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Friday, October 1: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, October 2: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, October 3: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. For information call 970.249.3238

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OCT. 2ND (1-7PM) CENTENNIAL PLAZA

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MONTROSE

October 1 2010

VOL 128, NO. 113 50 cents MONTROSE, CO 81401 www.montrosepress.com

DA's arrest on sex offenses shocks community, law officers Attorney General's Office handling case, overseeing Serra's office BY KATHARHYNN HEIDELBERG DAILY PRESS SENIOR WRITER

MONTROSE — District Attorney Myrl Serra did not speak as he left a local attorney's office Thursday, just hours after his arrest on suspicion of unlawful sexual contact, indecent exposure and official misconduct. But the 7th Judicial District's law enforcement community had plenty to say about Serra's arrest, using words such as "numb" and "bewildered." And Delta's police chief urged the public not to rush to judgment against a man who is innocent until proven guilty. "The first thing that comes to mind is how tragic this must be for the alleged victim. I don't know any details, or who investigated it, but it had to weigh heavily on all concerned," said Gunnison County Undersheriff Rick

Besecker. "I am extremely dismayed by this. It appears on everyone's faces (at his department) that they're totally bewildered. I am, too." Delta Police Chief Robert Thomas said, "Our organization is looking at this as an unfortunate incident in which an allegation has been made. Myrl is afforded the same process as anyone else — due process. ... Mr. Serra is innocent until proven guilty. I want to caution the public not to prejudge Mr. Serra." The Colorado Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the Montrose Police Department, arrested Serra at his home at 7:16 a.m. Thursday. He was detained briefly at the Montrose County Jail's booking area before posting a $5,000 bond, the standard bail amount for the

Formal charges filed in drive-by shooting BY KATHARHYNN HEIDELBERG DAILY PRESS SENIOR WRITER

MONTROSE — Attempted murder charges have been formally filed against three men suspected in September’s drive-by shooting on South River Road. Alleged triggerman Oscar Rodriguez, 20, is charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder and two counts of conspiracy to commit attempted first-degree murder. Angel Mahedas, 22, is accused of chasing down the alleged victims’ Blazer Sept. 19 to facilitate the shooting. He is charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. Oscar Saul Madrid, accused of driving RoRodriguez driguez when he allegedly opened fire on a 17-year-old and the teen’s adult brother, was charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. “Why are there so many charges?” Madrid, 19, asked during his brief court appearance Thursday. As he had during his first court appearance last week, Madrid asked about his bond, set at $150,000, as is bail for his co-defendants. Angel Mahedas “I’m the only one bringing in a steady income in my house. I’m afraid that if I’m in the county jail, I could lose my job,” Madrid said. He was told to take his questions up with his attorney. The alleged victims’ mother previously told the Daily Press that a bullet barely missed her teenage son, and she was outraged the defendants were even considerSaul Madrid ing seeking lower bail. The penalty range of Madrid’s charges is 16 to 24 years in prison, with 48 years possible if aggravating circumstances are proven. The other men face the same penalty range. Mahedas was told his sentences could run consecutively, because prosecutors allege there are two victims. Rodriguez’s case was continued to Nov. 3. Madrid will be seen Nov. 4, and Mahedas is due in court Wednesday. The Montrose County Sheriff ’s Office has not commented on a possible motive. Arrest affidavits refer to trouble with a gang called “BUL” and indicate that three more people — one of whom is considered a witness — were with the defendants when shots rang out.

INSIDE TODAY Published for the Uncompahgre Valley and Shelley Foster of Montrose

LOCAL . . . . . . . . . .A2-3,5 OPINION . . . . . . . . . . .A4 STATE . . . . . . . . . . . . . .A6 NATION . . . . . . . . . . .A7-8 SPORTS . . . . . . . . . . .A10 OUTDOORS . . . . . . . .A11 COMICS . . . . . . . . . . .A12

crimes of which he is accused. Serra's arrest affidavit is sealed because the investigation is ongoing. He was not at home Thursday morning, and a woman who answered his door declined to take a reporter's business card. Serra was at attorney Brent Martin's office Thursday afternoon, but Martin could not be reached later Thursday to confirm whether he is representing Serra. Allegations came to light Sept. 17, according to an executive order issued Thursday by Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien. The allegations — details of which have not been confirmed — were brought to the Montrose County Sheriff's Office, which handed the investigation off to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation because the MCSO's pro-

fessional relationship with Serra creates a conflict of interest. "In the course of conducting its investigation, CBI learned of additional potential criminal activity by Mr. Serra, which included allegations of potential official misconduct," O'Brien's order reads. Monday, Gov. Bill Ritter authorized the CBI to investigate those additional allegations. "Mr. Serra is a sitting district attorney and thus, not subject to investigation by his own office. Because some of the allegations against Mr. Serra concern official misconduct, it is not appropriate to request a sitting district attorney in another judicial district to investigate this matter," the order says. A separate executive order placed the Colorado Attorney General's Office in charge of the

Myrl Serra case. That order also was issued because Serra's alleged criminal conduct "... took place, at least in part, in the course of Mr. Serra performing his official duties," O'Brien wrote. SEE DA ARREST, PAGE A3

County attorney reconsidering resignation

KATI O'HARE / DAILY PRESS

Dave Ubell, far right, a former Montrose County commissioner, asks current Commissioner Ron Henderson, far left, about County Attorney Bob Hill's resignation letter. Concerned citizens gathered Thursday morning to object to Hill's potential departure, having heard that he was pressured to quit. Hill later told the Daily Press he was not pressured to resign.

STAFF REPORT

MONTROSE — Montrose County Attorney Bob Hill, who submitted a letter of resignation on Wednesday, now is reconsidering his decision at the request of county commissioners. “I talked to the commissioners this morning,” Hill said Thursday. “I am considering the commissioners’ request that I remain in the same capacity.” As he and the commissioners met, about 15 protesters gathered outside the county offices at 161 S. Townsend Ave. to publicly object to Hill’s departure, saying the county attorney clearly had been pressured to resign.

LOTTO RESULTS

But Hill said, “No, I wasn’t under any pressure to resign ... I didn’t know what was going on outside the courthouse. I’ve been thinking about this (resignation) for some time. I’ve been around here for seven years, five as county attorney. It’s a full-time job.” So might he rescind his resignation? “The verdict is out,” Hill said. “I told the commissioners I would rethink and get back to them.” Dave Ubell, a county commissioner from 1999 to 2006, was among those demonstrating support for Hill outside the county building.

TODAY’S WEATHER It will be mostly sunny becoming partly cloudy in the evening. High 80, Low 40 See details, Page A13

WEATHER . . . . . . . . .A13 OBITUARIES . . . . . . .A13 WORLD . . . . . . . . . . .A14 CLASSIFIEDS . . . . . .B1-8 2-14-17-24-31

SEE HILL, PAGE A2

MONTROSE DAILY PRESS 3684 N. TOWNSEND MONTROSE, C0 81401 HOURS: MONDAY-THURSDAY 8 A.M. - 5 P.M. FRIDAY 8 A.M. - 12 P.M. TEL: 970-249-3444 FAX: 970-249-3331

LOCAL DA ARREST: Area lawmen react to news of district attorney’s arrest

MONTROSE DAILY PRESS

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2010

A3

FROM PAGE 1 "While Mr. Serra is presumed innocent of any and all alleged criminal conduct, Mr. Serra's arrest has compromised his ability to effectively carry on (sic) the functions of his office." First Assistant Attorney General Robert Shapiro was appointed special prosecutor in the case. Jean Woodford, also a first assistant attorney general, was appointed to oversee Serra's offices in Montrose, Delta, Gunnison, Ouray, San Miguel and Hinsdale counties. "We are cross-swearing all the existing prosecutors to be special attorneys general," Woodford said. "That means they're prosecutors under the attorney general's authority. They'll still do the same job, but now it's the AG's office that's running the office, rather than the DA." Woodford is not involved in prosecuting Serra's case and said she has been "walled off" from Shapiro. For now, she is working on logistical organization and speaking with judges and attorneys to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible. "I'm just here to support all these prosecutors and to make sure they can do their jobs," Woodford said, adding that the 7th has several experienced prosecutors. She said she does not expect major changes "other than that Mr. Serra won't be here, and I'll be making some of those decisions in his place." Montrose County Sheriff Rick Dunlap was among lawmen who expressed confidence in the DA's deputy prosecutors and the attorney general. "We were kind of numb, really not knowing what to expect, but I think once the attorney general took steps to ensure that the office is still functioning, it kind of relieved some of those anxieties from us and, I'm sure, all law enforcement in the 7th Judicial District," Dunlap said. He said he has "utmost confidence" in the DA's staff and does not anticipate the disruption caused by Serra's

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month MONTROSE — Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among Colorado women, and an early diagnosis of this disease is the best defense. The best way to find cancer early is to get routine screenings. Free breast and cervical cancer screenings have been provided statewide to eligible women ages 40 to 64 since 1991 by the Women’s Wellness Connection. Providers include Montrose County Family Planning at 1845 S. Townsend Ave. To determine eligibility, make an appointment or see a list of other free screening providers, call 1-866-9519355 or visit www.WomensWellnessConnection.org.

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‘The first thing that comes to mind is how tragic this must be for the alleged victim. I don't know any details, or who investigated it, but it had to weigh heavily on all concerned." Rick Besecker Gunnison County undersheriff ▲ arrest to really affect his agency's cases. San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters also expressed confidence in the DA's staff. He declined additional comment, as did Montrose Police Chief Tom Chinn. Ouray County Sheriff Dominic "Junior" Mattivi and Gunnison Police Chief Keith Robinson could not be reached Thursday. Most officials could only guess at the possible effect Serra's arrest could have on their cases, but, as had Dunlap, said they didn't expect the situation to harm those cases. No effect is expected in Delta County, where "we're just doing business as usual," said Sheriff Fred McKee. "It would be premature for me to make speculation on the impact," said Hinsdale County Sheriff Ron Bruce. "I really don't know. We hope it's just a ripple, as far as the judicial process goes. He hasn't been convicted, so I'm not going to convict him. "We had no idea this was in the wind," Bruce added. The public defender's office also is waiting to see how Serra's legal woes will affect proceedings. "At this point, we're waiting to see how the chain of

1869 East Main Montrose 252-9096 See what movies are playing at: www.Montrosemovies.com or shopmontrose1st.com.

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command will be set up in the DA's office," said deputy public defender Harvey Palefsky. He said he hopes the reorganization will be expeditious in consideration of his office's clients, especially those defendants who are jailed throughout the 7th Judicial District. "Our only concern is that our clients don't suffer because of what's going on. We're just hoping it gets back to business as usual," Palefsky said. Besecker said he's still trying to digest the stunning news of Serra's arrest. "It's hard enough to gain and maintain public trust, and this — whatever it means — is a giant step backward for that," he said. He was quick to say Serra, like anyone accused of a crime, is innocent until proven guilty. "But perception's always stronger than truth. When we don't know the facts, sometimes our imaginations can wander off with us." Serra is due for advisement at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 3 in Mesa County District Court. Daniel Bottger, 21st Judicial District judge, was appointed to hear the case after all judges in the local judicial district recused themselves. The venue for the case remains Montrose County for now, and all filings and hearings after Nov. 3 are expected to occur here. Serra, 48, was appointed district attorney in 2007, after elected DA Tom Raynes stepped down to take a job at the state Attorney General's Office. Raynes is not involved in Serra's case, spokesman Mike Saccone said. Serra was unopposed when he ran for election in 2008. His record is clear of any disciplinary actions in Colorado, according to the Colorado Supreme Court's Attorney Regulation Counsel.

Fox Theater

27 S. Cascade Montrose • 249-8211

See what movies are playing at: www.Montrosemovies.com

We Have Gift Cards and Movie Passes!

WEEKLY SPECIAL 1 Medium Drink, 1 Small Buttered or Plain Popcorn and a Dibs Ice Cream, a $9.00 value for $7.50.

PRICES FOR 3-D MOVIES WILL BE: Evening Shows: Adults $10.00; Children & Seniors $7.50. Matinees: Adults $7.50; Children & Seniors $6.00. Fox 1: 7:00 & 9:20 3:00 Matinees Saturday & Sunday

Ben Affleck

Fox 2: 7:05 & 9:05 3:15 Matinees Saturday & Sunday

Featuring the voice of Justin Long • Not in 3D

Cast: Justin Long, Hayden Panettiere, Christina Ricci, Danny Glover, Dennis Hopper, Larry Miller, Eric Price, Chris Carnack, Vicki Lewis, Brian Donovan, Kevin Sussman Synopsis: What makes for the ultimate road trip? Hitchhiking, truck stops, angry bears, prickly porcupines and a golfing goose with a duck caddy. Just ask Kate and Humphrey, two wolves who are trying to get home after being taken by park rangers and shipped halfway across the country. Humphrey is an Omega wolf, whose days are about quick wit, snappy one-liners and hanging with his motley crew of fun-loving wolves and video-gaming squirrels. Kate is an Alpha: duty, discipline and sleek Lara Croft eye-popping moves fuel her fire. Humphrey’s motto – make ‘em laugh. Kate’s motto – I’m the boss. And they have a thousand miles to go. Back home rival wolf packs are on the march and conflict is brewing. Only Kate and Humphrey can restore the peace. But first, they have to survive each other.

