Female Domestic Violence Killings In Colorado — 2006-2010

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Year 2006

Wife held after reporting husband stabbed to death in Denver

Man stabbed to death in Denver during argument with his girlfriend

Aurora woman murders husband

Year 2007

Greeley woman executes wife of her ex-lover

Colorado Springs mom with long history of domestic violence kills 19-year-old son

Two women arrested in Colorado Springs motel stabbing

Four southwest Colorado residents sentenced to federal prison for first-degree murder

Woman runs over husband in driveway in Colorado Springs

Man fatally shot at Sloan's Lake in Denver during domestic dispute

Former Las Animas County attorney shot to death by his wife in presence of sheriff's deputy

Colorado Springs woman shoots and kills boyfriend

Year 2008

Supermax prison guard shot by his wife in Cañon City

Denver woman arrested in apparent homicide

Thornton woman held in first-degree murder

Whitewater woman arrested after second husband dies from gunshot wound to the head

Alan Helmick is Miriam's second husband to die of a gunshot wound to the head

Court file in Alan Helmicks's death details murder schemes

Salida woman and her boyfriend kidnap and kill her husband

Three sentenced for roles in James Durgan murder

Security woman shoots and kills sister's boyfriend

Year 2009

Denver woman kills her boyfriend because he didn't take her to the laundromat

Woman kills her father and stepmother, brother gathers evidence

Greeley man killed for his life insurance, wife arrested

Denver woman blows off boyfriend's head with a shotgun

Golden woman faces murder charges in husband's shooting death

Man shot dead in Aurora

Boulder woman jailed after fatally stabbing husband during fight

Three held in Pueblo love-triangle murder

Colorado Springs woman brutally beats her elderly husband and then returns after police leave and stabs him to death

Woman arrested after she recycles man in Denver trash bin

Christmas murder in Aurora family stemmed from disputed estate

Cristina Wanda Sears found guilty of killing stepmother, attempted murder of stepsister

Year 2010

Grand Junction man killed by girlfriend after she accuses him of flirting

Fatal attack in Colorado Springs

Broomfield woman charged in July Fourth death


Year 2006

Wife held after reporting husband stabbed to death in Denver


April 14, 2006 — A 52-year-old woman stabbed her husband to death and then called to report a domestic violence incident to Denver police, authorities said. Debra Evans was covered with blood when police arrived. Her husband, Clifford Evans, was found bleeding in his bed from what appeared to be chest wounds.

Debra Evans was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the death of her 51-year-old husband. The homicide occurred at 1920 East 17 th Avenue, #101, in Denver.

The victim was taken to Denver Health Medical Center following the 7 PM call and was pronounced dead, said Virginia Quiñones, Denver police spokeswoman.

A Fox21 news reporter who contacted the Equal Justice Foundation about this murder indicated that neighbors had become inured to the couple fighting and that the husband had always been the victim. A search of Denver court records shows that Debra Evans, also known as Debrah Wellington, DOB 3/16/1954, had previously been convicted of domestic violence/assault for an incident that occurred on August 30, 2001, at the 1920 E. 17 th Street address. Presumably she was sentenced to the standard 36-week treatment for DV offenders as a result of this conviction but it is unknown whether she completed the course. In any event whatever treatment she received was clearly ineffective.

In addition, as Debrah Wellington she had a domestic violence conviction for disturbing the peace, destruction of private property, and assault for an incident that occurred on January 11, 1990, at 310 W. Archer Place.


Man stabbed to death in Denver during argument with his girlfriend

Denver Post, p. 3C

July 30, 2006 — A Denver man died early Saturday, hours after his girlfriend apparently stabbed him during a loud and frantic fight, police said.

Ray Mendez, 60, was stabbed to death after an argument with his girlfriend, 37-year-old June Gardner. Residents of the apartment complex in the 4300 block of Lipan Street said Mendez was a rare friendly neighbor.

Officers were summoned about 10:20 PM Friday, July 28 th . Next-door neighbor Luis Gamboa, 24, said Ms. Gardner had been shouting profanities for some time before Mendez staggered outside his unit.

For a few moments, the bloodied man pounded on his own apartment door, shouting. He fell back on to the front lawn, a few dozen paces from a playground, where he stayed until emergency crews carted him off.

Officers arrested his girlfriend, June Gardner, who had also suffered knife wounds, on suspicion of second-degree homicide.

Doctors at Denver Health Medical Center pronounced Mendez dead about 4:30 AM, police spokesman Sonny Jackson said.

Ray Mendez was outwardly friendly in a neighborhood where residents said they keep to themselves for fear of attracting trouble. He used to drop by Gamboa's home and offer him food and drink.


Aurora woman murders husband


On Sunday, October 1, 2006, 35-year-old Alexandra A. Davis stabbed her husband, 45-year-old Ronnie Davis, to death in his home in the 900 block of South Iola Street, Aurora.

Mrs. Davis then called 911 and told dispatchers that she stabbed her husband according to the Tuesday, October 3 rd edition of the Denver Post (Briefing, p. 2B).

She is being held without bail at the Arapahoe County jail on suspicion of first-degree murder according to the buried two-column inch article. After all, he was just a husband being murdered by his wife, so who cares?


Year 2007

Greeley woman executes wife of her ex-lover


Abstracted from stories in Snapped and the Denver Post

Shawna Nelson was a stay-at-home mom to her three children, aged eight, six and 10-months. The former Weld County police dispatcher had quit her job after the new baby arrived, and she was active in the older children's activities: Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts and sports. But her life was far from picture perfect.

Her 11-year marriage to a sheriff's detective had recently been tested, when, in 2005, her husband discovered Shawna was having an affair with a married police officer named Ignacio Garraus. Shawna's husband also learned Shawna was pregnant with Garraus' baby. After filing for divorce, the Nelsons decided to reconcile and keep the baby's real paternity a secret. The reconciliation didn't last long.

Secretly, Shawna continued to see her lover, until, before Christmas of 2006, Garraus made a final break. He told Shawna he couldn't leave his wife, Heather, and their young daughter. Shawna continued to try to see him, and was convinced that his wife was to blame when Garraus took out a restraining order against her.

On January 23, 2007, Shawna snapped. Wearing a mask, she waited for her rival outside of the credit union where Heather was a manager. When Heather emerged, Shawna told her she had ruined her life, and made her get on her knees. She then shot Heather, execution-style, and drove away. Shawna was pulled over within minutes, and put under arrest for Heather's murder.

A search of her home turned up several guns and photographs of costume masks similar to the one the shooter was wearing. Interviews with Heather's friends revealed that Shawna had been harassing her for weeks, sending threatening text messages and challenging her to fight. A friend of Shawna's also told police that Shawna would vent by going to target practice and picturing Heather's face as the target.

In March of 2008, a jury found Shawna guilty of Heather's murder and she was sentenced to life in prison without parole.


Colorado Springs mom with long history of domestic violence kills 19-year-old son


Abstracted from story by R. Scott Rappold, Colorado Springs Gazette

Teen died in stabbing; Ila Voyles had history of arrests for domestic violence

February 3, 2007 — A Colorado Springs woman was arrested late Thursday on suspicion of first-degree murder for allegedly plunging a knife into the chest of her 19-year-old son.

Johnny Velasquez called police to the home at 1421 N. Corona St., according to Colorado Springs police Sgt. Sal Fiorillo. He later died at Penrose Hospital.

His mother, Ila Voyles, 45, is in El Paso County jail without bail.

About 7:30 PM, the two were engaged in what Fiorillo described as “an ongoing family argument” when Voyles allegedly grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed Velasquez. Fiorillo said there is no indication the argument was physical before the stabbing.

“The information we found out was it was just a verbal argument and she stabbed him,” Fiorillo said. Another family member in the house at the time was not hurt, Fiorillo said.

No other details on the killing were released. A police affidavit detailing evidence against Voyles was not available Friday.

An autopsy Friday determined Velasquez died from a single stab wound to the chest.

Neighbors, meanwhile, said Friday they were not surprised by the outbreak of violence involving the woman they knew as “Wild Ila.”

By day, she often went house-to-house, asking for money, or approached moving cars to ask for spare change, said neighbor Carl Miedke. By night, the house often rattled with shouting, he said.

“There is a definite confrontation, at least once a week,” he said, adding that police cruisers were a regular sight there.

