Man pleads innocent in death of firefighter
Aspen Times Staff Writer
The man accused of shooting a Basalt volunteer firefighter to death last October pleaded not guilty Monday.
Andrew Kachik, 28, appeared in Pitkin County District Court for a brief hearing that allowed him to enter the plea and hear Judge J.E. DeVilbiss schedule his jury trial for September. Kachik sat silently, clutching a legal pad covered in family photos, while public defender Jim Conway announced the plea and confirmed the trial date.
Jury selection for the trial – wherein Kachik will defend himself against two separate first-degree murder charges, as well as charges of first-degree burglary and attempted first-degree murder – will begin on Sept. 23. The trial itself will continue through the last week of September and the first week of October, almost a year after Kachik’s initial arrest.
Kachik was apprehended at a police roadblock around 8:45 p.m. on Oct. 25, less than 30 minutes after Vince Thomas, 40, was found dead in his home in the tiny community of Meredith, located 25 miles east of Basalt. Thomas had suffered three shotgun wounds, including one to the back of his head.
“I’m the one you’re looking for,” Kachik allegedly told arresting officers.
According to court documents, the shooting occurred after Kachik allegedly entered Thomas’ home and sparked an argument regarding Kachik’s girlfriend. Kachik’s girlfriend, Kathryn Rivers, and her children, a 2-year-old from a previous relationship and a 10-month-old reportedly fathered by Kachik, had moved out of Kachik’s mobile home and into Thomas’ house after an argument. Thomas’ friends told police that the girlfriend was new to the area and was looking for a place to stay, but the two were not romantically involved.
Thomas, a volunteer firefighter and manager of the Meredith General Store, called 911 around 8:10 that night to report an intruder in his home. Rivers told investigators that Kachik had visited Thomas’ home four times that day, but retrieved a shotgun from his truck and entered the house during the fourth visit.
After Kachik allegedly shot Thomas, Rivers said he shot at a bathroom door while Rivers hid behind it. Rivers said Kachik shot at the bathroom door two or three times before entering.
“You’re lucky I ran out of bullets or you’d be dead, bitch,” Kachik allegedly told Rivers.
Police set up a roadblock on Frying Pan Road after responding to Thomas’ 911 call, resulting in Kachik’s arrest.
He will appear in court again on June 3 to allow both sides a chance to review motions made in the case. Conway declined to comment on whether he would ask for a change of venue due to pretrial publicity.
Conway also declined to say whether Kachik would claim self-defense, though court documents state the defendant did just that upon his initial arrest. Kachik allegedly told police that Thomas had pointed a gun at him before the shooting.
“He [Thomas] drew his gun first. He said he was going to kill me,” Kachik allegedly said.
Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies looking over Thomas’ home a few hours after the shooting found a black handgun about four feet from Thomas’ body.
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