Penthouse: 7:10 & 9:30 3:30 Matinees Saturday & Sunday

Kristen Bell • Jamie Lee Curtis

Emma Stone

STEAK SEAFOOD PASTA

U-Pick Tomatoes

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$7.50 a Box or 3 Boxes for $20.00

STAR Drive-In 600 E. Miami H 249-6170 www.stardrivein.com

FREE CUSTOMER APPRECIATION NIGHTS!

The Great Pumpkin Patch Now Open!

Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2, & 3

Don’t Forget to Visit the Corn Maze.

Triple Feature! Tom Hanks

Free Admission Donations Accepted

Large Selection of LOCALLY Grown QUALITY Fruit & Veggies in the area: Steve Carell

Final Movies for 2010 (61st Year)

Mike Myers

The staff and management of the STAR Drive-In Theater would like to THANK YOU for your continued patronage.

See you next April 2011 for our 62nd year!!! Triple Feature Begins At Dusk

Tomatoes, Sweet Corn, Peaches, Melons, Green Beans, Cucumbers, Roma Tomatoes, Pumpkins, Squash “Several Varieties,” Gourds, Indian Corn, Onions, Potatoes, Pinto Beans, MORE! ROASTING CHILIES DAILY

DeVries’

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MONTROSEPRESS.COM FRIDAY

MONTROSE

October 8 2010

VOL 128, NO. 119 50 cents MONTROSE, CO 81401 www.montrosepress.com

Report: Aircraft endeavor ‘high risk’ to county New DNABoyd Group suggests restructuring deal with EXTRA Aviation

KATI O'HARE / DAILY PRESS FILE PHOTO

EXTRA CEO Ken Keith, left, chats with Daniel Culver, 11, of Montrose, while Denver resident Greg Larrabee looks on in July, when EXTRA announced it would open a plant in Montrose. BY KATHARHYNN HEIDELBERG DAILY PRESS SENIOR WRITER

MONTROSE — The proposal to bring EXTRA Aviation to Montrose represents a “high risk” for Montrose County, consultant Boyd Group International said in its long-awaited due diligence report, released Thursday. The county would spend $2.19 million to buy land and improve it, but EXTRA would provide neither collateral nor a credit line to offset the county’s risk, the report says. EXTRA CEO Ken Keith took issue with the report, citing the company’s airplane components as collateral, among other arguments. Under the current proposal, Montrose Economic Development Corp.

would give EXTRA land beside the airport. The county then would buy the land from EXTRA, making it airport property and providing EXTRA with working capital to produce its 500 series business turboprop plane. The MEDC valued the land at $2.3 million; the county’s appraiser at $675,000. State law forbids the county to spend more than fair market value, a fact that significantly reduces the amount of capital for EXTRA. The Boyd Group calculated the county’s $2.19 million risk as consisting of $675,000 for land, $750,000 to build a required road, $550,000 for a 10,000square-foot production plant and $213,000 for a perimeter fence. But 126 vacant acres already on the

Boyd Report on-line The Daily Press website (www.montrosepress.com) now contains the long-awaited, unabridged report by Boyd International Group on EXTRA Aircraft’s proposed incentives from Montrose County to open a local plant. Also on the site is the complete response by EXTRA CEO Ken Keith. The Daily Press is providing free access to both documents as a service and courtesy to the community. Access the report at the right end of the red navigation bar. Or go to: http://images.townnews.com/montrosepress.com/images/EXTRA.pdf airport would accommodate EXTRA and would not require a new road or fence, the report notes. The county owns the airport land, so that alternative also would reduce capital for EXTRA. “The land-transfer-then-sell plan is innovative in that it is the modality from which EXTRA can get the cash it needs for the Montrose start-up,” the report says. “This does not, however, change the fact that Montrose County is taking the risk, not EXTRA Aircraft.” Keith’s response says EXTRA chose Montrose based on available facilities, a qualified workforce and “incentives offered jointly by the Montrose County Commission, the MEDC, Region 10, the City of Montrose and the state of Colorado. It was agreed and understood by all parties that final approval of the package of incentives was dependent upon the successful conclusion of a due diligence process. This incentive package had been approved in a publicly held vote by the BOCC on July 1.” But the county only agreed to consider incentives, said Commissioner Ron Henderson. It wasn’t a done deal. “The Boyd report stands alone on its facts,” he said. “That’s all we really ever wanted.” Some residents and officials have questioned a 2002 bankruptcy by the German company and whether the SEE BOYD, PAGE A3

PHOTOS BY JOEL BLOCKER / DAILY PRESS (left) Montrose High biology teacher Rusty George completes an ecology lesson on rivers with students (from left) Josh Miller, Brett Foster, Alec Rose, Shae Peterson and Erica Decker. They studied aquatic insects in the Uncompahgre River at Baldridge Park on Wednesday. (Below) Montrose High senior Brett Foster fishes through the Uncompahgre River in Baldridge Park while looking for aquatic insects for his biology class Wednesday afternoon.

For the love of bugs

collection law applied to local district attorney Sheriff: DA was county’s first suspect tested under Katie’s Law BY KATHARHYNN HEIDELBERG DAILY PRESS SENIOR WRITER

MONTROSE — Montrose County broke in the state’s new DNA-collection law last week — on District Attorney Myrl Serra. “He was the first” suspect in Montrose to be tested, Sheriff Rick Dunlap said Thursday. Serra was arrested Sept. 30, the date Katie’s Law took effect in Colorado. Serra, suspected of two sex offenses and official misconduct, is free on a $5,000 bond. Colorado’s new law, named for New Mexico murder victim Katie Sepich, requires law enforcement agencies to collect DNA samples from anyone arrested on suspicion of a felony. Serra had to provide a sample because of his felony charge of unlawful sexual contact-use of threats or force. “DNA collected for anyone arrested on a felony started (Sept. 30),” said Dunlap. “That DNA will be collected at the time of booking, by the booking officer. Those officers have had the training on the proper collection of that evidence.” The testing involves a simple swab and card, which is mailed to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s Grand Junction Bureau for storage, said spokesman Lance Clem. DNA testing is done at the Denver bureau. The CBI provides the test kits to law enforcement agencies, and funding comes from a $2.50 surcharge for felony and misdemeanor convictions, as well as from traffic tickets. If there is no felony filing in the case, the sample is destroyed after a year, Clem said. The DNA samples from felony suspects go into a database that is maintained independently of the DNA database for felony convictions, he explained. A person arrested on suspicion of a felony, but whose case later adjudicates as a misdemeanor or acquittal, can petition to have his or her sample destroyed. Clem said he didn’t know how many felony-arrest DNA samples have been collected to date, but the CBI has said up to 60,000 arrests this year could qualify. Officers can use the DNA samples to exonerate a suspect or link him to a crime, Dunlap said. The CBI must follow a protocol in order to perform mass tests, Clem said. But these rules aren’t enough to protect people’s 4th Amendment rights concerning search and seizure, says Mark Silverstein of the American Civil Liberties Union. “Innocent until proven guilty,” he said Thursday. Courts have allowed DNA profiles to be distilled from biological samples of felons, reasoning that convicts lose cerSEE DNA, PAGE A2

INSIDE TODAY Published for the Uncompahgre Valley and Mike Robuck of Montrose

LOCAL . . . . . . . . . . .A2-5 STATE . . . . . . . . . . . .A3,5 OPINION . . . . . . . . . . .A6 NATION . . . . . . . . . . . .A7 WORLD . . . . . . . . . . . .A8 SPORTS . . . . . . . . . . . . A10 OUTDOORS . . . . . . . . . A11

LOTTO RESULTS

TODAY’S WEATHER It will be partly sunny with a chance of showers High 60, Low 35 See details, Page A13

COMICS . . . . . . . . . . .A12 WEATHER . . . . . . . . .A13 OBITUARIES . . . . . . .A13 CLASSIFIEDS . . . . . .B1-8 3-7-9-20-31

MONTROSE DAILY PRESS 3684 N. TOWNSEND MONTROSE, C0 81401 HOURS: MONDAY-THURSDAY 8 A.M. - 5 P.M. FRIDAY 8 A.M. - 12 P.M. TEL: 970-249-3444 FAX: 970-249-3331

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LOCAL

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2010

MONTROSE DAILY PRESS

DNA: Law unconstitutional, ACLU says FROM PAGE 1

Montrose High presents "The Taffetas"

PHOTOS BY JOEL BLOCKER / DAILY PRESS

(above) "The Taffetas," rehearsing Wednesday evening, are (from left) "Kaye," portrayed by Lauren Bony; "Donna," acted by Jessica Elder; "Peggy," by Rosie Eichhorn; and "Cheryl," by Mackette McCormack. The musical will be presented at Magic Circle Theater nightly at 7 until Sunday, when the matinee begins at 2 p.m. (right) "Kaye," portrayed by Lauren Bony, rehearses a scene for "The Taffetas" at Magic Circle Theater.

249-3444

Winter Sports Expo Nov. 19th & 20th, 2010 • Friendship Hall The ultimate winter sports event featuring skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling along with basketball, wrestling, hunting and much, much more! Reserve your booth space today by calling 970-964-2180. Sponsored in part by

tain privacy rights, Silverstein said. “But now, this law expands the reach of law enforcement, and requires law enforcement to extract human tissues from the body of persons who have merely been arrested, not convicted, and to analyze those markers ... and keep them forever,” he said. “There’s no limit on the scope of the testing or on what law enforcement might test for. “This (DNA collection upon arrest) is a search that is done without a warrant, without probable cause, without a basis for believing they will find any evidence of a crime.” Rep. Scott Tipton, RCortez, was the House sponsor of Katie’s Law in Colorado and touted it as a way to save lives, while Katie’s mother, Jayann Sepich, hailed the law’s passage in May 2009 as “a wonderful day for the people of Colorado.” Katie was raped and murdered in 2003. The killer left DNA evidence, but it didn’t match any samples in New Mexico databases. Gabriel Avilla later was arrested for burglary and skipped bail soon after. Only after his capture and subsequent felony conviction was his DNA tested and matched to evidence from the Sepich murder. More than 20 states have a DNA-collection law similar to Colorado’s. Silverstein said he understands the rationale behind Katie’s Law.

“It’s probably true that more crimes will be solved if there are more people in the database,” he said, but he questioned where it could lead, suggesting that people one day might be compelled to provide a DNA sample to obtain a driver’s license or unemployment benefits. “You could also solve more crimes by installing law enforcement cameras in every living room,” Silverstein said. “But that’s not the kind of country we live in.” The ACLU hasn’t yet lodged a formal challenge to Katie’s Law. But it is interested in hearing from anyone whose DNA was collected in a felony arrest. Clem acknowledged those disputes but said the CBI is bound by the law. “It’s been a fairly complicated statute for us to look at and to administratively put in place,” he said. The complicated implementation is partly why the law, passed in 2009, did not take effect until last week. The CBI needed time to design the system and anticipate issues that might arise. Challenges have included finding space for storage, developing the testing protocol and “trying to address ... all the civil liberties issues,” Clem said. “We’re trying to implement the law in the spirit in which the Legislature intended it, while at the same time dealing with all these other issues.”

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Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day

Please join us for the 1st Annual Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Service in Montrose as we honor and acknowledge the lives of children lost through miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death.

Friday, October 15, 2010 Cerise Park • Montrose, Colorado Service Begins at 7 p.m.

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Please arrive by 6:45 p.m.

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MONTROSEPRESS.COM THURSDAY

MONTROSE

November 4 2010

VOL 128, NO. 142 75 cents MONTROSE, CO 81401 www.montrosepress.com

AG: 3 women victimized by DA Serra hit with 7 charges, including sex crimes BY KATHARHYNN HEIDELBERG DAILY PRESS SENIOR WRITER

GRAND JUNCTION — District Attorney Myrl Serra now is charged with seven crimes, including a felony sex offense and felony criminal extortion. A preliminary hearing has been set for 9 a.m. Feb. 11 in Montrose, and Serra’s arrest affidavit — detailing the case against him — is to be released this afternoon. After Serra’s Sept. 30 arrest on allegations of unlawful sexual contact and indecent exposure, investigators identified two more women whom the DA allegedly victimized, a state prosecutor said Wednesday. The Daily Press has determined that at least two of the three alleged victims work in Serra’s 7th Judicial District offices, at least one of them in Montrose. On Wednesday, state First Assistant Attorney General Robert Shapiro asked Mesa County District Judge David Bottger to increase Serra’s bond from $5,000 to $50,000. But Bottger agreed with defense attorney M. Colin Bresee: There is no reason to believe Serra would not continue to come to court as required. “The $5,000 bond is too low, given the alleged victimization ... (committed) while in a position of au-

thority over the alleged victims,” argued Shapiro, while acknowledging Serra is innocent until proven guilty. “The $5,000 bond is woefully inadequate.” The first charge against Serra — unlawful sexual contact as a Class 4 felony — could result in a term of up to life in prison upon conviction, the prosecutor said. After court, Shapiro told reporters that elements of the charge include physical force or violence, and that Serra would be required to register as a sex offender if he is convicted. Serra also was charged with criminal extortion as a Class 4 felony, misdemeanor unlawful sexual contact, three misdemeanor counts of indecent exposure, and official misconduct, also a misdemeanor. In court, for the purposes of a protective order, Shapiro provided the names of three women alleged to be victims of one or more of the offenses. A woman who previously sought restraining orders against Serra was not on that list. Her requests — made in 2008 and this Sept. 20 — were denied by judges in the local 7th Judicial District, who said the complainant failed to prove Serra was a danger to her. It wasn’t clear Wednesday whether prose-

JOEL BLOCKER / DAILY PRESS

Robert Shapiro, Colorado's first assistant attorney general, talks to reporters after District Attorney Myrl Serra's court hearing in Grand Junction Wednesday morning.