Police on Friday could not provide a record of calls to that address, nor would they release tapes of Thursday's 911 call, citing an ongoing investigation.

Property records show Voyles did not own the house, though she lived there for several years.

Voyles has a long criminal history, dating to a burglary arrest in 1980, court records show. She has since been arrested four times on suspicion of domestic violence, twice on suspicion of child abuse and twice on suspicion of theft. The charges were all dismissed except for a theft case in which she received a deferred judgment and was required to pay restitution.

In 1998, she was arrested on suspicion of felony assault and other charges after smashing a boyfriend's truck window with a hammer after he locked her out of the North Corona Street house, court records show. She then broke a window on the house and struck the boyfriend several times with the hammer. She was sentenced to probation.

Her most recent arrest before Thursday came in 2002, when she was accused of selling a quarter-pound of marijuana to a police informant, court records show. She pled guilty and was sentenced to one year's probation.


Two women arrested in Colorado Springs motel stabbing


Abstracted from story by Anthony Lane, Colorado Springs Gazette

April 21, 2007 — A woman fatally stabbed in her room at a North Nevada Avenue motel early Wednesday was killed by a female rival in a romantic triangle, according to an arrest affidavit obtained Friday.

Stephanie Deverick and Crystal Mawson, both 29, were jailed Thursday and charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of Diana Young, 45.

Residents at the Ranch Motel, 3900 N. Nevada Ave., called police after a bleeding woman started banging on doors about 2:30 AM, April 18, 2007, crying for help. Young died outside her neighbor's room before emergency crews arrived.

Ms. Deverick talked about the killing when she was questioned after her arrest. She said both women packed extra clothes and a razor before going to the motel. Deverick knocked on the door and then Mawson, who was wearing surgical gloves, followed her into the room.

Crystal Mawson then used a box-cutter razor blade to slash the throat of Diana Young. Ms. Young's 18-month-old son was in the room when the attack occurred.

After slashing Young's throat, Crystal Mawson set up an alibi and ditched evidence. They both changed clothes and dumped them, the razor, and the gloves in three trash bins, one of them a block west of Mawson's apartment on Magnolia Street in northern Colorado Springs, Deverick told police. Investigators later found those items in the trash bin near Mawson's apartment. Young's blood was on the blade, and Mawson's DNA was inside the glove,. Investigators also found Mawson's hat, with one of her hairs on it, at the crime scene.

At Mawson's trial prosecutors presented evidence showing Mawson was jealous of Young because of Oliver Padeway. Padeway was Mawson's boyfriend, but he was also the father of Diana Young's infant son.

Mawson and Deverick learned where Ms. Young lived by stalking and secretly following Oliver Padeway, the father of Young's 1-year-old child, to the motel one night, a woman friend of Young's told police. Crystal Mawson was dating Padeway at the time. Mawson and Deverick had also made threats against Young. The woman told police Deverick talked to her about plans to kill Young as “far back as two weeks ago.”

Crystal Mawson's arrest for murder was her second in as many weeks. She was jailed on suspicion of marijuana possession and child abuse April 11, 2007, and she also pled guilty in 2000 to forgery.

Oliver Padeway was in jail on suspicion of domestic abuse involving Diana Young on the night of the murder.

On June 18, 2008, Crystal Mawson was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

On August 15, 2008, Stephanie Deverick was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.


Four southwest Colorado residents sentenced to federal prison for first-degree murder


US Attorneys Office, District of Colorado

January 14, 2009 — Isaac Headman, age 27, April Watts, age 21, Johnita Taylor, age 32, and Monica Williams, age 24, all of Ignacio, Colorado, were sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge Robert E. Blackburn to federal prison terms for first degree murder and related crimes while on the Southern Ute reservation. Isaac Headman was sentenced to life in federal prison without the possibility of parole. April Watts was sentenced to serve 22 years imprisonment. Johnita Taylor was sentenced to serve 25 years in prison, and Monica Williams was sentenced to serve 23 years imprisonment. Judge Blackburn pronounced the sentences while sitting in Durango. All four defendants are being held without bail, and were remanded into custody. Blackburn also ordered the defendants to pay $1,500 in restitution joint and several to the family of the victim for funeral and related expenses.

Headman, Ms. Watts, Ms. Taylor and Ms. Williams were indicted by a federal grand jury in Denver on September 6, 2007. Ms. Williams pled guilty on April 18, 2008. Ms. Watts pled guilty on May 23, 2008. Ms. Taylor pled guilty on September 11, 2008. Headman was found guilty on September 22, 2008 following a 6 day jury trial. The defendants were sentenced January 14, 2009, by Judge Blackburn.

According to the indictment, stipulated facts contained in plea agreements, and facts presented to the jury during the Headman trial, between August 22 and August 23, 2007, Headman and the three women, all of whom are Indians, willfully killed Clifton Joseph Greany, also an Indian, with premeditation and malice aforethought. Specifically, Headman and the other defendants beat and kicked the victim. Headman then put the victim into the trunk of a car, and with his co-defendants drove to a remote location. Headman, Ms. Watts and Ms. Williams then stabbed the victim in the throat with a knife. Ms. Taylor encouraged the stabbing. The victim died as a result of the injuries.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Southern Ute Police Department, and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

This case was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Carey and Todd Norvell.


Woman runs over husband in driveway in Colorado Springs


October 4-5, 2007 — According to the Colorado Springs Gazette (p. A8 & p. A7) an elderly woman killed her husband when she drove over him in the driveway of their home in the 4700 block of Shadowglen Drive in Colorado Springs Wednesday night around 10 PM.

Raymond Geist, 89, died when his wife, Ruth Geist, also 89, struck him while pulling into the garage of their home. Police said she wasn't able to hit the brakes quickly enough and pinned him against a cabinet along the back wall. Reportedly she was pulling into the garage to take her husband to a hospital for an undisclosed illness. However, the police investigation concluded this was simply a tragic accident.


Man fatally shot at Sloan's Lake in Denver during domestic dispute


October 9, 2007 — According to the Rocky Mountain News a man was fatally shot at Sloan's Lake about 7:30 PM Monday during a domestic dispute. The victim was found outside a car and was taken to nearby St. Anthony Central Hospital where he died.

“We got a call last night of a possible suicide,” Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson said. “Through the investigation, we determined he had not shot himself.”

The victim was identified Tuesday as Joseph Trujillo, age 56. 42-year-old Shari Herrera of Edgewater has been charged with first-degree homicide in connection with the shooting. Ms. Herrera was seen speaking with Mr. Trujillo shortly before a shot was fired and he fell to the ground.

In related stories the Denver Post failed to even mention this was a domestic violence homicide.


Former Las Animas County attorney shot to death by his wife in presence of sheriff's deputy


December 3, 2007 (AP) — Former Las Animas County Attorney Jim Tatum was shot to death and his wife was arrested on suspicion of second-degree murder after a fight at their home in Weston, authorities said.

An arrest warrant said Tatum, 68, had slapped and punched Ann Tatum, 57, on Thursday before she pulled a .38-caliber revolver from her purse and shot him repeatedly, then took another revolver away from him and fired again.

Las Animas County Sheriff's Deputy John Martinez was staying with the couple at the time and witnessed the shooting, Sheriff James Casias said.

The affidavit said Martinez tried to break the couple apart before the shooting but was pushed aside and struck his head, “dazing him momentarily.”

After he was shot the first time, Jim Tatum fell to the floor, then grunted, got back on his feet and grabbed another gun from a holster on the kitchen counter, the affidavit said.

Ann Tatum grabbed that revolver from her husband and turned it on him, firing as he fell to the floor, the affidavit said. She set the two pistols on the counter and left the kitchen, the affidavit said.

Martinez called 911, and responding deputies found Jim Tatum in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor. Martinez said he found Ann Tatum in a bedroom, apparently in shock.

She was being held under $175,000 bail.

Jim Tatum was Las Animas county attorney until 2003, when his contract was not renewed. He opened a law office in Trinidad after leaving the county attorney's office.


Colorado Springs woman shoots and kills boyfriend


Abstracted from article by Jennifer Wilson, Colorado Springs Gazette

Police say the couple had a history of domestic violence

December 4, 2007 — Lisa Jean Hinkle, 52, shot Kyle Levi Haner, 27, once in the chest with a handgun shortly after 9 AM at 1222 Lewis Lane near Galley Road and Powers Boulevard, police said. Neighbors said Hinkle and Haner rented the house.

