Police: deaths a murder-suicide
A domestic argument led to a murder-suicide in a Snowmass Village apartment Tuesday night – the town’s first-ever homicide.The victims were identified as Robert Taliaferro, 42, and Lisa Morgan, 44. The couple, who a neighbor said had been married for several years, died from gunshot wounds, but Snowmass Village Police Chief Art Smythe would not disclose the circumstances involved in the shooting.”We’re going to wait on some of the lab results and the autopsies,” he said.The shooting occurred between 8 and 8:15 p.m. at apartment 513 in the Mountain View complex on Deer Field Drive. Officers responding to a neighbor’s report that the couple was arguing loudly were unable to get an answer after knocking on the front door, according to a news release issued by Smythe.When officers looked into one of the apartment’s windows and saw someone lying on the floor, they forced their way inside and found the couple “dead from apparent gunshot wounds,” the news release says.A forensics team from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation was summoned to assist police in collecting evidence, and the Pitkin County Coroner’s Office was also called in.A strip of yellow police tape was across the apartment’s door yesterday afternoon. A small thermometer with a cardinal on it was next to the door.”They were good tenants, and I was very shocked to hear this happened,” said Joe Coffey, the town’s housing manager. Mountain View is a town-run complex that houses qualified Snowmass Village employees.Morgan had worked as an administrative assistant in The Snowmass Club’s engineering department for about four years, said a club employee who didn’t want to be identified.Attempts to learn more about Morgan were unsuccessful Wednesday.The mood was somber yesterday at Aspen City Hall, where Taliaferro had worked in building maintenance for about four years. Word of his death spread quickly Wednesday morning; some grieving employees went home while others numbly went about their jobs.Taliaferro was a familiar sight around the building – a large, amiable man with a perpetual smile who almost always wore shorts, no matter what the weather, co-workers said.”The big teddy bear, the gentle giant,” said his supervisor, Assistant City Manager Ed Sadler. “You couldn’t miss him coming down the hall.”His willingness to perform some task, whether it was his job or not, was a trait many city staffers were quick to remember yesterday.”He always went out of his way to help. He was just so sweet,” said Rebecca Hodgson, executive assistant to the city manager. “Everybody’s in shock. We’ll miss him.””He certainly, whenever I had a silly little request … he’d get right on it,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud, who learned of his death when Aspen Police Chief Loren Ryerson called her at home Wednesday morning.”I liked Robert. I liked his outgoing personality. I liked his friendliness,” Klanderud said. “It’s just been an empty day.”I really will miss seeing him around here.”An argument between the couple serious enough to warrant the authorities’ attention had arisen a couple of years ago, Smythe said.”We have come across at least one other incident involving these two that could be characterized as a dispute,” he said. “As to [whether] anyone was charged, I don’t know. That incident was not in Snowmass Village.”Eric Hill, a neighbor of the couple who has lived in Mountain View for four years, said he hung out with Taliaferro occasionally.”It surprised me, big time,” he said of learning about the deaths. “They argued a lot. He liked to party, and he liked his alcohol. That may have had [something to do with it].”He was known as ‘Big Rob.’ He was just a loud and big guy. His voice traveled far. [But] he wasn’t really a happy-go-lucky type of guy. I never saw him super happy.”Smythe said investigators don’t yet know whether drugs or alcohol were involved.”I don’t know at this point. I didn’t get any reports from witnesses saying that obviously [they] were under the influence,” he said. “At this point, we’re going to wait for the toxicology report.”Also unknown is what sparked the argument Tuesday night.”I’m not aware of any of the neighbors characterizing the nature of the argument,” Smythe said. “There was some arguing going on for some time. One of the neighbors did have some contact with them to ask them to quiet down.”Hill said he didn’t know what caused the fights between the couple. He wasn’t at home Tuesday night.”You could hear them once in a while, just loud yelling,” he said. “They didn’t really talk to a lot of people – they were just hi-and-bye kind of people. They’d go to Mexico every year, to the desert and stuff like that.”They’d been locals for quite some time.”Janet Urquhart contributed to this article. Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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A ski season surrounded with uncertainty kicks off on Wednesday. The six inches of new snowfall Tuesday will allow opening of an additional 62 acres on Aspen Mountain, bringing opening-day total to about 160 acres.