Meeting today to consider mutual agreement BY KATI O’HARE DAILY PRESS WRITER

JOEL BLOCKER / DAILY PRESS

District Attorney Myrl Serra, right, and his attorney, Colin Bresee, leave the courtroom after Serra's hearing in Grand Junction Wednesday morning. cutors consider her a victim in Serra’s criminal case. The Daily Press is not identifying any of the women because of the nature of their alleged victimization. Wednesday, Bresee contended the addition of alleged victims did not change the substance of the charges against Serra, so $5,000 was an appropriate bond. Bail is set to ensure a defendant’s continued appearance and compliance with court orders, and Serra has obeyed all bond conditions, Bresee said. “We don’t rush into court to increase bond because we add victims. Myrl has been very cooperative,” he said, calling the proposed new bond punitive and inconsistent. He further accused Shapiro of showboating by seeking the higher bond “knowing we have cameras upon us.”

Bottger agreed that bail’s primary purpose is to ensure appearance at court. “No one has given me a reason to fear he won’t come to court proceedings,” the judge said. “Though the number of charges has changed, the seriousness has not.” Clearly, Serra is no longer in a position that would facilitate commission of similar crimes, Bottger said. Serra is prohibited from accessing firearms and also barred from any building in the 7th Judicial District where his offices are housed, with the exception of court appearances in his case. All major court hearings, including the February preliminary hearing, are to be in Montrose, Bottger said. Shapiro would not discuss the specific allegations that led to charges against Serra. SEE SEX CRIMES, PAGE A3

World champion kayaker talks about river corridor BY KATI O'HARE DAILY PRESS WRITER

MONTROSE — A whitewater park is "not just for the guy on the river, but for the whole community," says Scott Shipley, a world champion kayaker and veteran whitewater park designer. Shipley spoke Wednesday to a crowd of about 50 about the Uncompahgre River's potential for a park. The discussion was part of a follow-up presentation about the city's ongoing Uncompahgre River Corridor Master Plan process. SEE CORRIDOR, PAGE A3 KATI O'HARE / DAILY PRESS

Scott Shipley, world champion kayaker and veteran whitewater park designer, talks about the Uncompahgre River's potential for a whitewater park.

Published for the Uncompahgre Valley and John Witt of Montrose

MONTROSE — Montrose County and the Montrose Memorial Hospital trustees may have worked through their differences outside of court. The county announced a special meeting at 9:15 a.m. today at the commissioners’ board room, 161 S. Townsend Ave., to consider and possibly authorize Commissioner Ron Henderson’s signature approving a settlement agreement to withdraw the trustees’ motion for a preliminary injunction and dissolve their temporary restraining order against the county “in order that the parties may pursue a complete settlement of all issues.” “The Board of County Commissioners and the Hospital Board of Trustees intend to engage in discussions at tomorrow’s meeting to come together and reach an agreement to guarantee that Montrose Memorial Hospital remain the finest hospital in this region for years to come,” county Commissioner Gary Ellis said in a news release. The county later corrected that statement, however, saying the trustees are not to attend today’s meeting. Calls to the hospital board were not returned as of press time, and the county would respond only in its press release. The two parties were to meet in court Friday for an evidentiary hearing on the restraining order and again on Dec. 14 for a preliminary hearing on the injunction, but those court SEE HOSPITAL, PAGE A2

Colo. Democrat Bennet re-elected to U.S. Senate KRISTEN WYATT ASSOCIATED PRESS

DENVER — U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet narrowly defeated tea party Republican Ken Buck early Wednesday, allowing Democrats to hold onto a Senate seat once viewed as a prime opportunity for GOP gains. Bennet provided a Michael Bennet crucial firewall during midterm elections in which the GOP made a historic surge. But his win looked anything but certain. The race attracted more out-of-state campaign money than any other Senate contest this year, prompting a stream of vicious attack ads as both parties viewed the contest as the one that could tip the balance of power in Washington. Buck, an affable campaigner whose folksy charm launched him over a betterfunded Republican primary opponent, had a small lead heading into the election, according to many polls. SEE SENATE, PAGE A2

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Hospital, county may have resolved differences

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SEX CRIMES: Some alleged CORRIDOR: Second public meeting held on river’s master plan victims are DA’s employees FROM PAGE 1

Shipley said Montrose has the river, with its flow, and all aspects needed for a successful whitewater park. "They're designed to mesh with the “I will not make any public comment regarding the environment" and consider fish pasnature of this case,” he said after court. sage, vegetation and river access, he Those details should become available today, as said. Designers consider 100-year Bottger earlier granted Shapiro’s motion to unseal floods and "most important, are deSerra’s affidavit. The affidavit will be posted on signed that it doesn't have a negative www.montrosepress.com as soon as possible. Serra remains DA until he resigns or is no longer el- impact on the community where you igible to serve, AG spokesman Mike Saccone said last put it." Shipley's company recently deweek. First Assistant Attorney General Jean Woodsigned the 2012 Olympics whitewater ford is overseeing Serra’s office for the duration of park in London. the case. In his tour of Montrose, Shipley said Baldridge Park, at Riverbottom, would be the ideal spot for a whitewater park because of parking, bathrooms and river access, though he was open for other location ideas. A whitewater park wasn't the only topic, though. Shipley is a subcontractor of the planning team, DHM Design, hired to create the river's master plan. DHM now has its draft plan on the city's website, www.cityofmontrose.org/river. The plan addresses the river by sections, assessing its vegetation, water condition, trails and park. The plan includes recommendations on where trail connections PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER TOMLINSON, GRAND JUNCTION DAILY SENTINEL / SPECIAL TO THE MONTROSE DAILY PRESS should be, possible land acquisitions, where vegetation should be restored, District Attorney Myrl Serra talks with attorney Peter Albani as he waits for his case to be called before Mesa proposed pedestrian bridges and park improvements. County Chief District Judge David Bottger. FROM PAGE 1

And then the plan describes ways to implement these improvements, including grant funding, land acquisitions, partnerships and budgeting. To implement the whole plan would cost about $20 million today, according to the plan. This plan is not a regulatory action, but rather an "opportunity plan," said Ann Christensen of DHM Design, and it will be implemented over decades. During the presentation, citizens participated in key pad polling. With more than 50 people attending, about two-thirds had not attended the first "community vision workshop" July 26. From the responses, many participants were supporters of trail connectivity. Dorsey and Ron Ewing came to Montrose to retire and live in Cobble Creek. They walk and bike the trails, and Ron also fishes. "I would like to see a connection

A ROUND THE VALLEY ▲ Party for volunteers

Rescue/rehab your books

MONTROSE — Christ’s Kitchen volunteers, past, present and potential, are invited to a party from 10 a.m. to noon Nov. 6, at All Saints Anglican Church, 2057 South Townsend Avenue. Refreshments will be served. All are welcome. Info: 240-9455.

MONTROSE — Friends of the Montrose Regional Library District will be at the main desk of the library from 11 a.m. to noon Nov. 6 to receive books in need of repair and to return books from the previous month. Cost is a donation. Info: 240-7935.

News tip or story idea?

MONTROSE COUNTY SHERIFF ▲ October 5 • 1:21 a.m.: Deputy conducted a field interview at Highway 50 and 6300 Rd. • 7:59 a.m.: Deputy was dispatched to a report of an abandoned vehicle in the 900 Block Spring Creek Road. • 9:47 a.m.: Deputies responded to a report of a disturbance in the 66900 Block N Road. After investigation, Ofelia Lopez, 30, was cited for child abuse and harassment. • 10:09 a.m.: Deputy assisted Health and Human Services with a welfare check in the 11300 Block 6450 Road. • 11:12 a.m.: Deputy was dispatched to the area of Jig and 5975 Road for a report of a dog caught in a fence. The dog was taken to the shelter. • 11:15 a.m.: Samuel Trujillo, 33, was arrested on a warrant at the courthouse. • 11:53 a.m.: Deputy was dispatched to the 17600 Block Starlight Court for a vicious dog report. • 1:52 p.m.: Deputy was dispatched to a stray dog report in the 11400 Block 6250 Road. • 2:41 p.m.: Deputy attempted a warrant in the 58700 Block Ida Road. • 3:10 p.m.: Deputy attempted a warrant in the 700 Block N. Ute Ave. • 3:44 p.m.: Deputy attempted a warrant in the 11300 Block 6450 Rd. • 4:12 p.m.: Warren Bacus, 49, was cited for speeding in the 60400 Block Falcon Road, Olathe. • 4:41 p.m.: Deputy responded to the 1200 Block Orchard Road for a report of a dog attacking chickens. • 6:32 p.m.: Jeremy Christensen, 29, was arrested on a warrant at the sheriff’s office. • 6:49 p.m.: Deputy attempted a warrant in the 000 Block S. Fifth St. • 7:16 p.m.: Dana Johnson, 37, was cited for speeding in the 62000 Block LaSalle Road. • 8:15 p.m.: Deputy took an informational report on Highway 50 at Falcon Road, Olathe. • 8:54 p.m.: Deputies were dispatched to the 100 Block Lark Lane for a report of an intoxicated person. Lisa Moore, 33, was arrested for a protection order violation. • 9:10 p.m.: Deputy attempted a warrant in the 58700 Block Ida Road.

• 10:28 p.m.: Deputy assisted Montrose PD in looking for a person who fled a traffic stop in the 13300 Block 6650 Road. • 10:58 p.m.: Deputy responded to the 55900 Block Holly Road, Olathe, for a fight between two brothers. October 6 • 7:48 a.m.: Deputy responded to a 911 hang up in the area of Blossom and 5725 Roads, Olathe, • 8:20 a.m.: Deputy took a report of fraud in the 14700 Block 6300 Road. • 9:11 a.m.: Kylie Felmley, 22, was arrested on a warrant at the courthouse. • 9:18 a.m.: Deputy was dispatched to a stray dog report in the 700 Block Spring Creek Road. • 10:06 a.m.: Deputy was dispatched to the 800 Block Spring Creek Road for a stray dog report. • 10:18 a.m.: Deputy responded to the 11100 Block 5910 Road for a trespass complaint. • 10:25 a.m.: Deputy took an informational report in the 70000 Block Miguel Road. • 12:50 p.m.: Deputy responded to the 15500 Block 6900 Road for a stray dog report. • 1:03 p.m.: Deputy performed a welfare check in the 20500 Block Pahgre Road. • 2:33 p.m.: Deputy performed a welfare check in the 61300 Block Jay Jay Road. • 3:05 p.m.: Deputy took an info report at the sheriff’s office. • 3:09 p.m.: Deputy responded to the 1100 Block Normandy Road for a stray dog report. • 3:48 p.m.: Deputy was dispatched to a report of a dog hit by a car at mile marker 87 on Highway 50. • 3:49 p.m.: Paul McCracken, 19, was arrested on a warrant at the sheriff’s office. • 5:31 p.m.: Deputy conducted a field interview at 4th and Grand, Olathe. • 5:30 p.m.: Deputy responded to the 60800 Block Oak Grove Road for a 911 hang up. • 11:07 p.m.: Deputy conducted a field interview in the 2100 Block East Main. October 7 • 10:26 a.m.: Deputy assisted health

and human services in the 61300 Block Jay Jay Road. • 12:28 p.m.: Deputy assisted Montrose PD by locating a suspect vehicle at Hwy 550 and Buckhorn Rd. • 12:47 p.m.: Deputy performed a welfare check in the 7600 Block 6150 Road, Olathe. • 1:37 p.m.: Deputy was dispatched to a stray dog report in the 16200 Block 6830 Road. • 2:32 p.m.: Deputy responded to the 36000 Block Hwy 550 for a fire. It was determined to be in Ouray County. • 3:32 p.m.: Deputy took a theft report on 6429 Circle. • 4:45 p.m.: Deputies responded to the 14700 Blk Marine Rd for a disturbance. A warrant is being sought. • 5:15 p.m.: Deputy was dispatched to a civil matter in the 59000 Blk Ida Rd. • 6:15 p.m.: Deputy assisted Olathe PD with a disturbance in the 500 Block Hwy 50 Business Loop, Olathe. • 9:27 p.m.: Deputies were dispatched to a juvenile problem in the 500 Block Chipeta Road. • 9:36 p.m.: Deputy contacted two subjects in the 800 Block North Townsend Avenue. After investigation, Carl West, 18, was arrested for underage consumption of alcohol and possession of marijuana. Jack Zortman, 18, was arrested for underage consumption of alcohol. • 11:45 p.m.: Deputy assisted Health and Human services by attempting to locate a person in the 11300 Block 6450 Road. October 8 • 7:57 a.m.: Deputy checked on an abandoned vehicle in the 68800 Block Highway 50. • 8:39 a.m.: Inosencia Rodriguez, 25, was arrested on a warrant at the sheriff’s office. • 8:48 a.m.: Deputy attempted a warrant in the 68000 Block Utopia Ln.

