Trail of slaying leads to Aspen

Charles Agar
A bomb killed Gary Triano and destroyed his vehicle in Tucson, Ariz., in November 1996. (Photo courtesy of ATF)

Federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives searched Pamela Phillips’ Aspen home Wednesday, looking for evidence that would connect her to the 1996 slaying of her ex-husband. The search warrant, which Aspen police executed with the assistance of the sheriff’s offices of Pitkin County and Pima County, Ariz., stems from correspondence linking Phillips to Ronald Kelly Young, a past business partner. Young is “a person of interest” in Gary Lee Triano’s death.Investigators removed computers, electronics, data-storage equipment and documentation from Phillips’ Aspen home. Evidence is under investigation.Phillips is not under indictment, and there were no arrests Wednesday.Triano, Phillips’ ex-husband, was killed Nov. 1, 1996, when a pipe bomb exploded in his Lincoln Continental after a round of golf at La Paloma Resort in Tucson, Ariz. Triano’s killer triggered the bomb with a sophisticated remote-control device, ATF agent Tom Mangan said. Mangan characterized the murder as “overkill.”Young, aka “The K,” was a fugitive from a 1996 fraud indictment in Aspen. He was connected with Triano’s murder after the discovery in Southern California of a car he rented in Aspen. The car contained a sawed-off shotgun, a map of Tucson and copies of Triano and Phillips’ divorce papers.Young remained in hiding until the television show “America’s Most Wanted” aired a feature on him Nov. 19, 2005. Police in Florida arrested him less than 48 hours later on a tip from his chiropractor. He is in custody on weapons charges in a federal detention center in Miami.

A search of Young’s Florida residence, hotel room and storage locker turned up correspondence from Young that led investigators to Pamela Phillips in Aspen.

“When Mr. Young was a fugitive, we have evidence that [Young and Philips] were in communication with each other,” Mangan said.Aspen police obtained the warrant based on evidence from the Pima County Sheriff’s Department’s “Cold Case” Unit. At 11 a.m., six ATF agents, including one bomb technician, as well as four deputies from Pima County, two officers from the Aspen Police Department and a deputy from Pitkin County descended on the house. Phillips cooperated with law enforcement officers, and the search took place without incident. Both Phillips and Young are “persons of interest” in the investigation, but there are no charges against either in connection with the Triano case.

Detective Jim Gamber of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department was first on the scene of Triano’s 1996 murder in Tucson and has been on the case since. He said he was relieved that they “might be getting closer to the end.””All evidence led us here,” Gamber said.Jim Crowley, an investigator with the Aspen police, said Young was indicted on charges of embezzling money from Aspen residents in 1996. Phillips was one of three victims of Young’s alleged confidence scam, but she did not press charges. The suspect fled Colorado shortly before the issuing of his 1996 warrant. The Pima County Sheriff’s Department contacted Aspen police shortly after Triano’s murder, and the agencies have been working together on the investigation of Young since then.Gary Lee Triano was a well-known and “flamboyant” Tucson businessman, according to Arizona Daily Times reports. Triano was involved in a large bankruptcy case and some reputedly underhanded dealings in computers before his very public divorce with Phillips in 1993.

“There were hundreds of leads,” Mangan said of the initial 1996 Triano murder investigation. Those under suspicion included a partner in a failed bid to open a casino in China, but there were no indictments. The 10-year-old case was never closed.After her 1993 divorce, Phillips moved to Aspen, where she came in contact with Young. Phillips’ two children were the benefactors of Triano’s $2 million life insurance policy.Findings of Wednesday’s search of Phillips’ home will be available in coming days.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is