Several options in hunter shooting case |

Several options in hunter shooting case

Ryan Graff
Glenwood Springs correspondent

The investigation into the shooting death of turkey hunter Jeff Garrett took a dramatic turn last week when the Garfield County Sheriff located a witness and identified a suspect ” an illegal immigrant believed to have fled to Mexico.

The case will likely have many more twists, however, as prosecutors and law enforcement decide how to proceed.

The next step for the sheriff’s office is to find and interview the suspect in Mexico, Sheriff Lou Vallario said. Those talks will help determine the charge the suspect will face, he said.

Garrett, a top executive at Qwest, was shot and killed while turkey hunting May 14 near New Castle. Police announced they had a suspect Thursday.

The charge will probably fall under one of three homicide charges ” second-degree murder, manslaughter or negligence. The charge will be determined largely by intent and knowledge, Vallario said. Second-degree murder, for example, generally requires that a suspect knowingly caused the death of another person. The suspect might face that charge if police determine he took a shot, then discovered Garrett alive but failed to get help, Vallario said.

Though it is still early to make any decisions, the district attorney’s office has two options on how to proceed if the suspect is in Mexico: seek extradition, or request that the Mexican government try the suspect, said Assistant District Attorney Vincent Felletter.

Asking the Mexican government to try its citizens in Mexico is more common than getting extradition, said Kristen Hubbell, spokeswoman for the Colorado attorney general’s office. Extradition is difficult because, “in Mexico they prefer to prosecute their own nationals in their own country,” she said, just as the United States does.

Prosecution in Mexico is possible thanks to a Mexican provision, Article IV. Pursuing Article IV has become easier since September 2001, when the Colorado attorney general created the Foreign Prosecutions Unit. The unit has helped prosecute five Mexicans who fled Colorado after committing crimes here, and they’ve convinced Mexico to extradite one citizen, Hubbell said.

The district attorney met with the Foreign Prosecutions Unit on Friday, Hubbell said. Felletter said it was too early to tell which direction the office would take.