• 9:08 a.m.: Deputy was dispatched to a stray dog report in the 60800 Block LaSalle Road. • 9:34 a.m.: Jessie Schoonover, 27, was cited for expired license plates in the 4000 Block 6000 Road, Olathe. • 11:14 a.m.: Deputy was dispatched to a livestock problem in the 13000 Block 6175 Road. • 12:00 p.m.: Deputy attempted a warrant in the 300 Block W. Main St. • 12:14 p.m.: Deputy attempted a warrant in the 69000 Block Kinikin Road. • 12:18 p.m.: Deputy responded to the 20600 Block Highway 550 for an animal welfare call. • 1:00 p.m.: Deputy attempted a warrant in the 66700 Block Ogden Road. • 1:56 p.m.: Deputy assisted the probation department in the 500 Block Orchard Road. • 2:48 p.m.: Dawn Meneley, 50, was cited for speeding in the 59700 Block Carnation Road, Olathe. • 3:13 p.m.: Lindsay Boyd, 26, was cited for speeding in the 4000 Block 6000 Road, Olathe. • 3:21 p.m.: Deputy assisted probation with a warrant arrest in the 500 Block Orchard Road. • 3:30 p.m.: Deputy was contacted at the sheriff’s office about a missing person from the 11300 Block 6450 Road. The person was later located. • 4:44 p.m.: Deputy responded to the 61200 Block V60 Trail for a suspicious situation. • 6:11 p.m.: Deputy responded to the 14500 Block Marine Road for a disturbance involving juveniles. A juvenile petition for charges will be filed with the district attorney. • 7:36 p.m.: Deputy was dispatched to Government Springs Road for a report of shots fired. Nothing was located.

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trail to Ridgway," Ron said. "And more access to the river." People who use the river to kayak, fish and raft were also in force at the meeting. "I'm glad to see (the plan) coming along," said Tom Chamberlain, an architect and avid kayaker. He was asking about river improvements and land acquisitions. Rob Brethouwer was there representing the Montrose Area Bicycle Alliance. He's been part of the focus groups for the plan since July 2009 and said the plan is moving in the right direction. "We want connections, getting from A to B without a dead end on the trail," he said. The comments and responses the planning team got from the meeting will be incorporated into the plan. People still can comment via the city's website.

Contact the Daily Press: 249-3444 or email editor@montrosepress.com

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Affidavits detail sex complaints against DA DA’s employees tell of forcible sexual contact, inappropriate e-mails BY KATHARHYNN HEIDELBERG DAILY PRESS SENIOR WRITER

Climbing the wall

COURTESY PHOTOS / RUSTY GEORGE

Montrose High School students in the Outdoor Club rock-climb at Dry Creek on an outing with science teacher Rusty George. At top, James McBee scales a wall as Josh Bollig belays. At left, Diamond Clarin climbs high.

Hospital, county meet Monday, Tuesday to discuss lease BY KATI O’HARE DAILY PRESS WRITER

MONTROSE — Officials of Montrose County and Montrose Memorial Hospital will negotiate Monday and Tuesday on whether a lease to a nonprofit is best for the hospital. County commissioners signed a “temporary stay” settlement with the hospital Thursday during a special meeting. The agreement does not restrain commissioners from holding a hearing to remove the hospital board of trustees, but that hearing could happen no earlier than Dec. 6 under the new pact. The settlement was contingent on the court’s decision to withdraw the hospital’s temporary restraining order against the county, as requested by the hospital trustees and commissioners, said County Attorney Bob Hill. The court approved that request

Thursday, and today’s hearing on the order has been canceled. “Unfortunately, I would have liked to have seen this (hospital lease discussions) from the very beginning,” said Commissioner Gary Ellis, adding that the hospital should have included the commissioners, their constituents and hospital employees in lease discussions over the past five months. The trustees said the meetings were to determine if leasing the hospital to a nonprofit would be the best option. They determined it would be most beneficial. They then created Montrose Memorial Hospital Inc., and five of the hospital’s seven trustees appointed themselves to the new board. Commissioners have expressed dismay at their exclusion from these discussions and have said the trustees’ self-appointments to the new board constitute conflicts of interest. Commissioner David White said the

INSIDE TODAY Published for the Uncompahgre Valley and Lee Wilber of Montrose

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new agreement has not changed his position on those matters. But Commissioner Ron Henderson said, “The commissioners look forward to the opportunity (to negotiate) and will make the best of it.” The new pact does not affect the Dec. 14 preliminary hearing on the county’s motion for an injunction against the hospital. But that, too, could be canceled if the two parties reach agreement in next week, Hill said. The agreement was struck after meetings between the county’s and hospital board’s legal counsel, Hill said. The negotiation meetings are closed, but any agreements proposed during the meetings will be considered for approval in public sessions by each board, says a county press release.

MONTROSE — A woman who alleges she was repeatedly coerced into masturbating her boss, District Attorney Myrl Serra, was so affected by what happened that she vomited and believed she was going to go to hell, freshly released affidavits say. Serra was arrested Sept. 30 and is free on $5,000 bond. He faces a preliminary hearing Feb. 11. The affidavits accuse him of forcing Serra the woman to touch his penis multiple times and say he left marks when he grabbed the complaining witness around the wrist. Serra also is accused of sending questionable e-mails to another female employee and hitting up yet another woman in the office for sexual relations after an after-work gathering. Some of the women reported being afraid of losing their jobs, and one of them painted Serra as “vindictive.” “Myrl vehemently denies all of these accusations,” said Serra’s attorney, M. Colin Bresee, shortly after the documents were released. “At first blush, it seems to be ‘he-said, she-said.’” Bresee said he still is waiting to receive evidence beyond the documents, and until he does, he’s as much in the dark as anyone else. “I would really like to see what the evidence is, or is not,” Bresee said. “Anybody can make an accusation these days. It’s just sad it gets charged. Obviously, Myrl is denying all of this. I would like to know what it is we are denying.” The Colorado Attorney General’s Office has been closed-mouthed about the circumstances leading to Serra’s arrest, but information began to break Wednesday, when the DA was hit with seven charges: Class 4 felony unlawful sexual contact between April and May 2010; Class 4 felony criminal extortion between Nov 7, 2007, and Sept. 30, 2010; misdemeanor unlawful sexual contact between Oct. 1, 2007, and Sept. 30, 2010; three counts of indecent exposure (different dates for each count), and official misconduct between March 3, 2009, and Sept. 30, 2010. The affidavits go even further, telling of a tsunami of allegations unleashed after a male DA’s investigator told the Colorado Bureau of Investigation on Sept. 23 that Serra sent an inappropriate text message to an ex-girlfriend. Also Sept. 23, a female employee approached agents about “possible criminal activity” on Serra’s part. The next day, she alleged to agents that Serra made inappropriate sexual comments to her when they met with other coworkers at a local bar after work.

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SERRA: Attorney: Serra ‘vehemently denies’ all allegations FROM PAGE 1 Serra already had been drinking when she arrived, the woman told agents. Per the affidavit: As Serra walked her to her car, he told her “you have a nice (backside).” The witness took issue with the comment and got into her car, at which time Serra allegedly put his hand on her thigh, and she said: “This is not going to happen.” She said Serra stopped, but “her experiences have not been as offensive and sexually demeaning as some other office workers have experienced with Serra,” CBI Agent Colin Reese wrote in an affidavit. (There are three affidavits: one for a search warrant, one for Serra’s arrest and another for non-testimonial evidence. The information contained in the documents overlaps.) This witness said she did not feel “safe” discussing who might have had similar experiences with Serra. “... she told me that Serra is vindictive and if he found out that she had spoke(n) to me about his actions, that she would be fired ... and there was nothing anyone could do to stop Serra from saying that her being fired was due to poor work experience,” Reese wrote. She was reassured she could not lose her job for reporting possible crimes, and then gave the CBI names of other women. Interviews commenced Sept. 28, and as Reese began the first, another woman came forward, asking to speak with him later. The first Sept. 28 witness said she is not one to tolerate obscene, disrespectful or sexually abusive language. She disclosed the receipt of a questionable email and alleged Serra once said something inappropriate to her, along the lines of “what will you do for me to get off work early.” Reese then interviewed the second woman, who referred to still another woman in the office being subjected to inappropriate sexual advances and comments. That witness initially was afraid to speak with Reese, but after being assured she was safe, alleged the following: While attending a conference with Serra, he complimented her legs, and she “rebuffed his advance that evening.” But Serra began abusing her at his office, she alleged through tears. Per the affidavit: Serra asked her “what would (she) give him” if he let her off early one day, and, behind closed doors, unzipped his pants and exposed himself to her. As she backed to the door, telling him “I do not want to do that,” Serra allegedly grabbed her hand, put it on his penis, and asked her if she liked it. “(He) told her she could do him a favor and he would do her a favor,” the affidavit alleges. “(Serra) was touching her breast with his finger” as she told him “no, I can’t do that.” His grip around her wrists left marks, the affidavit says. Another woman told her to photograph the marks, which she did with her cell phone.

The complaining witness initially said she’d been victimized six or seven times but later disclosed 25 to 35 incidents between 2007 and 2008 that were sexual in nature. On the first occasion, Serra closed the shades in his office, approached her and said: “You need to help a guy out,” then exposed himself through his fly. The woman said she felt she was threatened and forced to masturbate Serra, though she said “this is wrong, what you’re doing.” The DA allegedly told her she “needed” to do it, and “you know you like it; that’s the kind of person you are,” the affidavit says. “(Victim) said she felt she had to perform the act because she thought he would ‘screw’ her over in everything she had worked for, because he was always threatening to fire people.” She said she submitted each time because she was “terrified” of losing her job and being embarrassed. She further alleged being slapped on the backside, and said she told another woman in the office about it, which the woman confirmed. The witness spoke with the CBI again Oct. 1, providing details she said she had feared to disclose because her husband didn’t know. She said Serra exposed himself to her and demanded oral sex, which she refused. The woman also reported being “hunted” by text message or e-mail, and she avoided him because she knew what he wanted. “Serra would become angry with (her) and punish her by having her do work not normally assigned to her,” the affidavits say. Serra would grant her requests for time off but then allegedly would e-mail or text her, stating “you owe me.” During one 2008 incident, Serra unzipped his pants while walking toward her, asking, “how well do you like your job?” Reese wrote. “She repeatedly tells Serra that she is ‘going to hell’ for this, and that she is married, but he only replies with the phrase, ‘just do it.’ (Witness) described feeling as if she is being held hostage by Serra.” Other women also complained. On Sept. 29, a woman told CBI agents that while she was employed at the DA’s office, she had received “numerous emails from Serra that were sexual in nature, which she considered inappropriate.” Another affidavit against Serra tells of a Delta office employee receiving “flirty” e-mails and messages from Serra, and that he “wanted sex with her without a relationship.” The woman alleged Serra took her into a room and asked to see her tan lines, but she refused. When she one day asked to leave early to attend a school sporting event, Serra e-mailed her with a proposed bargain: “She would have to pay her (sic) back with either (oral sex) or brownies.” Serra further allegedly sent her an e-mail that in crude terms asked her if

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she would like to have sex. The CBI collected evidence Oct. 6 and 7 and seized computer equipment. Black-lighting and field testing of stains in Serra’s office and in the office of one of the complaining witnesses were presumptively positive for semen. The CBI requested DNA swabs from Serra. Serra’s DNA was collected Sept. 30 under Katie’s Law, when he was booked on initial allegations. Bresee reiterated Serra’s denial of all accusations. “Everybody knows Myrl. It’s disappointing an outside office from Denver comes in, takes over, and this is how they choose to proceed,” he said. “I guess ultimately, we’ll find out what the facts and the evidence are.” The Colorado Attorney General’s Office is overseeing Serra’s offices while his case proceeds. Serra, who was elected to his post, remains DA unless he chooses to resign or becomes ineligible to hold the office. Bresee says that without more evidence, it’s hard to say what the defense’s next move will be, including whether he will seek a change of venue. “Candidly, I don’t know,” he said. “Myrl was born and raised in Montrose, and the allegations are raised in Montrose. At this time, we see no reason why it would go anywhere else.” He said pre-trial publicity is to be expected, because Serra is a public figure. “Like anyone else, he’s presumed innocent until he’s proved otherwise,” Bresee said. “We’re asking for nothing more, nothing less.” To review the full affidavits filed in Serra’s case, click on the red bar labeled “DA Serra documents” at the top of montrosepress.com.

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December 23 2010

VOL 128, NO. 184 75 cents MONTROSE, CO 81401 www.montrosepress.com

DA suspected of harassment

For a good cause

BY KATHARHYNN HEIDELBERG DAILY PRESS SENIOR WRITER

MONTROSE — District Attorney Myrl Serra now faces more legal woes, as he was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of harassment, protection order violation and violating his bond conditions. Serra, 49, was freed on bond after he was arrested at his Montrose home on a Colorado Bureau of Investigation warrant. He is accused of violation of bail bond conditions, a felony, and two misdemeanors: harassment-follow person in public and violation of a criminal protecMyrl Serra tion order. Details about his arrest were not immediately available. CBI Agent in Charge Colin Reese declined to comment on the circumstances that led to the fresh allegations. Serra had been arrested in September and charged in November with felony unlawful sexual contact-use of force, criminal extortion, misdemeanor unlawful sexual contact, three counts of indecent exposure and official misconduct. He allegedly victimized women working in his offices in the 7th Judicial District by exposing himself and making inappropriate advances. Serra allegedly forced one of the women to touch his private parts and gratify him sexually, his arrest affidavit shows. Through his attorney, Serra “vehemently denies” the allegations. A restraining order prohibits Serra from contact with witnesses and from being in any of his offices and court buildings, except for purposes of his own case, which is set for a preliminary hearing in February. A court date concerning the latest allegations was not available Wednesday evening. The Colorado Attorney General’s Office currently is overseeing the DA’s Office. Dan Hotsenpiller, a local defense attorney and former assistant district attorney, recently was appointed to take the reins, starting Jan. 10.