Immediately after the shooting, Ms. Hinkle called 911 claiming to have shot a man in self-defense. Police questioned and released Ms. Hinkle. The shooting is under investigation.

Haner was pronounced dead at 9:45 AM at Memorial Hospital.

Court records and police reports reveal a rocky two-year relationship between Hinkle and Haner, and the two had a history of domestic violence.

During an argument November 16 at the house, Haner threatened to kill Hinkle and her family, a police report said. As the fight escalated, Ms. Hinkle grabbed a pellet gun and hit Haner in the forehead with it, the report said.

Haner then trapped Hinkle in the backyard by securing the front door of the house with a chain lock and the backyard gate with heavy-gauge wire, the report said.

Haner pled guilty to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge in connection with the November fight and received a two-year deferred sentence.

Ms. Hinkle applied for and received a temporary restraining order against Haner and they had been scheduled to appear in court about a half hour before the fatal shooting Monday for a hearing on a permanent restraining order.


Year 2008

Supermax prison guard shot by his wife in Cañon City


© 2008 by Kirk Mitchell, The Denver Post

June 11, 2008 — A Cañon City stay-at-home mother of three who called her husband her “hero” is in jail, accused of fatally shooting him in the chest, authorities said.

Robin Carole Gall was being held Tuesday in the Fremont County Detention Center on a $50,000 bond for investigation of second-degree murder in the death of her husband, Brent Thomas Gall, 40, authorities said. [Compare this bond with the million-dollar bail imposed on Pitkin County man for misdemeanor domestic violence.]

Fremont County sheriff's deputies went to the Gall home at 9:52 p.m. Monday in answer to a domestic violence call, said Andrea Cooper, sheriff's spokeswoman. According to Cooper, there had not been any previous calls to the Sheriff's Office from the home.

Brent Gall, a federal prison employee and bass guitar player in a local rock band, was found dead in the home with a gunshot wound to the chest.

“I'm just your typical stay-at-home mom and housewife,” Robin Gall said on her MySpace page. “I like to crochet a lot and I volunteer for the Warm the World Foundation. We make blankets for our troops and orphaned children.”

On her site, she said that her husband and her three daughters were her heroes and that she loved to ride motorcycles. She wrote that she met her husband in Yokosuka, Japan, when both of them were enlisted in the Navy during the Persian Gulf War. “I have profound respect for anyone in the military,” she noted on her Web page.

Brent Gall had been a guard and computer programmer at ADX Maximum Security Facility, or Supermax, in Florence. In 2003, he was acquitted in federal court of participating with a group of correctional officers nicknamed the “cowboys,” who were accused of beating up federal prisoners. Three of the guards were convicted.

“He was a pretty mild-mannered guy,” said Dan Sears, Brent Gall's defense attorney in the federal case.

Brent Gall was in a Cañon City rock band called the Side Project that had just recorded a live CD Friday. The band, which often rehearsed in the garage of the Galls' house, played at motorcycle rallies and in bars.

“The whole thing is shocking to me,” said Rich Bosisio, a band member. “I didn't see this coming.”

Nan Sullivan, founder of Warm the World, said Robin Gall crocheted beautiful blankets but would never come to a warehouse where other volunteers met because she didn't think her husband would approve. “She seemed very controlled by him,” Sullivan said. “She wouldn't do anything without the approval of her husband.” [Redfem blaming the victim.]


Kirk Mitchell: 303-954-1206 or kmitchell@denverpost.com


Denver woman arrested in homicide had stabbed previous husband twice


Abstracted from article by Kirk Mitchell in June 15, 2008, Denver Post

Ms. Cahow has 21-year history of threatening people with knives and was twice charged with attempted murder for stabbing an ex-husband.

According to the Denver Police Department on June 12, 2008, at approximately 4:50 PM police responded to 2535 East Asbury Avenue, near the University of Denver, on a report of a stabbing. Upon arrival, officers found the body of a man who had suffered stab wounds. Paramedics pronounced the victim dead at the scene.

Police said they arrested Audrey Eve Cahow, 51 at the scene on suspicion of first-degree murder. Police reported the victim and Ms. Cahow were involved in an argument and that Ms. Cahow produced a knife and stabbed Anthony Martinez, 62, Denver police spokesman John White said. Mr. Martinez was apparently Ms. Cahow's current husband, the last of several. Ms. Cahow is reported to be an habitual drug user and alcoholic.

Investigators believe Cahow and Martinez were arguing when Ms. Cahow stabbed him. Martinez died of a single stab wound to the chest and heart.

Ms. Cahow also suffered stab wounds and was sent to Denver Health Medical Center's intensive care unit. “I don't know how she was stabbed,” said Capt. Frank Gale, a spokesman for the Denver County Jail.

Ms. Cahow has previously served numerous jail and prison sentences for assault and domestic violence dating to July 10, 1987, when she stabbed her then husband, Paul Vaughn, who was 62 at the time. She was then 35.

She was charged with attempted murder and pled guilty to second-degree assault in a plea bargain in which she was sentenced to two years' probation and required to stay in a halfway house.

On June 2, 1990, Ms. Cahow told police she stabbed Vaughn five times in the back and the side after he pointed his finger in her face. She was charged with attempted murder a second time but entered a plea in which the charge was dismissed in exchange for her pleading guilty to second-degree assault. She was sentenced to six years of intensive probation October 15, 1990.

In May 1995, she was charged with brandishing a weapon, assault and threats.

On February 15, 1999, Cahow “snuck into the emergency room by the triage area” of St. Joseph Hospital and threatened a woman with a 16-inch knife, according to Denver District Court records. She demanded to see a doctor to treat a hand injury.

“The defendant waved the knife at everybody that was in her vicinity and threatened to kill anybody that comes near her,” a police report says.

In that incident Ms. Cahow was charged with felony menacing with a deadly weapon. She was sentenced to five years' intensive probation and later served 18 months in prison when she repeatedly violated probation, according to district court records.

In the last known incident before this murder, on July 22, 2004, Ms. Cahow threatened to kill a neighbor and chased her with a knife. For that, despite her extensive record, she was sentenced to just 10 days in jail.


Thornton woman held in first-degree murder


Based partly on report by Thornton Police Department

On July 30, at approximately 1:59 PM, Thornton police were dispatched to 10973 Bellaire Way, in reference to a report of a burglary in progress.

Upon arrival, officers made entry into the home and discovered 57-year-old Thornton resident Alan Yukio Nakamura dead in the upstairs hallway from a gunshot wound to the head.

Officers also contacted 59-year-old Mary Elaine Bradford, who lived with Nakamura, and she was subsequently arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder.

According to the victim's family, the victim and the suspect had not been getting along. A specific motive for the shooting has not been established.


Whitewater woman arrested after second husband dies from gunshot wound to the head


Abstracted from stories in the Denver Post and Grand Junction Free Press

June 10, 2008 — Mesa County deputies responding to a call of a possible burglary June 10 at 34999 Seminoe Road in Whitewater, nine miles southeast of Grand Junction.found 62-year-old Alan Helmick dead with a gunshot wound to the head.

His widow, Miriam Helmick, 51, suggested her husband's acquaintances may have had something to do with his death then fled to Florida. She is now a suspect in the case and is in custody in Florida and being held Monday on $2 million bail.

She was arrested Monday with help from agents from Florida and the U.S. Marshals Service. She was being held at the Duval County Detention Facility in Jacksonville, Florida.

She was later returned to Mesa County and is being held on charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder, and forgery.

Alan Helmick is Miriam's second husband to die of a gunshot wound to the head


The Grand Junction Free Press, which has reported extensively on the death of Alan Helmick, said that Helmick's first husband, Jack Calloway Giles, 46, died of a gunshot wound on April 15, 2002, while in bed with his wife, then known as Miriam Morgan Giles, in Florida.

At the time the Duval County Florida Medical Examiner's Office said Jack Giles shot himself with a .38 handgun he kept in a nightstand next to the couple's bed and the case was ruled a suicide.

Miriam told Florida authorities that her the husband — Jack Giles — was distraught over the August 2001 accidental death of their daughter, Amy, 23.

Court file in Alan Helmick's death details murder schemes


Abstracted from article by Nancy Lofholm, Denver Post

December 23, 2008 — A dance instructor, twice widowed when husbands died of bullets to the head, tried to kill her second husband by attempting to blow up his car and had been researching poisoning before she shot him in a staged robbery, according to an arrest affidavit.

