Police find DeGraff dead in his garage
November 24, 2011
ASPEN – Aspen businessman Scott DeGraff took his own life early Thursday morning, the Aspen Police Department has confirmed. He was 47.
DeGraff, an Illinois lawyer-turned-restaurateur who moved from Las Vegas to Aspen in 2008, was besieged by millions of dollars in debts and suffered many recent business setbacks. On Sept. 30, he filed a voluntary Chapter 11 petition in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Denver, listing assets and debts between $10 million and $50 million.
In December 2008, DeGraff opened Junk and Liquid Sky, a restaurant and club, at Base Village in Snowmass. He was featured that season as Aspen magazine’s “Man of the Moment” and discussed his philosophies of entrepreneurship.
But by the end of the 2008-09 ski season, DeGraff shut down both operations. Later, he opened a Junk location in downtown Aspen, but had to battle the city of Aspen over his application for a liquor license. The license wasn’t approved until after he transferred ownership of the business to his wife.
A lease he signed in May 2009 to reopen the Red Onion in Aspen was terminated before the historic tavern did a day of business. A slew of liens and lawsuits have been filed against DeGraff and one of his corporate entities, Fun Worldwide, for alleged nonpayment of bills related to construction work and other services. His N9NE Steakhouse in downtown Aspen opened in the spring of 2009 and closed after less than two years in business.
DeGraff reportedly intended to pay off his creditors and said his money was tied up in disputes with former business partners.
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Shortly after noon Thursday, Aspen police released a statement concerning an “unattended death,” or suicide, earlier in the morning.
At about 3 p.m., police spokeswoman Blair Weyer confirmed – after receiving permission from the Pitkin County Coroner’s Office – that the person who took his life via carbon monoxide poisoning was DeGraff.
The news release states that Aspen firefighters were dispatched to a carbon-monoxide alarm at an Aspen east-end residence at about 5:30 a.m. Thursday. An Aspen police officer also responded. The police report indicated an alarm for a room in the upper-left-hand side of the home. But responders were unable to make contact with anyone at the locked residence. There were no signs of suspicious activity, no lights on and no vehicles in the driveway, according to police.
Responders tried to enter the home, but were unable to do so and left. Then, at about 8 a.m., authorities received a call from an owner of the home who had been notified by the security company that a carbon-monoxide alarm was going off.
Aspen firefighters and police were again dispatched to the scene; the owner had already entered the residence.
Upon entering the home, responders found DeGraff’s body in a vehicle in the garage.
Aspen Ambulance also was dispatched to the scene. An autopsy is pending. His family’s number was not listed in the 2012 Aspen phone book.
DeGraff’s death marks the second suicide of a high-profile Aspen citizen in recent months. In September, Billy Rieger, co-owner of Kenichi sushi restaurant and former operator of Bad Billy’s bar and eatery, was found dead after apparently hanging himself.
The police news release reminds citizens that local resources are available to help individuals who may be feeling sad, lonely, angry or hopeless. The Aspen Hope Center has a 24-hour hotline, (970) 925-5858.
Aside from his wife, DeGraff is survived by two children.