Above: Sixth-grader Casey Crawford looks for a spot to apply another piece of duct tape to teacher David Roth during an assembly Tuesday at Columbine Middle School. Students have been raising money since early November to help pay for a landscaping project by selling coffee from The Coffee Trader. For each bag of coffee sold, students received a piece of duct tape that they could put on a teacher at the assembly. All three grades in the school sold more than 1,000 bags of coffee and raised $10,000. Left: Cole Cassaday, a seventh-grader at Columbine Middle School, slaps another length of duct tape on teacher Keith Obsheatz. Below: Eighth-graders Cameron LeBlanc, left, and Jake Miller, right, served as "principals for a day" at Columbine Middle School, filling in for Principal Ben Stephenson, center. The boys sold more than 100 bags of coffee for a school fundraiser.

Montrose County unemployment rate higher than state’s, nation’s rates County rate hits 10.5 percent BY KATI O’HARE DAILY PRESS WRITER

MONTROSE — Montrose County unemployment hit 10.5 percent in November, compared with 8.7 percent for the state and 9.3 percent for the nation. The new rate is an increase over October’s 9.7 percent unemployment in Montrose County, ad it marks a significant raise from the 7.8 percent rate in November 2009. (All these rates are unadjusted, meaning they don’t consider seasonal factors such as the start of school or construction in winter.) The increase in joblessness isn’t peculiar to Montrose County or even the Western Slope, said Joe Winter, senior economist for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. “The same movement is being seen statewide,” he said. “And if you look at national estimates, job creation into the fourth quarter from the third has been slow. ... That weakness is showing up in these (state) labor force estimates as well.”

PHOTOS BY JOEL BLOCKER / DAILY PRESS

AG clears officers in Delta shooting Family reacts with disbelief; sister claims cover-up BY KATHARHYNN HEIDELBERG DAILY PRESS SENIOR WRITER

DELTA — Officers who shot Larry A. Brown to death in Delta on Oct. 23 were justified in their use of deadly force, the Colorado Attorney General’s Office has concluded in findings disputed by some members of Brown’s family. A heavily intoxicated Brown, 59, began shooting at Delta Police Officers Rdean Young and Todd Huff after they rolled up on a call of shots fired, First Assistant Attorney General Jean Woodford said in a report released Wednesday. “In such fast-paced, intense armed confrontations, police officers are forced to make life-and-

death situations,” Woodford said in the report. “It was not unreasonable for Officers Huff and Young to return fire when shots were fired at them. Given the use of deadly force against them, both officers were legally justified, under Colorado law, in using deadly force against Mr. Brown.” The findings tally with witness reports on the day of the shooting, but Brown’s family is not convinced they have all the answers. “I don’t know that I believe it,” said Brown’s sister, Barbara Myers of Grand Junction. “We’re still in shock. I just can’t believe my brother would shoot at them. If he

truly shot at them, I think one of them would be injured, if not killed. He was in the Army for years, and the Navy. It’s just really hard for me to believe.” Sister Linda Nation takes an even harder line, saying too many things don’t add up: “They’re entitled to their opinion. I just don’t think you shoot a person twice in the head and call it justifiable homicide. They didn’t know my brother; we did. I think they covered it up. ... I just don’t believe what they’re saying.” She said she’s consulting a lawyer and hoping the family can launch its own investigation. “It’s hard for me to believe my

INSIDE TODAY Published for the Uncompahgre Valley and Olivia Milton of Montrose

LOCAL . . . . . . . . . . .A2-3 STATE . . . . . . . . . . . . . .A4 NATION . . . . . . . . . . .A5-6 SPORTS . . . . . . . . . . . .A7 CLASSIFIEDS . . . . .A8-13

COMICS . . . . . . . . . . .A14 WEATHER . . . . . . . . . .A15 OBITUARIES . . . . . . . .A15 WORLD . . . . . . . . . . .A16

News: Olathe kids cook for the community Page A2

The state saw a 0.7 percent increase in unemployment from October to November, while Montrose County had a 0.8 percent increase. Nationally, the unadjusted 9.3 percent rate for November was up 0.3 percent from October, but it was reduced by 0.1 percent from November 2009. “At times in a business cycle — when you are at the bottom of the trough, as we call it — viability jumps and our estimates jump because we are getting mixed signals from the economy,” Winter said. “That viability, coupled with the normal seasonal movements in the labor force, have produced a larger than usual jump in the unemployment rate. “This jump is still an indicator of the overall economy still being weakened, but it’s not like we are going into something new. We are still banging around with the set of problems that put us here in the first place.” To comment on this story, visit our website at www.montrosepress.com.

SEE SHOOTING, PAGE A3

TODAY’S WEATHER Rain. Highs in the 40s. Lows 15 to 25. See details, Page A15

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December 24 2010

VOL 128, NO. 185 75 cents MONTROSE, CO 81401 www.montrosepress.com

Santa Claus is coming to town

Affidavit: Encounter with DA leaves alleged victim fearful BY KATHARHYNN HEIDELBERG DAILY PRESS SENIOR WRITER

JOEL BLOCKER / DAILY PRESS

Gwyn Browning, 4, at left, and sister Ella, 3, sit with Santa Claus while reading their Christmas letters to him at his cabin in Centennial Plaza Thursday afternoon.

Merry Christmas Montrose COURTESY PHOTO / TOM AND MARY SNYDER

LaKayla Sheets, 4, hugs Santa Claus while Katie Snyder, 2, looks on and Logan Sheets, 2, shows Santa a toy. LaKayla and Logan's parents are Ruddie and Julie Sheets of Delta. Katie is the granddaughter of the photographers, who invited "Santa" down from Grand Junction.

MONTROSE — A woman’s alleged encounter with Myrl Serra left her shaking in fear, the embattled district attorney’s arrest affidavit says. Serra, arrested in September on allegations he demanded or coerced sexual favors from women who worked in his office, was re-arrested Wednesday on suspicion of harassing one of them, thereby violating his bail conditions Serra and a restraining order prohibiting contact with the alleged victims. His attorney says the arrest seems to “reek of selective prosecution.” Serra is free on a $5,000 bond, the conditions of which include “no contact with victims or their immediate family members.” The fresh allegations stem from an encounter at a local store with one of the women considered a victim or witness in Serra’s earlier case. According to the affidavit: The woman was shopping in the store and noticed Serra enter. She hid behind a clothes rack, pretending to shop and hoping to slip out of the store after he passed, but Serra came toward the rack. She “told Agent (Brooks) Bennett that she was trying to decide what to do, but began shaking from fear, and seemed ‘stuck’ in place,” wrote Colorado Bureau of Investigation Agent in Charge Collin Reese. “She stated that she ‘hunched over’ behind a clothes rack, hoping Serra wouldn’t see her. When she looked over the top of the rack, Serra was standing at the same rack staring at her.” The affidavit alleges Serra pretended to look at clothing but “never took his eyes SEE SERRA, PAGE A2

A place for you on Christmas Day BY KATI O’HARE DAILY PRESS WRITER

MONTROSE — Whether you’re homeless, by yourself or just don’t want to cook — a community Christmas Day dinner welcomes you. The United Methodist Church at South First Street and Park Avenue is opening its doors to make sure everyone enjoys a good meal on Christmas Day. The church has teamed with the Weekend Blessings program, which provides people two meals for the weekend when Christ’s Kitchen is closed. But this weekend, one of those meals will be a feast with all the trimmings. “I’m preparing for 250, and I’m praying that we’ll have SEE DINNER, PAGE A2

KATI O'HARE / DAILY PRESS

Cedar Creek Church members Megan Motley, left, and Anna Thompson pack sack lunches at the United Methodist Church Thursday morning for the Weekend Blessing program — and for a dinner being served on Christmas Day.

INSIDE TODAY Published for the Uncompahgre Valley and Jim Mikula of Montrose

LOCAL . . . . . . . . . . .A2-3 STATE . . . . . . . . . . . .A3-4 OPINION . . . . . . . . . . .A5 NATION . . . . . . . . . . .A6-7 SPORTS . . . . . . . . . . . .A8 OUTDOORS . . . . . . . . . .A9

COMICS . . . . . . . . . . .A10 WEATHER . . . . . . . . . .A11 OBITUARIES . . . . . . . .A11 WORLD . . . . . . . . . . .A12 CLASSIFIEDS . . . . . .B1-4

Sports: More from the Warrior Classic Page A8

City Council raises some fees BY KATI O’HARE DAILY PRESS WRITER

MONTROSE — The Montrose City Council has increased some fees and will revisit others that haven’t been raised in 10 years. The council passed three resolutions Dec. 16 that amended city policies by adding language and increasing fees for parks, cemeteries, special waste collection and animal control. “City fees are created to direct costs to those responsible,” said city spokesman David Spear. Changes include: Parks: • The city has added a festival permit and fee. This permit mirrors area permits in nearby cities, such as Telluride, Spear said. The $100 park permit remains, but new fees apply for events that charge admission. For events

TODAY’S WEATHER It will be sunny with areas of fog in the morning. High 45, Low 20 See details, Page A11

that draw fewer than 1,000 people, 50 cents is charged per day per ticket; events with 1,000 to 2,999 people will be charged $1 per day per ticket; and a $2.50 charge is set for events with more than 3,000 people. • A Main Street closure permit and fee have been added now that the city owns Main Street between Townsend and San Juan avenues. A Main Street closure costs the city about $800, for extra police and public work employees. “We felt like passing along $500 of that cost was equitable and reasonable,” said Acting City Manager Scott Sellers. The new closure permit doesn’t apply for parades, which fall under another process and fee. The Main Street Closure permit allows SEE FEES, PAGE A2

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A2

LOCAL

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 24, 2010

MONTROSE DAILY PRESS

SERRA: Attorney questions DINNER: Church offers free dinner, new allegations against Serra joins Weekend Blessings program FROM PAGE 1

FROM PAGE 1 off” the woman, and then, she said, Serra “got that same cocky grin he always has on his face.” He continued to stare at her for “what seemed like forever,” the woman told the CBI. She estimated the actual glance lasted about 15 seconds, and then Serra left. Store surveillance footage confirms that Serra and the woman were in the store at the same time, but it does not show an encounter by the clothes rack. The allegations have Serra’s attorney scratching his head. “My client’s Christmas shopping and walked into the same store where someone was, didn’t say anything or do anything,” M. Colin Bresee said Thursday. Bresee hadn’t seen the affidavit but commented after being apprised of its contents. “I wonder how many other people are going to be arrested Christmas shopping in Montrose this year. If this doesn’t reek of selective prosecution ... I’d like to say I’m disappointed, but I’m not surprised. I just hope Myrl doesn’t have to pump gas where somebody would drive by,” he said. “I guess I’m stunned he was arrested for not saying

‘I wonder how many other people are going to be arrested Christmas shopping in Montrose this year. If this doesn’t reek of selective prosecution ... I’d like to say I’m disappointed, but I’m not surprised. I just hope Myrl doesn’t have to pump gas where somebody would drive by’ M. Colin Bresee Serra’s attorney ▲ or doing anything, but based on someone’s perception.” The CBI’s David Linnertz said, “I think the case needs to be heard by the court and determined by the court. The judge believed there was probable cause a crime had been committed, or he wouldn’t have issued a warrant.” Linnertz, assistant director of the CBI’s Grand Junction field office, said any protection order issued is serious business. “The court is serious about protecting victims, and so is law enforcement. I think protection orders have to be taken seriously.” He reiterated that the outcome of Serra’s new case is up to the courts. Serra has not been formally charged in the

Wednesday allegations. In November, he was formally charged with felony unlawful sexual contact, felony criminal extortion, misdemeanor unlawful sexual contact, three misdemeanor counts of indecent exposure, and official misconduct, also a misdemeanor. Bresee has said Serra “vehemently denies” those allegations. Serra returns to court on both cases at 9 a.m. Feb. 11. In addition to prohibiting contact with victims or witnesses, the restraining order issued in the sex case bars Serra from all 7th Judicial District offices and courtrooms, except for his own hearings. The DA’s Office was placed under the oversight of the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. Local attorney Dan Hotsenpiller since has been appointed to assume Serra’s duties effective Jan. 10.

enough food,” said event coordinator Lynn Weaver. Since announcing the dinner, Weaver has had a wave of support. Charitable and church organizations have donated food, and their members are donating time. Dinner will be served at 1 p.m., with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and all the trimmings — plus a prayer by the Rev. Mark Marston. There will be Christmas songs, and the Orchard Valley Christian Fellowship is putting on a short children’s program with music and a puppet show about 2:30 p.m. Wayne Oldham of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church has put together a

children’s Christmas bags event. He’s collected boxes of children’s items — everything from gloves to toys — from which children who attend can fill their bag. Afterward, the Methodist Church’s Saturday afternoon worship group will have a short service. “It’s mostly praise music with a short message,” said music coordinator Joe Clark. “It’s a casual service where we get together to worship and have a good time.” People who need a Sunday meal can pick up a bag lunch from Weekend Blessings during the Christmas dinner. To comment on this story, visit our website at www.montrosepress.com.

