Judge, neighbors grapple with Woody Creek man’s problems
July 9, 2009
ASPEN – A hearing for a permanent protection order turned into an intervention Wednesday in Pitkin County Court.
Shane Aldrich, 48, appeared in court to hear the case against him by neighbor Lian Fong Chong, who is seeking a permanent protection order.
Instead, Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely put off making a decision, and sought to get at the heart of Aldrich’s problems, in which alcohol consumption appears to have been a common denominator.
Aldrich, who lives in the Woody Creek Subdivision, has had up to five protection orders filed against him, including several from his neighbors. And Pitkin County Sheriff’s deputies told the judge that on average, they are called to his residence three to five times a year because of alleged disturbances.
“I’ve known Mr. Aldrich since 1983 or 1984, and believe it or not, we were once roommates,” Pitkin County Undersheriff Joe DiSalvo told the judge. “And every time I’ve been to Shane’s house to de-escalate a situation, every problem that Shane has had has been alcohol-related, going back to 1983.”
He added: “When you get alcohol and anger with him, you get a whole new person. Without treatment you’re going to spin your wheels.”
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Aldrich, who was without an attorney, exercised his Fifth Amendment rights, and declined to talk about Chong’s case against him. He did, however, suggest he would abide by the judge’s orders.
“Whatever it takes to resolve this,” he said.
Aldrich did not discuss his alcohol history, but said he is trying to sell his unit and move out of the county.
Some neighbors of Aldrich, and supporters of Chong, appeared in court. One of them was Mary Doyle and her husband, Dan Kinney, who sits on the Woody Creek Subdivision’s homeowners board.
Both expressed frustration to the judge that the case was continued.
“I’m sick and tired of alcohol being used as an excuse,” Doyle told the judge. “I’m tired of it being used as a crutch.”
The judge, however, said that so long as Aldrich is incarcerated in the Pitkin County jail (for violation of another protection order), he poses no threat to Chong or anyone else.
Fernandez-Ely said it is likely she will make the protection order permanent at the next hearing July 22. He’s also scheduled in court July 21 for a hearing regarding the alleged restraining order violation for which he is in jail.
But for now, she said, “the community” needs to find a way help Aldrich break his pattern of alcohol-fueled tirades, which have included firing a gun in the neighborhood and making verbal threats, among others.
“I’m assuming [the permanent protection order] will be granted, but if it’s granted I’m not sure it will solve the problem,” the judge said. “The whole idea is to stop the madness.”
Aldrich has gone to trial twice for his alleged misbehavior, and was acquitted both times.
One of those trials involved Chong, who accused him of firing off verbal threats, some of them racially charged, at her on Christmas when she was shoveling snow.
Aldrich was found not guilty by a jury last month in Pitkin County Court. Days later, Chong was successful in seeking a permanent protection order against him, which stipulated he can not come within 50 yards of her or 100 yards of her home.
Court-appointed attorney William Hodges, who is representing Chong, said it appears that alcohol is part of Aldrich’s problems, but he also wondered aloud if a car wreck on Christmas Day 2007 might also have affected his mental health.
“I have to say Mr. Aldrich has not cooperated with treatment plans in the past, and he doesn’t seem to register mentally the dates and times of AA meetings.”
Even so, Hodges and the judge agreed that Aldrich needs to undergo an in-patient program, perhaps as long as six months. They’ll take it up at the next hearing.