The affidavit detailing the evidence against her was unsealed Monday.

That affidavit chronicles 49 pages of suspicious activities surrounding the death of Alan Helmick. He had been known as a responsible business person and attentive father to his grown children but increasingly had been cut off from family and friends and concerned business associates in the months before his death. His wife kept his cell phone in her purse and returned calls when messages were left for him.

The affidavit says Alan Helmick had been ill with mysterious symptoms that kept him mostly bedridden for months while Miriam Helmick plundered his bank accounts. But he had improved in the weeks before his death. A coroner's report said no poison was found in his body.

The affidavit says Miriam Helmick forged $16,000 in checks on one of her husband's bank accounts. She also sold some of his property after his death, depriving his children of the proceeds.

She told friends and neighbors that suspicious things were happening around their house and she thought someone was targeting her after her husband was killed. But she was filmed on a store surveillance camera buying a greeting card that she wrote a threat on and tried to use as evidence that there was a stalker.

The couple had been married for two years before the killing. They met at a dance studio where she was an instructor and he was a lonely, well-to-do, 62-year-old widower who was taking ballroom dance classes after the death of his wife of 36 years. He owned a number of real estate and development-related businesses.

The couple lived in a 3,200-square- foot home south of Grand Junction, where they raised horses. Miriam Helmick opened her own dance studio after the couple married. The affidavit says many of the 11 forgeries she is accused of were checks paid to that business from Alan Helmick's account and signed by Miriam Helmick.

She had been arrested twice in 2004 in Florida on embezzlement and larceny charges. At the time, she lived in Jacksonville with her first husband.

She was not considered a suspect when that husband, Jack Giles, died of a gunshot to his brain while lying in bed with her. Giles' finger was in the trigger of a handgun, according to police reports, and it was ruled a suicide. That case has not been reopened.

Two months before Alan Helmick was killed, Miriam Helmick was doing online searches for “Ambien overdose,” “buy purple foxglove” and “Viagra overdose.” Ambien is a sleeping pill, foxglove a poison, and Viagra an erectile-dysfunction drug that can have serious side effects on those with heart problems like Alan Helmick had.

Forty-one days before he died, the Helmicks made a trip to Delta where he waited in his car while she went inside a business. His car caught fire while he was sitting in it. A wick was found shoved into the full gas tank. Miriam Helmick had asked her husband to remotely open the trunk and gone around to the back of the vehicle while he was waiting in it.

Workers said the bathroom smelled like lighter fluid after Miriam Helmick used it. She was named as a prime suspect in that incident by Delta investigators.

Miriam Helmick quickly became the principal suspect in Mesa County as investigators began unraveling the incidents surrounding her husband's death.


Salida woman and her boyfriend kidnap and kill her husband


© 2008 KKTV.com

Three people are behind bars accused of brutally murdering a 37-year-old Salida man.

August 29, 2008 — Three people are behind bars accused of brutally murdering a 37-year-old Salida man. James Durgan was found in the Arkansas River in July after being shot to death.

On August 28, 2008, Durgan's estranged wife, Kristin Durgan, 40, was arrested in Gunnison, her boyfriend, Andrew Tanner, 22, was arrested in Salida, and Brian Folsom, 29, who was already behind bars for violating his probation were all taken into custody. All three were charged with first-degree murder among a slew of other felony charges.

It's a tangled web that ended in the Fremont and Chaffee County area.

37-Year-old James Durgan, the victim, had been dead for nearly 2-months before the arrests. “Durgan was reported missing on July 11, 2008,” said Canon City Chief of Police Daniel Shull.

Police say 40-year-old Kristin Durgan, the victim's estranged wife, was the one who told police James had gone missing.

Kristin Durgan's boyfriend is 22-year-old Andrew Tanner. The third party is 29-year-old Brian Folsom. They all face first-degree murder charges including kidnapping and conspiracy.

Durgan's body was found in the Arkansas River shortly after he went missing in July.

Police say James was on his way home from a business trip and stopped at the Holiday Inn Express in Canon City the night of July 10, 2008, before returning home. Police say that was the last time anybody saw him alive. Kristen said he missed two scheduled appointments and reported him missing on July 11 th .

Investigators said Kristin called her estranged husband at the motel to say her car had broken down near Lone Pine Recreation area in Big Horn Sheep Canyon on U.S. 50 between Salida and Cañon City. Durgan thought he would meet his wife and children, Andrew, then 12, and Beth, then 10.

Instead, Folsom and Tanner kidnapped James Durgan when he arrived, taking him to another location and tying him to a tree. Later, Tanner returned and shot Durgan, disposing the body in the Arkansas River.

His body was found in the Arkansas River by kayakers near Parkdale July 19, 2008, about 35 miles downriver from where his car was parked.

Investigators also said Folsom and Tanner had traveled to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in an earlier attempt to kill James Durgan, but failed to locate him there.

Kristin and James Durgan had two children together. The Durgan children are living with their maternal grandparents. According to their grandfather, Bruce Traegde of Ridgway, they are doing well.

Three sentenced for roles in James Durgan murder


Abstracted from story by Arlene Shovald, The Mountain Mail

July 13, 2009 — Two of three defendants in the July 10, 2008 kidnapping and murder of 37-year-old Salidan James Durgan appeared separately for sentencing in 11 th Judicial District Court in Cañon City Friday.

In a plea bargain, Kristin Durgan, wife of James, and Brian Folsom, earlier agreed to testify in the murder and kidnapping trial of a third defendant, Kristin's boyfriend, Andrew Tanner, 23.

Judge Julie Marshall sentenced Kristin Durgan to 48 years for second degree murder to be served with the Colorado Department of Corrections, with a mandatory five years of parole. In addition, Mrs. Durgan must serve six years in prison for second-degree kidnapping with three years of parole to be served consecutive to the first sentence.

Thom LeDoux, 11 th Judicial District Attorney, said in general this means three-quarters of the sentence would be served before Kristin Durgan is eligible for parole and if paroled, it would be for five years. The three year parole in the kidnap charge would merge with the five years on the first charge. This would make Mrs. Durgan about 76-years old before she is eligible for parole. She received credit for 316 days served.

Appearing with her attorney Kristin Durgan showed no emotion, even when a video portraying the life of her husband was shown to the court. Asking the court to accept the plea bargain, LeDoux said use of the children to lure her estranged husband to his demise was particularly bad.

Judge Marshall sentenced Brian Folsom to 48 years in prison for second-degree murder with five years of mandatory parole. In addition, he must serve six years for second-degree kidnapping, with three years of parole. The sentence would make him about 66-years old before he is eligible for parole.

LeDoux asked the court to accept Folsom's guilty plea for second-degree murder and second-degree kidnapping with credit for 281 days served in Fremont County Jail.

LeDoux stated that:

“The amount of money Mr. Folsom agreed upon to participate in this plan was from $1,500 to $2,000. It is appalling and defies logic and common sense that an individual would participate in this kind of scheme for such a paltry sum.”

On September 4, 2009, a Cañon City jury convicted 23-year-old Andrew Tanner of first-degree murder, kidnapping, conspiracy and violent crime. He faces a mandatory sentence of life without parole.


Security woman shoots and kills sister's boyfriend


Abstracted from articles in the Colorado Springs Gazette, KRDO TV, and KOAA TV

December 19, 2008 — A Security woman shot and killed her sister's boyfriend Thursday night during a domestic dispute outside his mobile home near Fort Carson, El Paso County sheriff's spokeswoman Lt. Lari Sevene said.

Denise L. Presson, 28, was arrested without incident shortly after 28-year-old Victor San Miguel was shot in the chest in the 8100 block of Piute Road, west of Colorado Highway 115 and Fort Carson.

Deputies were called at 10:15 PM December 18 th . They found San Miguel lying on his porch with a gunshot wound in the chest and were told the shooter had left in a white Mazda.

Fountain police spotted the vehicle and alerted deputies, who assisted police officers in arresting Ms. Presson after she arrived home in the 500 block of Norman Drive.

According to Lt. Lari Sevene of the El Paso County Sheriff's office, the two were quarreling as part of “an ongoing domestic dispute” when the fight turned violent. San Miguel's girlfriend, Nicole Bachman, 31, and her two children — ages 5 and 12 — were at home at the time of the shooting, but they were not harmed, Sevene said. The children did not witness the shooting.