FEES: Council revisits land-use fee Jan. 4 FROM PAGE 1 closure of up to three blocks for up to four hours. A $50 fee is charged for each extra hour, for a maximum of 10 hours, plus $100 per additional block. There is also a $100 deposit. Animal Control Fees: • Owners will pay $8, up from $6, for a dog, and $4, up from $3, per cat, if that animal was vaccinated while impounded but picked up the first day. The current $20 boarding fee plus $5-per-day fee still applies for all pets reclaimed after the first day. The council will revisit the pet relinquishment fee, as a representative from the animal shelter was not at the Dec. 16 meeting. “My personal concern

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is that I believe irresponsible pet owners that don’t have their animals spayed or neutered, increasing fees for them to relinquish their pet, they are going to start dumping them on the side of the road,” Mayor Kathy Ellis said. The city staff was considering raising relinquishment fees from the current $20 per cat and $35 per dog to $50 and $75, respectively. The increase was to help pay for spaying and neutering relinquished animals. Cemetery Fees: • Confusing language in the cemetery fee policy was changed, Sellers said. The city will continue to provide veterans with a free plot (normally $400), and opening and closing fees also do not apply to veterans. Special Waste Collection: • The city has set minimum fees for non-scheduled special waste collections. New wording adds that time, equipment and landfill fees may be added to the minimum fees if they’re accrued. • The city has added fees for special trash containers: $45 for a 350-gallon container and $15 for

a 90-gallon container. Costs include delivery and one emptying, with additional fees for additional emptying. Fee schedules can be found in Section 3-1-1 of the city’s Regulations Manual. The council will revisit land-use fees during its first Tuesday meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 4. “We have not adjusted any of those fees for 10 years,” Ellis said. “The problem being is if this is the right time. ... If the rates need to go up, we may need to do it at a more reasonable pace.” The council asked staff for more information on land-use fee increases, including comparisons with fees in surrounding areas and a method to implement fees that wouldn’t affect growth. To view the city staff ’s proposed increases for land-use fees, visit www.cityofmontrose.com , click on archive and view the council’s Dec. 16 regular meeting packet, pages 57-58. Other fee changes also can be reviewed there. To comment on this story, visit our website at www.montrosepress.com.

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Serra steps down as District Attorney Possible impeachment didn’t sway prosecutor, attorney says BY KATHARHYNN HEIDELBERG DAILY PRESS SENIOR WRITER

MONTROSE — Embattled District Attorney Myrl Serra resigned his post to save taxpayers’ extra expenses, his attorney said Wednesday. “Although many residents have encouraged me to remain in my position, I have made this decision in that the quick resolution to the underlying issues I had hoped for has not occurred,” Serra wrote in his resignation letter to Governor-elect John Hickenlooper Tuesday. “This decision is also made out of concern for the citizens of the six counties of which the 7th (Judicial) District is comprised,” the letter stated.

Serra was charged last year with unlawful sexual contact, indecent exposure, criminal extortion and official misconduct. He was accused in December of harassing one of the alleged victims at a local store, thereby violating a restraining order in the case. Formal charges haven’t yet been filed in that matter. Taxpayers in the six-county judicial district continue to pay Serra’s salary, though he is barred from his offices and thus unable to perform his duties. They will also be paying the salary of Dan Hotsenpiller, who was appointed to fill in for Serra while the sex case filed against the DA proceeds. “This is wholly impractical, based on

the budgetary constraints of the six counties and the economic times in which we find ourselves,” Serra’s resignation letter states. This concern, and not the possibility of impeachment recently pondered by Myrl Serra RepresentativeElect Don Coram, triggered the move, defense attorney Colin Bresee said. He said Serra had been trying for some time to arrange an unpaid leave of absence while his criminal case is pending, but has yet to receive an answer as to whether it is possible for an elected

official to do so. Further, he said, impeachment proceedings would have benefitted Serra. “They would’ve had to put on witnesses, and testify. It would have been in his best interests to have all these people come out and testify in public as to their statements,” Bresee told the Daily Press. “From a legal perspective, it would’ve been helpful to have the chance to present evidence and call witnesses.” The allegations against Serra include complaints that he behaved inappropriately with at least three women working in his offices in the 7th Judicial District. One of the women told investigators Serra had forced her to gratify him sexually with her hand on several occaSEE SERRA, PAGE A2

Mill moves forward

Battling back on the mat

State grants radioactive materials license to Energy Fuels BY KATHARHYNN HEIDELBERG DAILY PRESS SENIOR WRITER

included the 2008 deaths of Truett Simoens, 17 months, and his grandfather, Julian “Russ” Beamer. Beamer’s wife, Phyllis, barely survived. Truett’s mother, Heather, began an awareness campaign that included raising money to buy CO detectors for day care centers and others. Canfield said Wednesday that no matter where people live, they need to take precautions. Furnaces can become fouled, and then not burn properly, increasing the risk for CO buildup. He recommends regular furnace checks. “Closed spaces have got to be ventilated, and the equipment has got to be working properly,” Canfield said. “Get a detector. Have equipment checked.” And be aware. “Most people aren’t going to put detectors in their camp trailers, but using a brasier (charcoal cooker/fire pit) in a closed space will kill a fellow,” he said. Carbon monoxide kills about

MONTROSE — The U.S. is one step closer to having a new conventional uranium mill for the first time in 25 years — and, if everything goes according to plan, it will be in the West End of Montrose County. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Wednesday approved Energy Fuels’ radioactive materials license, clearing one hurdle for the construction of the proposed Piñon Ridge uranium mill near Paradox. The mill, when built, is to handle up to 500 tons of uranium and vanadium per day. “We’re obviously pleased to have the approval in hand and feel the process has been beneficial,” said Stephen Antony, CEO and president of the Canada-based company. “We’re looking forward to advancing our project through the financing phase.” Energy Fuels began efforts to build the uranium- and vanadium-processing mill more than a year ago. In 2009, Montrose County commissioners approved a specialuse permit that allows the mill to be sited in an area zoned for general agriculture. Energy Fuels also had to follow a public process in order to obtain the necessary radioactive materials permit from the state, which comes with several conditions attached (see sidebar). The company is still reviewing the conditions and the decision documents, Antony said. Energy Fuels has 60 days to review the documents and to decide whether to appeal any of the conditions. Pending how the state responds to any opposition, a final license decision will be issued, allowing the company to proceed with financing arrangements. Antony anticipates moving forward some time this fall. “I think it’s a giant step for clean air and economic development in Montrose County,” Montrose County Commissioner Ron Henderson told the Daily Press. “No other way to look at it. We’re making history.” While many West End residents expressed support for the mill, citing the need for jobs and economic growth, others from the West End and the region raised concerns about possible health and environmental risks. Telluride-based Sheep Mountain Alliance fought the mill, even commissioning reports that contended its economic impact could be “modest.” A report by Power Consulting concluded the mill would create only 116 jobs — far fewer than the 600 predicted by a Montrose County study — according to the Telluride Daily Planet. “Our initial reaction is one of great disappointment,” said the SMA’s Hilary White, of the Wednesday licensing decision. “We feel the state did not consider hundreds of pages of scientific and technical expert analyses, expressing concerns of potential impacts from this proposal.” The SMA is not confident the environment and the public’s health will be adequately protected. “Our biggest concerns continue to be the pollution of our clean air and our clean water,” White said. “Another significant concern is potential negative impacts to the regional economy.” White said “the facts disagree” with those who tout the mill as an economic boon. “I think solid analysis proves them wrong,” she said. But the alliance is not at all opposed to more job creation, she said. “We absolutely understand that, and hope to do what we can in the future to create clean jobs, safe jobs, and healthy jobs for people all along the watershed. This (mill) is doing just the

SEE DANGER, PAGE A2

SEE MILL, PAGE A2

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Montrose High senior wrestler Lyle Wright looks to take down his opponent during a match earlier this season. Wright sat out the past two wrestling seasons because of injury. See the full story in sports.

Delta man’s death reminder of carbon monoxide’s dangers BY KATHARHYNN HEIDELBERG DAILY PRESS SENIOR WRITER

DELTA — The New Year’s Day death of a Delta man underscores a tragic fact: Carbon monoxide kills. The odorless, colorless gas killed Jack Herrera and sickened three others as they slept in a camp trailer an RV park on Colorado 92. A neighbor found Herrera unresponsive, and three others in distress, Daily Press news partner KKCO 11 News reported. The neighbor was unable to rouse Herrera, 50, who according to the Delta County coroner, died of acute carbon monoxide poisoning. At least two of the other three people have since been released from the hospital, and at last report, the other surviving victim was also expected to be released. The Delta Police have not yet determined the circumstances leading to the poisonings, but Herrera’s death was deemed an accident — one that can be prevented. “We see deaths every year, usu-

ally in the fall and early winter, often in hunting camps, in hunting trailers. We see them in homes,” said Dr. Thomas Canfield, Montrose County Coroner and a retired forensic pathologist. “It’s a recurrent theme, unfortunately. We see it every fall and winter.” Canfield was among those who supported a 2009 law, which requires homes and apartments offered for sale or transfer to have carbon monoxide detectors. The “Lofgren and Johnson Families Carbon Monoxide Safety Act” is named for the Lofgrens, a family of four who died at an Aspen vacation home in 2008, and for Denver University student Lauren Johnson. Johnson died of CO poisoning in her apartment, which did not have a detector. A criminal case filed against the Aspen building inspector and a heating company contractor in the Lofgren deaths is pending, according to the Associated Press. Canfield pushed for the law because of local tragedies, which

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SERRA: Sex-crimes suspect says he wants to save tax money sions, and that she feared losing her job

FROM PAGE 1

if she didn’t do what he said. Serra denies all allegations against him. Coram confirmed he had planned to seek Serra’s impeachment. He also hailed the resignation of his fellow Republican. “It was obvious with the charges pending that he was barred from being in office and couldn’t do the job. It’s just costly, and something that had to be addressed,” he said Wednesday. “I’m just pleased that it (resignation) happened. It saved us a lot of time, and more important, I think it is the right thing to do,” Coram said. “Granted, he is innocent until proven guilty, as an elected official, you also have a responsibility to your constituents that he was unable to meet. I’m glad he made that choice.” Either outgoing Gov. Bill Ritter or incoming Gov.

Hickenlooper must formally accept Serra’s resignation. Bresee says he anticipates formal acceptance, though that’s up to the governor, and he hasn’t been in contact with either man. Serra’s resignation letter also takes aim at the process that will put Hotsenpiller in his job come Monday. When Serra was arrested, the governor’s office appointed the Colorado Attorney General to oversee the 7th Judicial District’s DA’s office. But Hotsenpiller was appointed by order of 7th Judicial District Chief Judge J. Steven Patrick, who found that Serra wasn’t able to perform his duties. “Many have expressed concerns, on a separation of powers basis, that Judge Patrick’s administrative order is incompatible with state law — a judicial officer selecting an executive branch officer,” Serra’s letter says. He also referred to possible lawsuits that would challenge Patrick’s order, and said the process the

judge used excluded all deputy prosecutors in Serra’s office. Bresee said he did not have information concerning such lawsuits, but added that Serra does not want to see the district riven by litigation. “This is not what I want for the residents of this district,” Serra says in the letter. “By resigning now, I am clearing the way for you (governor) as the chief executive officer of the state of Colorado, the proper statutory authority, to select the DA for the 7th ... until the next general election of 2012.” Serra is due in court Feb. 11 for preliminary hearing on his sex case. “He trusts that the citizens of the 7th Judicial District will not prejudge him in this matter, and they will afford him the presumption of innocence that all citizens are due,” Bresee said in a news release. “Mr. Serra looks forward to his day in court.”

DANGER: Jan. 1 not first MILL: Opponents question promised economic boon, safety factors Uranium mill’s license conditions: time deadly gas has claimed Western Slope resident FROM PAGE 1

FROM PAGE 1 500 people each year, and sends 15,000 more to the emergency room, according to statistics previously published by Canfield and Montrose County Health and Human Services. Initial symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness. In contrast to flu symptoms, there is no fever. “A lot of people ignore them,” said Delta Police spokeswoman Jamie Head, of CO poisoning’s first signs — a potentially deadly mistake. “Step outside into fresh air for about 15 minutes. If you’re feeling better, it’s probably time to call in professional to make sure there’s no carbon monoxide. It doesn’t matter if it’s a brand-new home, or an old camp trailer.” Anyone who suspects CO poisoning should move immediately to fresh air, and seek medical attention. Continued exposure causes confusion, vomiting, loss of muscular coordination, unconsciousness, and death, Canfield and MCHHS said. “A lot of people succumb because they think they need to get some sleep,” Head said. “They go to bed. They don’t wake up.” Camp trailers pose their own risks, she said. “These structures are not designed as a permanent home. The heaters in them don’t work particularly well. Make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector in your home. It might cost you $14, but it will save you in the end.” Canfield and the MCHHS’ tips include: Don’t use generators, grills, camp stoves or other such devices inside homes, basements, garages, or near windows. Don’t start up a vehicle inside a garage attached to the home, even if the garage door is left open. Don’t burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn’t vented, and don’t heat a home with a gas oven.

