by the name of Anthony “A.J.” Yorch.
Chmielewski said he has no idea where Bigelow went, but noted that he had paid his rent in advance and had been “a really nice guy … a great roommate. He was clean, he had his money, he seemed respectable. He totally wasn’t a sketchy guy.”
But he added that he was troubled to learn that Bigelow had been formally charged with breaking a leg and two fingers of his own 6-month-old child in the spring of 1999.
He was also troubled by the way Bigelow left, packing up his stuff and moving out while Chmielewski and his girlfriend were gone for the weekend. Yorch was supposed to be taking care of their three dogs.
“It looked like he hadn’t let the dogs out all weekend,” he recalled. “The place was trashed.”
Chmielewski’s phone records show Bigelow made a last call to Tennessee on Sunday, Sept. 10. And it was the phone records, detailing a series of calls to one number in Tennessee, that led authorities to contact Chmielewski in the first place.
Chmielewski said Bigelow did not talk much about his origins or his family, but claimed to have lived in Seattle; Lake Tahoe, Calif.; and Knoxville, Tenn., before coming to Colorado. And, Chmielewski said, Bigelow claimed to have been married once to a woman who died when her car was hit by a drunk driver.
“He said that’s why he’d been moving around the country. He just didn’t want to settle down anyplace,” Chmielewski said.
According to authorities, Bigelow jumped bail a short time before the case was to go to trial in the spring of 1999. A bench warrant was issued early that September, according to Placer County records.
Private investigator Ed Westrick, who is working for the bondsman who put up Bigelow’s bail, said the suspect goes by several names, including Joel Carnell, Chris Brown, John Alley and Tao-by Aleman. Aleman is the name of another former roommate of Chmielewski’s who befriended Bigelow but moved out some time before Bigelow left.
Westrick claimed Bigelow has been known to steal identifying papers from those he befriends and then use them as the need arises.
Westrick also said that Bigelow wrote a confession to the child abuse charges before fleeing.
According to Brose, Bigelow has an outwardly friendly demeanor. And, Brose said, “He has a way of ingratiating himself with the ladies. But he has no great love for children.”
Both Brose and Westrick asked that anyone with any information about Bigelow’s whereabouts contact Brose at (530) 889-7000 or Westrick at (559) 285-8653.
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Had Hailey Swirbul decided against going to Europe, she would not have finished with a career-best result in Friday’s World Cup opener. Yes, there was a time, and not long ago, when the U.S. ski team member and Roaring Fork Valley native questioned her desire to put on a race bib.