Probe into shooting of Qwest exec in limbo

Dennis Webb
Glenwood correspondent

Local authorities are continuing to await action by Mexican officials to pursue prosecution of a suspect there in the shooting death of a Qwest executive near New Castle last spring.

“Right now we’re just sitting in limbo,” Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said.

Vallario said the case has been filed with a prosecutor and a judge in Mexico. The judge apparently either hasn’t gotten to it yet or has some questions to be clarified, Vallario said.

Authorities believe the person who shot Jeff Garrett of Aurora on May 14 was a Mexican ranch hand who fled to Mexico after the incident.

Garrett, 37, of Aurora, who was a state lobbyist for Qwest, was shot while hiding in brush and calling for turkey in the East Elk Creek area. Investigators think his shooter may have mistaken him for a turkey when he fired.

Investigators say they have found the rifle used in the shooting.

They have declined to publicly identify the suspected shooter pending his arrest.

“We’re fairly confident we know who he is and where he is,” Vallario said.

The case has presented special challenges to investigate and prosecute because of its international nature. Vallario said authorities built their case in Garfield County, then had it translated at a cost of $12,000 and converted into legal formats acceptable to the Mexican legal system. Some of the forms used in criminal cases differ in Mexico, and that country also uses a different process rather than notarizing documents, Vallario said.

He said local authorities have been helped by a foreign office liaison in the Colorado Attorney General’s Office who has handled other cases involving Mexico.

Vallario said Garrett’s family has been “pretty good” about coping with the delay in prosecuting the case.

“It’s tough to keep saying it’s that hurry-up-and-wait sort of thing,” he said.

But he’s confident the investigation will lead to an arrest.

Authorities plan to have the suspect prosecuted in Mexico rather than being extradited to Colorado because the shooting does not appear to have been premeditated.