According to the arrest affidavit, Ms. Presson came to the home San Miguel shared with her sister, Nicole Bachman, and waited for San Miguel to return home from buying beer, with her 12-year-old nephew with him.

When they returned, Denise Presson showed her nephew a gun she had gotten from an ex-boyfriend and asked if he wanted her to “take care of Victor,” the affidavit states. Presson told investigators she thought San Miguel was abusing her nephew. She didn't know if it was physical or sexual abuse but she could “see it in his eyes.” Her nephew denied San Miguel had abused him.

A half-hour later Denise Presson walked up to San Miguel, said, “I am sorry I have to do this,” and shot him once in the chest, the affidavit states. Nicole Bachman then attacked her sister. Ms. Presson then pressed the barrel of the gun into her sister's stomach but apparently the gun jammed, saving her sister's life. Presson then left. Investigators later recovered the murder weapon from the front seat of Ms. Presson's car and noted it was jammed.

Denise Presson has been charged with first degree murder, menacing with a deadly weapon, and possession of weapons by previous felony offenders. She has also been charged with second-degree assault on a peace officer for grabbing an El Paso County sheriff's deputy stun gun and attempting to bite, punch, and kick her at the jail on December 20, 2008,

Ms. Presson is no stranger when it comes to run-ins with the law. She is a convicted felon, having spent time in the Colorado Department of Corrections for pleading guilty to robbery in 1998. Just this year she was accused of misdemeanor child abuse and cruelty to animals.

Denise Presson was convicted of first-degree murder by a seven man, five woman jury on December 3, 2009. The jury also found her guilty of menacing but acquitted her of attempted first-degree murder of her sister. Following her conviction a mandatory sentence of life in prison was imposed by Judge Theresa Cisneros.


Year 2009

Denver woman kills her boyfriend because he didn't take her to the laundromat


Abstracted in part from story by Charlie Brennan, MyFox Colorado

January 10, 2009 — Denver police have made an arrest in the city's first slaying of the new year, booking 33-year-old Michelle Martin for investigation of first-degree murder in the death of her boyfriend, identified by his friends as Michael Thomas.

Police were called to Ms. Martin's home at 3421 Humboldt St., at about 8:20 PM Friday in response to reports of a stabbing. There, they found Michael Jerome Thomas, 43, who was transported to Denver Health Medical Center, where he was declared dead.

The fight between Thomas and Martin, according to neighbor David “K. C.” Douglas, started after Douglas and Thomas returned from a home one block away, where the two men had gone to do some laundry. Apparently, said Douglas, Martin had wanted Thomas to go do laundry with her. Later reports indicate the couple began arguing after his return over some food she had prepared

“She was just mad and going off, and I figured they would settle it,” said Douglas, who left the couple to themselves and went to his home, an adjacent unit to Ms. Martin's.

Not long later, another friend of Thomas's came to Douglas's door asking for Douglas to call 9-1-1.

“She (Martin) came out behind him, saying, 'He's dying,' and so I ran in there, you know, and tried to resuscitate him. I tried to attempt it, and it was to no avail, you know. I was busy on the phone with the 9-1-1 operator and with the other hand, I was trying to keep her off of him. To me, it was making the wound worse.”

Douglas said Thomas suffered a single stab wound to his stomach — although, he said, Michelle Martin insisted Thomas had injured himself by falling. Thomas was found lying on the floor on his left side with a gaping wound on his right side.

Ms. Martin was arrested at the scene, and after being advised of her rights in Denver County Court Saturday morning, is being held without bond. On January 15, 2009, she was formally charged with first-degree murder. Michael Thomas is the father of one child by Michelle Martin and she is currently pregnant.

Douglas said Thomas and Martin had fought before, but that it had never grown so violent.

“You know, I tried, but I just couldn't do nothing to help him,” Douglas said of Thomas's final moments. “I tried, but he took his last breath. It doesn't make any sense. It's over nothing, you know? Laundry. He looked like he died peacefully. I'm sorry. I tried, you know?”

Douglas said that, to his knowledge, police had not yet recovered a murder weapon. However, Douglas stated that he saw a folding knife next to Thomas when he entered. Police could be seen canvassing the neighborhood throughout Saturday afternoon.

Thomas was also mourned by Fredricka Gatewood, a woman who described herself as an ex-girlfriend of Thomas.

“You know, he is very good people. He had goodness in him,” said Gatewood. “All I can see is, maybe it was his time. But he didn't deserve that, and may God bless him, you know that's all I can say.

“But you know, God takes care of everything. And, I know he's in a better place, and he will be missed by several people — by me, too. Very much.”


Woman kills her father and stepmother, brother gathers evidence


Abstracted in part from article on 9News.com

Killer's brother provided key evidence

January 14, 2009 — Night-time surveillance cameras set up on the property of Jared Enander in eastern Adams County captured video tape of what court documents say was his sister on her parents' property. As one result, Kara Lounsbury is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of her father and stepmother.

Her brother, Jared, lived next door to his father. He had four surveillance cameras surrounding his home.

On January 14, about 3 AM, his cameras taped a dark-colored SUV pull up to the gate of his home, then enter his driveway. A person emerged, spent about five minutes total at his home, then backed out of his driveway. Jared's cameras show the SUV then drove a short distance down the road and entered the driveway of his father, Hap Enander's home.

One of the surveillance cameras shows the SUV is at the Hap Enander's home for approximately 50 minutes according to court documents.

The bodies of Hap Enander and his wife Sue Enander were found by a concerned neighbor on January 15. They'd been shot. Hap Enander was shot once. His wife Sue was shot several times. The intruder entered the home by shooting out a sliding glass door.

After the brother and sister were notified of the murders, Jared Enander told his sister, “I had a visitor last night,” referring to January 14 and the mystery SUV. Jared told Adams County Deputies his sister said “I came to see you.”

She later verified that information to deputies, but asked for an attorney when they showed her video tape of her SUV pulling into her father's driveway.

Jared Enander said his sister was concerned about whether she was in her father's will. According to the family attorney, she wasn't. Most of the money went to the First Baptist Church in Hudson.

Adams County deputies also have tire tracks that match Lounsbury's SUV. They have bullets which match a 9-millimeter police say was the murder weapon. Although Ms. Lounsbury owned a 9-millimeter, she said it was missing.

In court documents, Jared Enander was asked by a detective from Adams County about whether he thought his sister was involved in the murders. He answered “you asked me if my sister was capable of doing it. I think she is capable. I'm sure it was her on the tape.”

On February 16, 2010, Kara Lounsbury was convicted on two counts of first-degree murder for the killing of her father and stepmother.


Greeley man killed for his life insurance, wife arrested


Abstracted from Greeley Tribune and other sources

Murder-for-hire plot years in planning

Jeffrey Watson was ambushed on February 19, 2009, near his west Greeley home, in the 600 block of 46th Avenue Court, about a block north of the west Greeley Walmart store. As he got into his pickup to leave for work early in the morning, 29 bullets were fired into the pickup from an assault rifle. Watson, 44, died minutes later at North Colorado Medical Center. Since then, Greeley detectives have uncovered what they believe to be a murder-for-hire plot and made three arrests in the case.

Georgia Sue Watson, 45, was arrested Tuesday, December 8, 2009, at her home by Greeley police in the continuing investigation into the killing of her ex-husband, Jeffrey Watson Sr., 44, who was apparently slain for his life insurance. She has been jailed on suspicion of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.

Police have long believed Jeffrey Watson was killed because of a $110,000 life insurance policy but had not been able to link his ex-wife to the homicide.

Georgia Watson is the third person arrested in the case. Two men — Cecil Erb and Justin Brunner, both 28 — were arrested shortly after the February shooting. Erb was caught in Iowa, and police found an assault weapon, apparently the weapon used to kill Jeffrey Watson, in his car.

Both men are friends with the victim's ex-wife. Court affidavits state Erb was living with Georgia Watson, and he knew there was an insurance policy on Jeffrey Watson's life.

The court affidavits also state that a friend of the Watsons said their marriage was in trouble in 2004 and 2005, and Georgia Watson asked him then if he knew someone who could “take care” of her husband for her. He told her he did not.

Records also state that Georgia Watson told another friend, “I know people that know how to get rid of people.” The price offered for killing Jeffrey Watson varied between $6,000 and $10,000, although there was not verification in court reports that the sum was ever paid.