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opposite.” Antony pointed to the state’s words as proof his company will extract energy while protecting people’s health and the environment. “Energy Fuels has demonstrated that it can build and operate the mill in a manner that is protective of both human health and the environment,” said Steve Tarlton, state radiation program manager, in a news release. “Our comprehensive review considered short- and long-term impacts of the proposed mill, including radiological and non-radiological impacts to water, air and wildlife, as well as economic, social and transportation-related impacts.” There were eight public meetings in Montrose and San Miguel counties, and Energy Fuels had to answer more than 400 technical questions during the application process. Montrose County commissioners, further, submitted comments on an environmental report, and the CDPHE considered hundreds of comments from residents and stakeholders before developing its 400-plus page licensing decision. “I think that provides their opinion of our application, which I think is in contrast to the opposition, which believes it can’t be done,” Antony said. “The system allows opponents to voice their opinion” on the final license decision. “If that occurs, it has to wind its way through a judicial process. You won’t see the economic benefits until such time as you break ground, employ people, and buy materials and supplies locally and so forth,” he said. Energy Fuels will is soliciting financial partners, and could also go to the open market to raise the funds for bank financing. The company is

The state’s decision to issue a radioactive materials license to Energy Fuels confirms the company has satisfied requirements concerning public health, assesses the way waterways and groundwater may be affected, considers alternatives to the milling activities that will be conducted, and considers the long-term effects of the licensed activities. But before construction on the mill can begin, Energy Fuels must obtain all necessary permits and authorizations from all applicable local, state and federal agencies and obtain CDPHE approval of final design and construction plans (including plans for quality assurance and quality control). Before the mill can receive radioactive material, radiation and worker protection procedures and equipment must be in place, as well as trained personnel; the company must conduct at least two emergency response exercises involving two different incident scenarios, involving off-site response agencies in one or both of the drills, and environmental monitoring procedures must be in place. Routine operations require worker training and monitoring, environmental monitoring, site security, documentation and reporting, facility maintenance, material control, and emergency or spill response. Energy Fuels must remain in compliance with financial assurance requirements, including an approved financial warranty for decommissioning for $11,070,890, and a long-term care fund in the amount of $827,590 deposited in the state treasury. Throughout the term of the license, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment may impose additional requirements and conditions regarding the receipt, possession, use and transfer of radioactive material to minimize risks to public health and safety or property, and to prevent loss or theft of material. The department’s Decision Analysis and Environmental Impact Analysis, which includes a copy of the license, is available online at: http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/hm/rad/rml/energyfuels/index.htm. For more information about the license, please see the attached Energy Fuels Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill Radioactive Materials License Approval Fact Sheet. Source: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

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Drive-by defendant enters plea STAFF REPORT

MONTROSE — A driveby shooting that saw three men charged with attempted murder has been settled with the remaining defendant’s plea to far less serious charges. Oscar Rodriguez, who allegedly opened fire on the Blazer containing two young men in September, pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree assault as a class-5 felony, court

records show. Rodriguez, 20, was initially charged with attempted first-degree murder showing extreme indifference, and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. Co-defendant Saul Madrid, 19, was charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, but pleaded guilty to felony menacing and reckless endangerment. All charges against former defendant Angel Mahedas were dismissed. No one was injured in

the shooting, but it placed the Blazer’s occupants — a 17-year-old boy, and a 20year-old man — in fear for their lives, their families said. The young man obtained a permanent civil restraining order against Rodriguez, Madrid and Mahedas. Rodriguez’s sentencing is set for Monday. Madrid is to be sentenced Feb. 28.

Man enters plea in sex case STAFF REPORT

MONTROSE — Donald

Vialpando pleaded guilty Monday to attempted sexual assault on a child, court records show. Vialpando, 32, was formerly charged with sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust, and with sexual assault on a child for allegedly groping a 14-year-old girl. The girl’s teenage boyfriend heard her screaming, raced into the home, and pulled Vialpando off her, the police said. Sentencing is at 2:30 p.m. March 7.

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need to capitalize on our own resources.” Colorado is an agreement state with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and that gives the CDPHE authority to regulate uranium milling. “We have to comply with the whole gamut,” said Antony. Henderson said the state’s vetting process was thorough, and that there have been great advancements in technology and the milling process. “The process is going to be a good one. It will be good for the county, for Western Colorado, and the United States of America.”

in talks with candidates, Antony said. Nothing is secured at this time, but, he said, the process has only just begun. Backers wouldn’t be interested in financing a mill before it is approved. “It’s the chicken-and-the-egg deal. You can’t build until you get approval. It’s the way the mining industry works, and any other industry,” Antony said. “We have devoted considerable time and effort to make this happen. The future is the future, and we’ll see what it brings. I think the industry is ready for new production. We

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A rush of adrenaline

Police: Paonia woman murdered BY KATHARHYNN HEIDELBERG DAILY PRESS SENIOR WRITER

PAONIA — One Paonia resident is dead, and another is being held in her death Friday afternoon. A Paonia Police officer responding to a trespass complaint at a Delta Avenue address was notified of a possible homicide victim inside, said Mayor Neal Schwieterman, acting public information officer for the Paonia Police Department. The officer then found a woman dead inside the home. Her name wasn’t released Friday, pending notification of her next of kin. Investigators are still determining her cause of death, Schwieterman said Friday. “We don’t know the cause of death yet. We know we have a crime; we don’t know how (the manner). We do have a suspect,” he said. The suspect, Nathan Yager, 39, turned himself in to the Montrose Police a few hours after the murder was discovered, and is being held in the Delta County Jail, where invesSEE MURDER, PAGE A2

Judge cancels DA appointment Serra’s resignation lands ball in governor’s court BY KATHARHYNN HEIDELBERG DAILY PRESS SENIOR WRITER

JOEL BLOCKER / DAILY PRESS

Sam Elias of Boulder works his way up one of the many climbing routes in the Ouray Ice Park on the eve of the annual Ouray Ice Festival competition climb Friday afternoon. The 2011 Ouray Ice Festival Competition begins at 9 a.m. and continues through 3 p.m. today.

MONTROSE — Since outgoing District Attorney Myrl Serra’s arrest on sex charges, upheaval in his office’s organization has been something of a constant. The latest: the cancelation Friday of a District Court order appointing local attorney Dan Hotsenpiller to discharge Serra’s duties. Hotsenpiller’s appointment was made when Serra was still the elected DA. When Serra resigned Jan. 4, it created a vacancy that the constitution requires the governor to fill. The shakeup began with Serra’s Sept. 30, 2010 arrest on suspicion of unlawful

sexual contact and other offenses. (He’s free on bond.) The Colorado Attorney General was appointed to oversee the office, and all prosecutors there were sworn in as special attorneys general to effect such oversight. In December, because Serra was barred from his offices and thus could not perform his duties, District Judge Steven Patrick appointed Hotsenpiller to take them over. Hotsenpiller was to begin Tuesday — but Serra’s resignation put the kibosh on that. Patrick issued an order Friday, vacating the appointment. “Because of Myrl’s resignation, the appointment would have become ineffective or null at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, anyway, because the resignation creates a vacancy, which creates the efSEE JUDGE, PAGE A2

Community Foundation gives out much needed grants BY KATI O’HARE DAILY PRESS WRITER

MONTROSE — The Montrose Community Foundation gave several local organizations a financial boost — more than $12,000 total — to start off the new year. And in an economy where money is tight, the organizations are putting it to good use. Hilltop’s Runaway and Homeless Youth Program, which launched in July 2009 and is a first-time foundation recipient, got $1,000. “Part of the program requires that we have a youth leadership team — it gives teens a voice,” said Program Coordinator Katie Donahue. The program works with youth ages 12 to 21, as well as their families, who are homeless or at risk of being homeless, and this includes “couch

surfers.” The team is comprised of local youth who meet once a month. They attend state meetings and talk with local government to tackle local issues such as transportation and community awareness. “A big part of the grant is to help us continue to support that team,” Donahue said. The Center for Mental Health, also a new grant recipient, is combining its $1,100 from the foundation with an undisclosed amount from the Colorado Garden Show Foundation in Denver to build a greenhouse at Johnson Elementary School. The greenhouse will facilitate a horticultural therapy program, said Janey Sorensen, with the mental health center. She said she expects the greenhouse to be in place by early summer, so when school starts in the fall, “kids will have a wonderful

INSIDE TODAY Published for the Uncompahgre Valley and Lane Schmidt of Olathe

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way to experience therapy that is natural in a way.” The community foundation’s contribution came from proceeds of its June golf tournament at Cornerstone, said Melanie Hall, foundation executive director. The $1,000 the foundation gave Voices for Children (CASA) is invaluable, said Executive Director Karen Tuttle. CASA is using the money to send staff to the national CASA conference in Chicago this spring. The national conference brings CASA volunteers, and their programs, from all over the United States together to discuss what works and what doesn’t. And it provides training that is brought back to volun-

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JUDGE: New appointment could take time FROM PAGE 1 fect that the constitutional provision for (DA) appointment goes in,” said District Court Administrator Edward “Jim” Clayton Friday. Hotsenpiller couldn’t be reached for comment Friday. Also Friday, outgoing Gov. Bill Ritter issued an order reinstating the state Attorney General’s oversight until incoming Gov. John Hickenlooper appoints a new DA. The appointee will hold the office until the 2012 elections, at which time he or she has the option of standing for election to a full term. “While Gov. Hickenlooper will fill the vacancy in the office pursuant to ... the Colorado Constitution and ... Colorado Revised Statutes, doing so will take some time,” Ritter wrote in his order reinstating the AG’s oversight. “Moreover, because of the resignation, Judge

Patrick vacated his Dec. 16 order earlier today (Friday.) Based on these circumstances, it is necessary that I take action to assure the continued functioning of the office of District Attorney in the 7th Judicial District until such time as Gov. Hickenlooper fills the vacancy.” The executive order appointing the AG’s office to investigate and prosecute Serra was never rescinded and remains in effect. Serra is charged with felony unlawful sexual contact for allegedly foisting himself on a woman in his office and forcing her to gratify him sexually. He is also charged with felony criminal extortion, misdemeanor indecent exposure, misdemeanor unlawful sexual contact, and official misconduct for his alleged behavior with two other women working in his offices. In December, he was accused of harassing one of the alleged victims, and of violating a restraining or-

MURDER: Victim's Id pending tigators were interviewing him Friday night. Schwieterman said Yager did not live at the Delta Avenue residence, and is suspected of trespassing there. He said he could not say whether Yager knew the victim, but did say Yager and his wife were in the process of getting a divorce. “We’re not aware of any restraining orders,” Schwieterman said. Details remained sketchy Friday night. “There was obviously

some kind of confrontation for the homicide, but we don’t know what at this time,” Schwieterman said. The Paonia Police turned to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, and officers from Hotchkiss and the Delta County Sheriff ’s Office for assistance. They even used the town’s firefighters to help establish a crime-scene perimeter, said Schwieterman. The Montrose Police do not know why Yager came to them, said Chief Tom Chinn. Yager phoned them at

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about 2:30 p.m. to say he would turn himself in on his way back from Ridgway. Yager arrived by 3 p.m., and was calm and quiet as he turned himself over to authorities, Chinn said. “He wanted to turn himself in to us, and he did,” the chief said. Prosecutors have barred the Paonia Police from releasing Yager’s booking photo. A court date and bond hadn’t been set Friday. Schwieterman says the woman’s death is Paonia’s first homicide since 1993.

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der in the case; formal charges have not been filed. Serra denies all allegations. Representative-elect Don Coram of Montrose had planned to seek Serra’s impeachment, but the DA’s resignation rendered impeachment talks irrelevant. Serra said he’s stepping down to spare taxpayers the expense of his salary, on top of Hotsenpiller’s. Serra’s resignation letter questioned Patrick’s authority to appoint an interim DA, but Ritter’s Friday order cites the statutes the judge applied, both in making the appointment, and in rescinding it. Serra’s letter also refers to possible litigation, presumably from attorneys in his former office who were passed over when Patrick appointed Hotsenpiller. “There are no lawsuits that I know of,” Clayton said. “There have been no inquiries that I know of. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t going to be. But we have no actions pending, in any of our courts.”

A ROUND THE VALLEY ▲ Newcomers & Neighbors social MONTROSE — Newcomers & Neighbors will host a soup/game night at 6 p.m. Jan. 19, at the DMEA building, 11925 63.00 Road. Contact Kathy at 649-3735 by Jan. 17 for details and to sign up.

Archaeological society to meet MONTROSE — The Chipeta Chapter of the Colorado Archaeological Society will meet at 7 p.m. Jan. 19, at the Montrose United Methodist Church. Speaker is former Montrose-based archaeologist, John Cater, discussing the topic, “Patterns of Anasazi Violence. “ The program is free and open to the public.

Women’s Bible study MONTROSE — Women of the Word (WOW) will begin a Beth Moore video Bible study, “Believing God,” at 9 a.m. Jan. 19, at the Montrose Christian Church. Workbooks are $15. All ladies of the community are welcome. Sign up at 249-5432.

Poetry letter seeks submissions MONTROSE — The Montrose Regional Library invites submissions of work by local poets for “Geodes,” a poetry letter. Submissions should be typed, one poem per page and directed to Meg Nagel at the library, or sent to mnagel@montroselibrary.org. Deadline is Jan. 19. The poetry letter will be released at an Open Mic on Feb. 2. Call Meg at the library (964-2548) for more information.

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MONTROSE — An avalanche safety class, presented by Colorado State Parks, will be held at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 21, at Planet Motorsports in Montrose. Field session starts at 9 a.m. Jan. 22; location to be announced. This awareness level class is designed to educate riders and the public to basic avalanche safety, route find-

ing and companion rescue. Class size is limited; call Reid or Kevin at 249-8867 to reserve a spot.

MAPA presentation MONTROSE — The Montrose Animal Protection Agency is presenting the first in a series of programs to help pet owners care for their animals. “Pick a Pet: Tips for Choosing a New Family Member” will be held from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Jan. 22, at the Montrose Animal Shelter. Programs are free and open to the public. Donations to the MAPA Spay/Neuter Program are welcome. For questions, call Jan, 252-1690.

