Satre, longtime resident with a checkered past, dies at 56 |

Satre, longtime resident with a checkered past, dies at 56

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

John Satre, an Aspen resident with a long history of run-ins with the law, died Monday night at a Denver hospital.

Satre, 56, suffered a stroke last week and on Friday was airlifted from Aspen Valley Hospital to University Hospital in Denver.

“Satch,” as most longtime locals knew him, was facing felony drug charges after being arrested last fall.

The 34-year resident of the valley had a history of substance abuse and suspected drug dealing. Of four felonies he had been convicted of over the years, his first was a federal offense in 1976 when he smuggled 1,200 pounds of hash into Savannah, Ga., on a boat and was sent to prison for five years.

Police arrested Satre last October after a confidential informant told police about buying cocaine at his apartment. Satre lived in the Aspen Country Inn, a senior housing complex on Highway 82, and residents had complained to police about what they thought might be drug trafficking surrounding his unit.

His apartment was searched, and Satre was charged with several crimes relating to cocaine and marijuana possession and distribution.

Aspen resident Bill Seawell, his close friend of 30 years, didn’t mince words on Tuesday when he spoke of Satre’s reputation.

“Everyone knew who he was ” he put up no facade,” Seawell said. “He had an addiction problem that ran the gamut for probably 40 years. There was no hiding that. And he accepted who he was. Everyone knew him as a junkie.”

But Seawell also said his friend was a gentle person who was very accepting of others and generous to a fault.

Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis first met Satre in the mid-’80s, when Satre was an inmate at the Pitkin County Jail.

“I always thought he was a nice guy, and probably an addict,” Braudis said. “He was a close friend of [artist and Aspen resident] Earl Biss, and they had traveled to Venezuela together. Satch said he liked it down there, and he aspired to move to an island off the coast of Venezuela.”

Satre was sent to prison in Colorado for 10 years after being convicted of possession and use of cocaine in Aspen in 1985. His prior felonies also included two convictions in 1984: Possession of marijuana with intent to distribute in Santa Fe, N.M., and cocaine possession in Las Vegas.

“We’re extremely saddened by his death,” said Assistant District Attorney Lawson Wills.

Wills said that because of Satre’s four prior felonies, he was charged as a habitual criminal, which increases sentencing substantially upon conviction.

According to court records from Satre’s arrest in Aspen in 1985, he told a probation officer that he was born in Clarksfield, Minn., a rural farming community. His father died when he was an infant, and he graduated from Clarksfield Public High School in 1965. He attended Mankato State College from 1966 to 1970 and then moved to Aspen to ski.

According to the probation officer’s report, Satre said he became dependent on cocaine in Aspen in 1970. At his worst, he inhaled a kilo of cocaine during a two-month period.

“The defendant states that his whole life has revolved around drugs and that he has developed few interests or sources of personal enjoyment outside of the drug world,” the probation officer’s report says.

Satre moved to Bisbee, Ariz., in 1981 “to escape the cocaine scene in Aspen,” the probation report says. Seawell said he owned a bar there and worked in land speculation.

“He was a riches-to-rags story ” he had owned a house in Starwood at one point, but he was too generous and people owed him so much money,” Seawall said. “People knew him from Rifle to Aspen, and they’ll all tell you he was a victim of his own devices.”

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