Brunner, the man who helped kill Watson, pled guilty earlier this year to accessory to a crime in a plea bargain that will net him five years in prison.

Brunner will be sentenced after Erb's trial. Erb has been charged with first-degree murder after deliberation, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder after deliberation, illegal discharge of a firearm, and possession of a weapon by a previous offender. He faces life in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors have declined to say if Brunner is scheduled to testify against Erb and Georgia Watson. But Greeley police detective Keith Olsen, who now works as an investigator for the Weld District Attorney's Office, has testified that Brunner told officers that Erb's intention was to shoot and kill the victim for some insurance policy. “He knew the victim had an insurance policy and his ex-wife was the beneficiary,” Olsen testified. “The proceeds from the insurance policy was to pay off her house.” Testimony at trial suggested they had been plotting the murder for as long as a year.

Erb and Georgia Watson were held in the Weld County Jail until their trials. Erb was detained without bond while Watson's bond was set at just $100,000. [Compare with the $1 million bail set by Pitkin county judge Erin Fernandez-Ely in Aspen for misdemeanor DV harassment by a man.]

Cecil Joe Erb, now 29, was found guilty of murder by a Greeley jury April 30, 2010. He was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.

Georgia Watson, the victim's wife, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder on March 22, 1011. Following her conviction Mrs. Watson was sentenced on April 22, 2011, to 48 years in prison, the maximum possible.


Golden woman faces murder charges in husband's shooting death


The Denver Post

March 3, 2009 — About 10:40 AM March 2 nd officers of the Golden Police Department responded to a welfare check at 300 Sunshine Parkway. At the residence officers observed the body of a male on the sofa in the living room. Officers forced entry into the house and found the man dead from a gunshot wound. A female inside the house was transported to the hospital.

The male victim is identified as Jesse Jenkins, age 66.

Upon her release from the hospital Golden Police arrested Darla Jenkins, age 56, on suspicion of first-degree murder.

It is believed that the couple had been married more than twenty years.

Darla Jenkins was booked into the Jefferson County Detention Center, where she was being held without bond.


Denver woman blows off boyfriend's head with a shotgun


The Denver Channel.com

April 27, 2009 — A 22-year-old Denver woman was in custody Monday for investigation of first-degree murder after police said she shot her boyfriend in the head with a shotgun.

Police were called to 2915 Pontiac Street in Denver at 11:30 PM. Friday and found a man's body in the kitchen of the home.

Police said Tatianna Manon-Davis, 22, shot her boyfriend, James Allen Woodard III, in the head with a shotgun during an argument. Ms. Manon-Davis was being held for investigation of first-degree murder.


Man shot dead in Aurora


The Denver Post

June 17, 2009 — A 49-year-old Denver woman faces first-degree murder charges related for a shooting in Aurora this afternoon.

Velma Lee Gilbert is being held without bond in the Arapahoe County Jail.

The man, who died of a gunshot to his upper body, has not been named, pending notification of next of kin.

Police are investigating the relationship between the man and his killer.


Boulder woman jailed after fatally stabbing husband during fight


Abstracted from stories in the Boulder Daily Camera and Denver Post

August 2, 2009 — A newlyweds' fight turned deadly early Sunday morning in Boulder after a woman, who said she was attacked, then stabbed her husband to death.

Authorities say the couple on Saturday night began arguing after drinking at local bars and continued their fight at home. According to the Boulder police report, Traci Housman, 36, grabbed a knife from the house during the altercation and fatally stabbed her husband, John Housman, 41.

Mrs. Housman called 911 about 1:30 AM and told dispatchers that she had stabbed her husband and that he needed medical attention, according to Boulder police.

Paramedics found John Housman, 41, dead when they arrived at the couple's home at 2994 23 rd St. The Coroner's Office ruled that he died of a stab wound to the chest. Officials wouldn't say whether he was stabbed more than once.

When Mrs. Housman was arrested she had scratches on her forehead and an abrasion on her foot. Police said her injuries did not require hospitalization.

To friends and family of John and Traci Housman, all signs pointed to a happy, if unconventional, couple.

Traci Housman had just been promoted at the day-care center for mentally disabled adults where she works and had been putting in late hours to pay bills, her mother said. She taught martial arts to children and shared her love of the discipline with her husband.

John Housman, who sometimes went by Johann, had a penchant for the provocative, from the rock songs he wrote, to his tattoos, to dramatic boots, or black nail polish.

He worked as a bouncer at Boulder bars, though he'd recently stopped because of health issues, according to family members.

The pair, both divorced, reconnected about a year ago after knowing each other as teenagers. The couple hosted a big wedding ceremony June 23, 2009.

They got matching tattoos: fanged, carnivorous-looking hearts with the word “twisted” beneath them, according to Traci Housman's MySpace page.

But in recent weeks, hints of stress began creeping into the frequent emails she sent her mother. There was a spat over a few dollars to take John Housman's daughter to dinner. They fought over the couple's lack of a vehicle or John Housman's lack of a driver's license, seemingly the normal things couples fight about.

On Monday, August 3, 2009, Boulder County Judge Noel Blum set bail at $250,000 for Mrs. Housman.

Prosecutor Ken Kupfner asked to postpone the filing of charges for one week as detectives continue their investigation. That request was granted and formal arraignment was set for August 12. Mrs. Housman currently faces one charge of second-degree murder.


Three held in Pueblo love-triangle murder


Abstracted from stories by Howard Pankratz, The Denver Post and Jason Aubry, KKTV.com

September 17, 2009 — When Brian Swartz disappeared from his Pueblo home in late July his common-law-wife told police he owed money to Mexican drug dealers who came to Pueblo and kidnapped him and stole his belongings.

On August 7 th New Mexico Police checked the Colorado license plate of a van belonging to Brian Swartz. The van was tagged as abandoned on the south bound I-25 near Raton, and on August 11 th the van was towed. The keys were in the ignition, but the fan belt was broken and it appeared the van overheated before being abandoned. Police started receiving tips that something had happened to Brian Swartz on the same day.

A detective with the Pueblo Police Department was assigned to the case based on the Crime Stoppers tip on August 12 th . He spoke to Brian's father and common-law wife, Sonia Mitchell, mother of Brian's three children. Ms. Mitchell told police that she and Brian got into a fight about two-and-a-half weeks prior and Brian moved out. She also told police that Brian had showed up four days prior to see their kids and pick up some of his belongings.

On August 26 th Sonia Mitchell sought out the detective in charge of the case. She told him her first story was not completely true. On that occasion Sonia spun a tale of a trip Brian took to Texas to buy drugs, that it had gone bad, and that he needed some money. She went on to tell the detective that Brian had returned to Pueblo with four Mexican Nationals to pick up some of his things, his gun safe, a big screen television, and other items.

Sonia's story continued to be that Swartz was heavily involved in marijuana trafficking and owed money to Mexican drug dealers. She said four Mexicans came to the home, abducted Swartz, took his van and also many of his belongings, including a TV, videos and video games. Sonia said the kidnappers were headed to Mexico with her common-law husband.

But on August 25 th detectives speaking with Brian's immediate family and neighbors had learned that Sonia and other people were seen loading some of Brian's things (a gun safe, big screen television, and various other things) into the back of a Black Ford Explorer.

“Her (Sonia's) stories weren't making sense,” said Sgt. Eric Bravo, spokesman for the Pueblo Police Department. Bravo said that during the investigation it was established that Swartz was a drug dealer who had specialized in marijuana trafficking for a considerable amount of time.

Witnesses told investigators that Varos and Sonia, the mother of Brian Swartz's three children, had been intimate for about eight months.

By September 2 nd detectives found that Sonia Mitchell had moved out of the home she had shared with Brian. Also, the last time Brian's cell phone was used was July 27 th . A search warrant was then executed on their former home and some possible blood evidence is found on a stairway.

Then skeletal remains were found in far western Pueblo County in a shallow grave on September 4 th by a pheasant hunter who saw a hip bone protruding from a shallow grave. Massive trauma to the face was recorded but it was possible to get fingerprints off of one of the hands. On September 10 th the remains were identified as those belonging to Brian Swartz.

