Pitkin County authorities investigate possible ‘roofie’ drugging incidents
ASPEN – Local authorities are investigating two possible incidents of people being unknowingly drugged by what’s known as a “roofie.”
The separate incidents both occurred in late December, and the two alleged victims have no recollection of what happened to them over several hours.
One of the victims, Theresa Miller, ended up in police custody after she crashed her car, fled the scene and was found about four hours later hiding in a garage with severe frostbite to her hands as a result of roaming around in sub-zero temperatures.
The other individual, who asked to remain anonymous, had been with friends drinking, and the next thing he knew he woke up in a utility closet at the Marolt Open Space about nine hours later.
“Both of these were life-threatening situations,” said Pitkin County Undersheriff Joe DiSalvo. “Both could have easily died.”
Miller declined to comment about the circumstances of what happened to her that frigid Friday night. She is being identified because she faces charges of leaving the scene of an accident and failing to report an accident.
Pitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Jesse Steindler provided details of the incident, which began at 2:30 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 19. He responded to a one-car accident on private property on Medicine Bow Road near Brush Creek Village.
The homeowners, Rick Balentine and his wife, brought Miller into their home to help her. While they were calling the authorities, Miller ran out of the house, Steindler said.
That prompted an extensive search, which started with Steindler and Balentine, who is a member of the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department, and other firefighters who were called in.
Shortly after, Mountain Rescue arrived on scene to help comb the mountainside off of Medicine Bow and Brush Creek Village.
“We really scoured that hillside,” Steindler said, adding authorities knocked on doors of residences in the area.
One of Miller’s friends was instructed to remain at her residence, which is located near where she crashed. The friend also was continuously calling Miller’s cell phone with the hopes that she would answer or searchers would hear it.
Searchers eventually found fresh tracks and drops of blood, which led up the hill in scrub oak and knee-deep snow. It was evident she had been thrashing around in the snow, Steindler said.
“Her phone rang, and serendipitously, the searcher was standing there,” he said.
But there was no sign of Miller.
Between 15 and 20 searchers formed a line and combed the area, hoping that her tracks would lead them to her.
Meanwhile, Steindler said he stood at the top of the hill, which had a vantage point that allowed him to see Miller’s residence about 100 yards away, as well as an out-building farther in the distance.
As he looked closer, Steindler said he noticed the door to a garage was slightly open.
At about 6:50 a.m., Steindler entered the garage and found Miller hiding behind a car. She was wearing high-heeled boots, blue jeans and a white coat. She had no gloves on, and her fingers were cut up as a result of thrashing around in the woods.
“She was so cold,” Steindler said. “I was more concerned about her safety at that point.”
Steindler said Miller declined medical treatment and was taken to the sheriff’s department, where her friends brought her dry clothes. She was charged with fleeing the scene and not reporting the accident.
“At that point she was lucid, coherent but upset and somewhat scared,” Steindler said. “She was very apologetic, and she told me she didn’t remember anything.”
Two days later, Miller brought cookies to the sheriff’s office as a thank-you, Steindler said.
Then about a week or so later, Miller appeared in the sheriff’s office again to take care of the summons she was issued. DiSalvo saw her with her hands wrapped in bandages and talked to her about the incident.
“It wasn’t until a few days later that it came to light what happened,” DiSalvo said. “I think there is a real possibility that she was drugged.”
Steindler estimates that Miller was outside in the snow for at least 90 minutes, judging from her tracks and searchers’ observations. She was found about a mile from where she wrecked the car.
“She came close to dying,” he said.
Miller told authorities that she doesn’t remember anything after about 1:30 a.m., when she drank a glass of water at the nightclub she was at.
Friends told police that Miller had taken a bus to the Brush Creek intercept lot, where her car was parked.
A similar incident occurred the same night in which a man was out with friends, had a few drinks at a bar and then went to a Christmas party. He said he doesn’t remember anything after about 10 minutes of being there.
He said he woke up the next morning at 7 a.m. with a broken nose, lacerations to his face, bruises on his body and inside a utility closet near the Marolt barn.
The man said he might have picked up a drink that wasn’t his, or someone slipped something into his when he wasn’t watching. There had been a city-wide blackout that night, and he was using a flashlight to see.
“I was there for about 20 minutes, then we went to the party, and I don’t remember anything 10 minutes after that,” he said, adding his friends said he was “completely fine” and then “completely gone.”
“I was falling over, couldn’t really talk,” he said, based on what his friend told him. His roommate tried to walk him home, but the man apparently went crazy and ran west on Main Street at about 10 p.m.
“I don’t remember any of it,” he said. “I woke up and I was so freaked out … I ran straight back to my apartment in a full sprint.”
He reported the incident to police the next day.
The man said it was miraculous that he didn’t suffer frostbite because he had no hat, gloves or jacket on.
“That is why I was so concerned,” he said of what could have happened.
Neither Miller – who had a couple of drinks at a local bar – or the man had been in the same places that night.
“I put the cases together and realized there was a connection,” DiSalvo said. “Both people acted the same way.
“It scared these two people a lot.”
DiSalvo said he has grown increasingly concerned that an individual or individuals are slipping drugs into people’s drinks in Aspen.
“Roofie” is a slang term for a flunitrazepam tablet, which also is known as Rufinol. The drug is typically slipped into an unattended cocktail without the victim knowing it. The drug’s effects cause a person to become confused, drowsy and lose their memory.
DiSalvo said by the time people report that they may have been drugged, the drug is out of their systems. He added that he suspects that there are many more people who don’t report similar incidents either because they thought they were just drunk or don’t remember.
He noted another incident that occurred more than a year ago when a woman was slipped a roofie and was sexually assaulted. The case is still under investigation.
“This is a legitimate problem that is really worrying me,” he said. “We’re trying our best to investigate.”
DiSalvo asked that people be mindful of their cocktails – never leave them unattended and don’t accept drinks from strangers. He also asked that bartenders be watchful of their patrons.
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