Probe into Aspen woman’s death shifts focus after discovery
November 21, 2009
ASPEN – The investigation into the recent death of an Aspen woman took a twist Friday night when a detective discovered traces of blood on a sprinkler head in close proximity to where her body was found.
Should the blood match that of Cheryl Ann Lurie, whose body was found in the Library Plaza by a passer-by Monday morning, it could mean her death was caused by the impact of a fall.
The discovery by sheriff’s investigator Ron Ryan came after Grand Junction forensic pathologist Dr. Dean M. Havlik told local law-enforcement officials Thursday he had determined that homicide was the cause of Lurie’s death, possibly by a punch in the eye. Ryan’s find, however, could dispel mounting suspicions that she was murdered. Ryan used a flashlight to detect what appeared to be blood, said Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis.
“Blood stains were found on the sprinkler head by [sheriff’s investigator] Ron Ryan [Friday night], which trumps the pathologist’s theory that she was punched in the eye,” Braudis said last night.
A number of sprinkler heads, which jut out of the ground, are in the grassy area where Lurie’s body was found, about 120 feet from the Pitkin County Courthouse, which houses both the police department and sheriff’s office. Braudis and Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor said the blood samples would be sent to the Colorado Bureau of Investigations for testing.
“It’s another piece of evidence that goes along with other evidence and it will be processed,” Pryor said. “We need to make sure we do justice to Cheryl and her family and her friends.”
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APD spokeswoman Stephanie Dasaro said, “There’s reason to believe there’s less reason to be afraid. But we still haven’t ruled out anything and we’re keeping all possibilities open, as we should be.”
Lurie’s death has been the talk of the town all week, and it has had police scrambling for leads and information about her whereabouts the Sunday before she was found dead. Prior to Ryan’s discovery, Pryor said Friday afternoon he planned to seek outside help for an investigation in which homicide had become the focus.
Last night he said that was still the plan, but the blood discovery “shows the dynamic nature of cases and how things change,” he said.
The last known whereabouts of Lurie, 54, a longtime Aspen resident, were outside of Bentley’s at the Wheeler, located at the corner of Mill Street and Hyman Avenue, sometime between 6:30 and 7 p.m. Sunday. She had lived at the Hunter Creek condominiums with her husband, Martin.
Some people close to the investigation have theorized that she was taking a short cut home from Bentley’s, by cutting through the Library Plaza en route to the Rio Grande trail, which has a connection to the Hunter Creek complex.
On Tuesday Pitkin County Coroner Scott Thompson ruled that Lurie died of blunt force head trauma. Police have said they are not exactly sure what killed her, but Pryor suggested earlier Friday that Lurie might have been murdered, after it was initially believed she died of hypothermia. At the same time, police had not ruled out the possibility that a hard fall killed Lurie.
Pryor said the APD has received few substantial leads since Lurie’s body was found. He said people need to remain open minded about the case.
“Some people might have in their heads [the death] was caused a certain way, by a homicide or a fall,” he said. “Regardless how they feel if they have information at all about her they need to let us know.”
Police are asking anyone with information about Lurie to call the department at (970) 920-5400.