Police then sought out Sonia Mitchell's new boyfriend, Eloy Varos, on September 14 th . Varos told them he owns a Black Ford Explorer. When asked if he was nervous about being with someone like Brian Swartz's girlfriend he tells them he probably would not be with her unless he knew Brian was completely out of the picture. He also told them he rents a storage unit and that Sonia might have hidden evidence inside it. Detectives also spoke to an ex-girlfriend of Varo's who told them she overheard Sonia and Priscilla Mitchell, and two other men, planning how they were going to get rid of Brian.

Detectives then obtained a search warrant for the storage unit and checked it out. Inside they found a bloodstained mattress and items Sonia told them had been taken by the Mexican Nationals.

After finding the bloodstained mattress police got another search warrant for Brian and Sonia's former home on September 15th. Using a chemical luminal to test for bloodstains that are not visible to the naked eye, including those that someone has attempted to clean or painted over, investigators find blood evidence in Brian and Sonia's bedroom. A cast off pattern of blood is located on the ceiling in an area where the bed would have been. Investigators also find a blood trail from the bedroom through the hallway to the back door.

A Crime Stoppers tipster also told detectives Sonia Mitchell had told him Brian was dead several days prior to the discovery and identification of his body. He also tells them Sonia, Priscilla, and another man are responsible for Brian's murder.

Following up, detectives also speak with one Alexander Crespo who tells them he helped move Brian's gun safe at Sonia's residence. He also told them he went to Varos' storage unit to pick up weights. When he asked Varos if he could have the mattress, Varos told him he could not have it because he was going to burn it.

As of September 16 th the common-law-wife, Sonia Mitchell, 24, her lover, Eloy Thomas Varos, 29, and Sonia's sister, 22-year-old Priscilla Mitchell, are behind bars in connection with Swartz's murder. All are charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and bail is set at $1 million for each of them.

In August 2011 Sonia Mitchell was sentenced to 20 years in prison for killing her husband.


Colorado Springs woman brutally beats her elderly husband and then returns after police leave and stabs him to death


Abstracted from story by Bill Reed, Colorado Springs Gazette

Janet Hilton beat her elderly husband, fled the house when police came to investigate, and then returned to stab him to death.

November 16, 2009 — Daniel Hilton, 70, died Monday from injuries he suffered during Friday night's altercation and his 50-year-old wife, Janet Hilton, has been charged with first-degree murder.

Police first responded to the couple's home at 1123 Server Drive in south Colorado Springs about 6:30 PM Friday, November 13, 2009, discovering Daniel Hilton with blood coming from his left eye socket and covering his hands and the front of his clothes.

He told officers that he and his wife had been drinking. He said his wife had punched him several times in the eye socket — the eye had been removed because of cancer.

After the initial fight, Janet Hilton told her adult son, who was home at the time, that she and her husband had a fight and that she was leaving.

Officers described Daniel Hilton as “uncooperative” after being beaten by his wife, saying he refused to provide basic information about her. Police left the house to prepare a probable-cause affidavit to arrest Janet Hilton on suspicion of felony assault on the elderly.

Soon after they left the house police received a second call about 7:30 PM.

This time they found Daniel Hilton at the bottom of the basement stairs with two women bent over him holding a towel to his chest.

One was Janet Hilton, who told police: “I didn't mean to do it.”

Paramedics determined that Daniel Hilton had been stabbed at least twice in the chest. And doctors at Memorial Hospital told police that one of the stab wounds had punctured his heart and torn an artery.

On August 30, 2010, Mrs. Hilton was allowed to plead guilty to second-degree murder. On November 1, 2010, District Judge David Prince sentenced Janet Hilton to 28 years in the state penitentiary.


Woman arrested after she recycles man in Denver trash bin


Abstracted from story in Westword

December 13, 2009 — At approximately 4:00 PM members of the Denver Police Department responded to the location of the 2200 block alley between Clarkson and Emerson Street on a report of a body in a recycling bin.

In the receptacle officers located the body of a deceased male later identified as Charlie Hardy, age 35. An autopsy determined that the cause of death was from multiple stab wounds.

After investigating officers identified Teresa Rosemarie Harris, age 35 (DOB 12/9/1964), as a suspect. On December 15, 2009, police arrested Ms. Harris and currently hold her for investigation of Murder in the First Degree.

Reports suggest her relationship with the deceased included drug dealing.

Detectives will submit the case to the Denver District Attorney for consideration of formal charges.


Christmas murder in Aurora family stemmed from disputed estate


Abstracted from story by Daniel Petty, The Denver Post

December 22, 2009 — It was an early afternoon several days before Christmas in Aurora. Cristina Wanda Sears met her 22-year-old son at the Frontier Club to down several drinks.

When they finished, Sears drove her son, Josh, to an appointment with his probation officer. When she dropped him off, Josh spotted a black handgun tucked in her purse.

Then, a short time later, he received a phone call. “I did something bad,” Sears, 44, informed him, according to testimony in an affidavit from the Aurora Police Department.

They agreed to meet at the Sand Creek Lounge, a 15-minute drive away from the home where police say Ms. Sears had just gunned down her 75-year-old stepmother, Eleanor J. Sears, and seriously wounded her 49-year-old stepsister, Joy L. Pigon, over a years-long dispute about the estate of Cristina Sears' late father.

Officers arrested Cristina Sears at the Lounge shortly before 5 PM.

Cristina Sears — who has no prior arrest record, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation — was charged with 11 criminal counts, including first-degree murder, first-degree attempted murder, and first-degree assault.

The afternoon of December 22 nd Cristina Sears' other son, Kenneth R. Richey, his fiancee, Shannon L. Bowen, and Pigon were in a room next to the kitchen when Richey said he heard a “pop.” Aurora emergency dispatchers received an initial call around 3:30 PM reporting an armed person inside Eleanor Sears' home. Then, another emergency call came: two people had been shot.

Pigon, who recovered and testified at the trial, was pistol-whipped, shot multiple times, then chased through the house and backyard, leaving a trail of blood. Pigon crawled back into the house to dial 911 and be with her mother when she was confronted by Sears again.

“When is it going to be enough?” Sears allegedly asked, pointing the gun inches from Pigon's forehead.

“It's enough now,” Pigon responded. “Please don't, because the kids are here.”

Sears then shot Pigon a final time in the stomach, fired more casings into a nearby television, dropped the gun, and fled.

Two children — ages 3 and 6 — were upstairs during the crime and were in the care of Pigon and Eleanor Sears, who often watched neighbors' children. The kids were not harmed physically. In a news release, police said the children were under the care of one of the victims, a statement consistent with neighbors' accounts that Eleanor Sears and Pigon often cared for the children of families they were close to. Police declined to say to whom the two children belonged.

Sears made more than 20 phone calls to family and friends within the first 17 minutes after the shootings, admitting that she had shot two people, evidence presented at trial showed. One of those calls was to her son Josh.

“I shot both of them and killed them,” she told another family member, according to a detective's testimony at the February pre-trial hearing. “I can't believe they made me do this.”

When paramedics and police arrived, Eleanor Sears was unresponsive but alive; Pigon lay just a few feet away, wounded multiple times. Both were sent to the University of Colorado hospital, where Eleanor Sears was later pronounced dead.

Police eventually apprehended Sears, who had no prior arrest record before the shootings, at a another bar 15 minutes from the home shortly after the shootings.

Two officers arrived to find Eleanor Sears and her daughter in their kitchen suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, the affidavit said. Richey, who told police that he witnessed the shootings, saw Cristina Sears empty the rest of the gun's clip at a TV, place the gun on the floor near the front door, and flee.

Both victims were rushed to the University of Colorado hospital, where a doctor pronounced Eleanor Sears dead about an hour after the original emergency call.

Five people — Richey, Bowen, Eleanor Sears, Pigon, and Pigon's husband, David — shared the home.

The shootings were the violent conclusion to an acrimonious dispute years in the making, according to Richey's account. Cristina Sears' apparent hatred for Eleanor Sears stemmed from her belief that Eleanor had not given her “what she was entitled to” after Cristina's father died.

Cristina Wanda Sears found guilty of killing stepmother, attempted murder of stepsister


Abstracted from story by Daniel Petty, The Denver Post

August 18, 2011 — Cristina Wanda Sears was convicted this date of murdering her stepmother and attempted murder of her stepsister.

Defense attorneys had argued that the woman, 46-year-old Cristina Wanda Sears, was not guilty by reason of insanity for the killing of Eleanor J. Sears and attempted murder of Joy L. Pigon, 51. But it took an Adams County jury just a little over an hour to convict her of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, multiple assault charges and menacing.

An Adams County District Court judge sentenced Sears to life in prison for the murder plus the maximum 48 years for attempted murder — sentences to be served consecutively.

“I've been doing this for 24 years,” lead prosecutor Don Quick said. “It (the verdict) is the right thing to happen, but a 74-year-old grandmother is dead, and Joy has nine holes in her body...The tragedy is just tempered with the fact that we did the best we could to bring this to some resolution, but the family is going to wake up tomorrow and have what they have.”

Sears' public defenders, Stefanie Gaffigan and Sara Strufing, declined to comment through Gaffigan, who said the case would be forwarded for appeals that could take years.

The defense had claimed, in part, that the anti-smoking drug Chantix was to blame for Sears' aggressive behavior. Information about the drug from the National Institutes of Health say that some people have reported changes in behavior, hostility, agitation, depressed mood and suicidal thoughts while taking it. But the government noted that the drug's role in causing those mood changes — especially when paired with nicotine withdrawal — is unclear.

“She had planned the murder, she had driven over 40 miles to the house, then admitted it to relatives,” Quick said, noting Ms. Sears had received a one-month prescription for Chantix in April, several months before the murder. “It's not what impacted her. What impacted her was that she had not gotten her inheritance.” Quick said that the victim, Eleanor Sears, who was living with four others in the home, did not have much money. “This case is not a tragedy, it is a murder...cold, calculated and well thought out,” he said.

At a pre-trial hearing in February 2010, one of Sears' sons, Kenneth R. Richey, testified how the loss of her job, the recent death of her father, severe depression, suicidal thoughts and a years-long dispute about her father's estate drove her to the deadly confrontation.

Witnesses testified during the trial that Sears barged inside and fatally shot Eleanor Sears while she was cooking at her stove. Cristina Sears then moved into an adjacent room — where Richey, his then-fiance and Pigon were posing for pre-wedding photos and assembling gifts — and opened fire on Pigon, who suffered serious injuries.


Year 2010

Grand Junction man killed by girlfriend after she accuses him of flirting


© 2010 Grand Junction Sentinel

January 16, 2010 — Nineteen-year-old Amy Adamson of Orchard Mesa claimed her boyfriend, 20-year-old Ramon Sandoval, had been flirting with her girlfriend before a confrontation that ended with Sandoval stabbed nearly clear through his chest, according to a Grand Junction Police detective.

Detective Steve Cowgill testified on May 17 th that Amy Adamson acknowledged “having a history” dating back to middle school and high school with 20-year-old Ramon Sandoval, who was found January 16, 2010, stabbed to death near an apartment at Monument Ridge Townhomes, 2680 B 1/2 Road, where Ms. Adamson, and her girlfriend, lived at the time.

Cowgill, one of two Grand Junction detectives who testified during a preliminary hearing in Adamson's case, didn't specify the nature of the alleged prior history between Adamson and Sandoval.

Detective Cowgill testified that Adamson's girlfriend had invited Sandoval to come over January 15 th . Sandoval, Ms. Adamson and her girlfriend were initially cordial, at one point listening to music together, the detective said but “...at some point Amy wanted him to leave.”

Adamson went to a neighboring apartment, where she tried to get another woman to help her convince Sandoval to leave. A confrontation escalated when Adamson returned and found Sandoval “flirting” with her girlfriend on their front porch.

“She thought he was trying to get with her all night long,” Cowgill testified, adding one witness overheard Adamson yelling to her girlfriend words to the effect of “get your ass back in the house.”

Ms. Adamson admitted retrieving a knife from the butcher block in her kitchen and stabbing Sandoval, according to an arrest affidavit and Cowgill's testimony. Sandoval suffered a 4 1/4-inch wound to the chest, and the knife punctured the aorta near Sandoval's spinal column, the detective testified.

“It was deeper than most I've seen,” Detective Cowgill said, noting the blade had to first pierce a jacket and two layers of shirts Sandoval was wearing that night.

Detective Cody Kennedy testified that Ms. Adamson later penned a letter February 2 nd from jail to her girlfriend, explaining she still loved her but “needed her to change her story” about the stabbing to implicate another woman. Adamson's girlfriend instead turned the letter over to law enforcement.

A knife, suspected as the weapon, is undergoing testing by Colorado Bureau of Investigation lab agents. It was found in a field near the Orchard Mesa apartment complex, Cowgill testified. The knife was found in a section of the field approximately “90 degrees” from where Adamson said it would be, the detective said.

District Judge Brian Flynn found probable cause for Amy Adamson to be tried on counts of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, first-degree assault, in addition to crime-of-violence and habitual criminal sentence-enhancers. Flynn scheduled a two-week trial starting November 1, 2010, after Adamson pleaded not guilty on all counts.

After being released on bond Amy Anderson tried to hire a hit man to kill two witnesses according to District Attorney Pete Hautzinger in a June 14, 2010, news release. Additional charges have been filed against her.

Ms. Adamson was convicted November 19, 2010, of second-degree murder for the stabbing death of her boyfriend, tampering with evidence, and trying to hire a hit man to kill two witnesses to the murder.


Fatal attack in Colorado Springs


Police reports and Colorado Springs Gazette

Acting on a tip, Colorado Springs police found Duane Maasch's body on June 15, 2010, in some oak scrub brush just off Rampart Range Road about three miles north of Garden of the Gods Park. He had been reported missing 11 days before his body was found.

A detective testified that Maasch, 40, had been stuffed inside a blue plastic toy bin. His ankles and wrists were bound with duct tape. There was a plastic bag over his head. The El Paso County coroner later ruled he had died of asphyxiation.

Three people have been charged with first-degree murder in his death: Jason Jonathan Bomsta, 33, his wife JoBeth Marie Bomsta, 29, and Peter Steven Miller, 38. A fourth defendant, Christopher Anthony McKinley, 21, has been charged with being an accessory to the murder.

A witness later described watching three of his Colorado Springs neighbors beat and stomp on a man, stick him with a syringe and suffocate him with a plastic trash bag.

“It looked like a bad dream,” Roddra Rodgers testified during a preliminary hearing for four people charged in the death of Duane Maasch.

Rodgers testified that at the time, he lived in the same complex as the Bomstas, the Copper Chase apartments at 2033 Southgate Road. He would occasionally go over to the Bomstas' apartment to smoke marijuana and drink beer, he said.

On June 4, Rodgers said Jason Bomsta had called asking if Rodgers would come over and “watch over” JoBeth Bomsta while Jason Bomsta tried to collect a $100 debt from someone. Rodgers said he declined.

But he did go over to their apartment later that night. Rodgers said he had just finished smoking some marijuana in their bathroom when a fight broke out at the front door.

He testified that Jason Bomstra was punching a man repeatedly in the face until he fell to the concrete just outside the front door, moaning in pain.

Rodgers testified he had seen the man at the apartment earlier that night talking and texting on his cell phone, but said he did not know who he was.

He said Bomsta and Miller dragged the man inside to a bedroom where Miller began stomping the victim with his bare feet while Bomsta continued punching him.

JoBeth Bomsta took a syringe from a black satchel and injected something into the man's right arm, Rodgers said. The El Paso County Coroner testified there was a massive and potentially lethal amount of methamphetamine in Duane Maasch's body although that was not found to be the cause of death.

Rodgers said Miller brought over a rope and garbage bag, which Jason Bomsta pulled over the victim's head.

Rodgers said one of the men threatened to kill him if he told anybody about what had happened. He said Bomsta later apologized as he led Rodgers out of the apartment. Rodgers said he also saw one of the men cutting out a section of blood-soaked carpet.


Broomfield woman charged in July Fourth death


The Denver Post

A manslaughter charge has been filed in a Fourth of July death in Broomfield that was initially investigated as a possible suicide.

Amber Lona, 19, was charged with manslaughter. Lona turned herself into Broomfield police and was later released on a felony summons.

Anthony Varra, 21, was found dead by Broomfield officers at 5:37 PM July 4, in the 3000 block of West 134 th Avenue.

The death was declared a homicide a few days later, caused by a “single noncontact” gunshot wound to the head.

Broomfield police believe Lona and Varra were looking at his handgun, which they thought was unloaded, when Lona pulled the trigger and shot Varra in the face.

Another person is believed to have been with Lona and Varra at the time of the incident, but has not been identified.



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Last modified: 9/13/18