Friends of Ute Museum seeking board members MONTROSE — The Friends of the Ute Indian Museum (FUIM) will hold its annual meeting and potluck from 4 to 7 p.m. Jan. 22, at the museum. The public is invited to attend and should bring a side dish to share. Anyone interested in finding out more about FUIM, or those interested in serving on the board, should contact Pennie at (970) 234-6117 or (970) 399-7215.

Methodist youth fundraiser MONTROSE — The United Methodist Youth are holding a pancake breakfast fundraiser from 8 to 10 a.m. Jan. 22, at Applebee’s in Montrose. Monies raised will go toward sending Methodist youth to national conference in Indiana in July. Tickets are $7 each and can be purchased at the door and also at the Methodist church office.

Library starts Sunday Serenades series MONTROSE — Harpist Elise Helmke is the featured performer for the first concert of the library’s 2011 Sunday Serenades classical music series, sponsored by the Friends of the Library. The free concert is from noon to 12:45 p.m. Jan. 23, inside the library before the library opens. Call Meg at the library for more information, 9642548.

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MONTROSEPRESS.COM SATURDAY

MONTROSE

January 22 2011

VOL 128, NO. 209 75 cents MONTROSE, CO 81401 www.montrosepress.com

Governor appoints new DA

Heart of a champion

Hotsenpiller works to restore public confidence BY KATHARHYNN HEIDELBERG DAILY PRESS SENIOR WRITER

JOEL BLOCKER / DAILY PRESS

Montrose High's Marcus Velasquez (140) gets his hand raised after he pinned his opponent at the 2:29 mark in the second period during the Indians' dual against Fruita Monument Thursday evening. The Indians are participating in the Cañon City Wrestling Tournament today.

Chapman, others, fight to gain access to Telluride Trail, Gold Hill Road BY MATTHEW BEAUDIN EDITOR OF THE TELLURIDE DAILY PLANET

BEAR CREEK — As one side of the Bear Creek debate gathered at the Buck to swap stories and kindle hopes of reopening the area, the other filed a motion in San Miguel County court asking for access up the ski area in order to contemplate mining operations. On Friday, the Gold Hill Development Company filed a complaint in district court here to gain access up the

front of the ski mountain via Telluride Trail and then to its mining claims in Upper Bear Creek on the lofty Gold Hill Road. Access it says runs with the claims it owns in Upper Bear Creek. The road is largely on federal lands, but Telski takes care of the roads in order to maintain and expand its ski area. GHDC says it has the right to use the roads and, if necessary, make improvements that would facilitate access to Upper Bear Creek. Mining-

claim owner Tom Chapman mentioned winter maintenance, though that seems farfetched: most mining operations don’t operate in the winter months, he said. “First of all, there isn’t much real estate that is useable if you can’t access it,” Chapman said on Friday. “The intended use of the property will be to reopen the mines. Needless to say, you need to be ale to get there to SEE CHAPMAN, PAGE A2

Custom Colorado chopper on display today

COURTESY PHOTO / V-TWIN MAGAZINE

Larry W. Baize Jr., with help from several locals and other Coloradans, built this "Poor Man's Chopper," as he calls it, as a tribute to the average biker and an attempt to create a "custom" without being a custom bike builder. The award-winning motorcycle will be on display from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at Hastings, 2201 S. Townsend Ave., where Baize will sign copies of "V-Twin" magazine featuring his cycle.He credits ASAP Signs and InDesign Signs for all the graphics, and Waco Wilson — former owner of Dirty Cowboy Customs and now co-owner of McCycles — for the paint job and other custom work. Baize bought the bike at Davis Service Center, where the crew exceeded all expectations in accommodating special requirements to build a custom show bike. Plating Specialties of Grand Junction chromed the wheels, while the seat and many other parts were covered by Dan Ballard of Lakewood.

MONTROSE — Dan Hotsenpiller says that when he’s sworn in as the new district attorney next week, one of his jobs will be restoring the public’s confidence. “There’s no question right now that’s an issue, given what’s happened in the last four months,” Hotsenpiller said Friday, just hours after Gov. John Hickenlooper issued an executive order, appointing him DA for the 7th Judicial District. “The only way to do that (restore confidence) is to work hard.” Hotsenpiller takes over an office vacated by Myrl Serra, who was charged last November with felony unlawful sexual contact, criminal extortion, indecent exposure and misdemeanor unlawful sexual contact. Serra, who denies all allegations, is accused of coercing sexual favors from women working in his offices, and he since also has been accused of harassing one of them, though formal charges in that case have not been filed. A restraining order bars Serra from all of the DA’s offices in the judicial district, composed of Montrose, Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Ouray and San Miguel counties. The Colorado Attorney General’s Office was appointed to oversee the offices after Serra’s September 2010 arrest, and, when it became clear he could not perform his duties, Chief District Judge Steven Patrick appointed Hotsenpiller to do the job in Serra’s stead. But Serra resigned Jan. 4, leaving the position vacant. By law, it fell to the governor to appoint a new DA to serve until the next general election, so Patrick rescinded his order. Three people, including Hotsenpiller, then applied to be the new DA. The Governor’s Office wasn’t able to provide the other applicants’ names Friday. “He’s the best candidate,” said Hickenlooper spokeswoman Megan Castle. “Clearly, there were many qualified candidates, but he is the one the governor felt was best qualified — Dan Hotsenpiller.” Hotsenpiller, a local criminal defense attorney and former assistant district attorney, had the support of law enforcement heads within the 7th Judicial District, several of whom signed a letter urging Hickenlooper to appoint him. “We are happy,” Montrose Police Chief Tom Chinn said Friday. “Dan is qualified. I think Dan’s going to do what’s right. He’s a professional, there’s no doubt about it.” Montrose County Sheriff Rick Dunlap said he, too, is pleased about the appointment. “I believe he is the right person for the job, and he will bring stability to the office. He has, and will have, my support.” Calls made to several of the letter’s other signatories weren’t immediately returned Friday. Hotsenpiller said he was humbled by the top cops’ support and hopes to continue earning their trust and respect. He said he put his name in the hat because: “I was asked. There’s a big job to do, and sometimes, when you get asked to serve the public, I think you have to answer the call. I’m excited to get to work.” In addition to restoring the public’s trust, that work will include handling a heavy caseload, and filling two vacancies in the office. Jerry Montgomery, former assistant district attorney, was sworn in as the Montrose County judge Jan. 11. And a deputy district attorney is leaving at month’s end. On top of that, there’s a potential for conflict: Hotsenpiller cannot handle cases he worked on as a defense attorney, and Montgomery has already had to recuse himself from a murder case he worked when he was ADA. But Hotsenpiller says the overall potential for conflict is slight. “I don’t think it will affect very many cases. I had prepared to begin work in the DA’s office on Jan. 10,” when Patrick’s order would have taken effect, had Serra not resigned. “We’ve worked hard to resolve cases appropriately. I don’t think there will be a huge effect on ongoing cases.” SEE DA, PAGE A2

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INSIDE TODAY Published for the Uncompahgre Valley and Agnes Young of Olathe

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CHAPMAN: Gold Hill Development Co. not naming a price, Chapman says FROM PAGE 1 do that.” Chapman set the skiing community in Telluride ablaze last spring when he and others purchased a string of mining claims in Upper Bear Creek, a side-country Mecca for skiers east of the ski hill’s Gold Hill boundary. Then, early this winter, the United States Forest Service now-famously announced it would close access gates that poured skiers and snowboarders into the drainage due to private property concerns that Chapman and others had voiced. Friday’s move comes as a clear affront to Telski, who declined to allow access, Chapman said. Dave Riley, CEO of Telluride Ski and Golf, did not comment on the matter Friday afternoon and Mike Rozycki, San Miguel County’s chief planner, was out of the office. Access to the property is going to be difficult. And that’s in the summer. “It would have to be plowed,” Chapman said. “If you look at our vision for Telluride… we don’t see the mining as being incompatible with skiing. Typically mining is not conducted during the winter months.” He was also aware people were skiing over the

land, but said “I’m not a ski policeman.” GHDC isn’t in current talks to open up the property back up for skiing, either, Chapman said, and has only been contacted by one party on the matter — an independent surveyor. Not Telski, not the USFS, not any group hoping to keep skiing open. “We intend to push this lawsuit to its conclusion,” Chapman said. “There will be various actions here.” GHDC is treating road rights as if they were water claims: “We’re just asking the court to acknowledge the senior patent rights,” Chapman said. “It’s just simply first in time, first in line.” Chapman said he understood Telluriders’ concerns when they heard “mining” and “Bear Creek.” “But we’re not talking the kind of mining most people conjure up when they hear ‘mining,’” he said, relating the imagined smaller operations to what he called “Mom and pop type of mining” “It’s the kind of thing that’s done on a smaller scale,” Chapman said. That, surely, is a long way off as the company would have to conduct feasibility studies — Chapman said GHDC is hoping to get a geologist into Upper Bear Creek soon — and collect a passel of approvals from lo-

cal and federal governments. “We just take it one step at a time. And this is the next step. These steps are occurring as we move down the road,” he said. Chapman has been faulted in the past for leveraging property in spectacular areas — a national park, in one case — against land managers and preservationists and trying to make large sums of money off what amounts to sensational private-property rights demonstrations. Asked if there was any sum of money that he’d sell his holdings for, Chapman said he wasn’t sure how to answer, and that a local real estate agent called him and floated the same idea but didn’t name a price. There is a chance, at least right now, that it’s not about money. The Gold Hill Development Company isn’t going to name a price, he said. “The intent of GHDC is to level the playing field on property rights,” Chapman said. “What is material is being able to open up the road. What is material is being able to preserve your property rights and not have others trespassing. “To me, personally, I don’t really care. It could be worth anything.” What would the owners mine for? “Gold,” Chapman said. What else? This article was printed with permission from the Telluride Daily Planet.

Supporting education

COURTESY PHOTO

Brian Simpson, instructor for Project Lead the Way, and Sheryl Solow (right), assistant superintendent of curriculum for the Montrose County School District, accept an $810 check Thursday from Polly Hohlenkamp, board chairwoman of the Montrose Association of Commerce and Tourism. The project (www.pltw.org) helps students enroll in engineering programs in colleges and universities.

A ROUND THE VALLEY ▲ Community cinema at library MONTROSE — The Montrose Library’s Community Cinema will screen the documentary, “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story,” at 7 p.m. Feb. 8, in the library meeting room. Discussion following the movie will be led by Sue Montgomery, Director of Dolphin House and Karen Tuttle, Director of CASA, Voices for Children. Call Meg at the library (964-2548) for more information.

RIDGWAY — The Ouray County Cattlemen’s Association 58th Annual Banquet and Dance will be held Feb. 12, at the 4-H Events Center in Ridgway. A prime rib dinner will be followed by a dance with music provided by Opal Moon. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at Citizens State Bank, Ridgway Hardware, Murdoch’s and Producer’s Co-op in Montrose.

National security since 9/11

Library book club to meet

MONTROSE — The Great Decisions group will discuss the topic “American National Security Since 9/11” at 7 p.m. Feb. 10, in the Montrose Library meeting room. The group is co-sponsored by the League of Woman Voters and Montrose Regional Library. Call Meg at the library (964-2548) for more information.

MONTROSE — The Montrose Library Book Club will meet at 9 a.m. Feb. 12, to discuss “Let’s Take the Long Way Home,” by Gail Caldwell. The Book Club meets by the fireplace inside the library before it opens. The front door is unlocked, but no automated. Call Meg at the library (9642548) for more information.

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Hotsenpiller hasn’t selected his new ADA yet, saying he wants to talk with everyone in his office. “There are a lot of serious cases pending right now, so we’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said. Hotsenpiller reiterated sentiments he expressed the first time he was appointed: The justice system relies on more than the DA’s office. “There’s a lot of people over there committed to making sure justice works right,” he said. “It’s not just the prosecutors; there are lots of people who try hard to make criminal justice work right. I’m going to try to work with them, and to do the right thing in every case.”

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MONTROSE

February 8 2011

VOL 128, NO. 223 75 cents MONTROSE, CO 81401 www.montrosepress.com

New DA pledges communication

At last: Sister, brother reunite after 60 years

BY KATHARHYNN HEIDELBERG DAILY PRESS SENIOR WRITER

JOEL BLOCKER / DAILY PRESS

Siblings John Breisler, left, and Cherrie Neuendorf have a moment together at Neuendorf's home Saturday morning. They reunited for the first time in six decades at the Montrose Regional Airport Friday evening.

BY KATHARHYNN HEIDELBERG DAILY PRESS SENIOR WRITER

MONTROSE — Cherrie Neuendorf doesn’t remember much about the day in 1951 that the state of Iowa took her little brother away, but she knew, even at the age of 5, that something was not right. “You get that gut feeling,” the Montrose resident said Saturday. “You know.” That knowing pushed her to search for her missing brother. And her persistence paid off: After 60 years, her brother, John Breisler, sat at her kitchen table, smiling. The siblings have a message for anyone facing long odds: Never give up. “You can never give up hope. Some day, it might reach that point (reunion), even if it takes years,” Neuendorf said. “Even if you do give up hope, if you have a sister like mine, it still works out,” Breisler said. “When a person discovers there are others who are very important in your life, and you have that empty hole in your heart ... you need to keep pursuing, looking, and never, never give up hope,” Neuendorf said. “Even if it turns out they don’t want to see you, or, in our case, awesome, it frees up emotions. Never, ever be afraid of that feeling. You can feel anger, you can feel love, you can feel hate. But in the end, love prevails.” Parental alcoholism split apart their home in Iowa all those years ago. Neuendorf ’s maternal uncle adopted her, while an aunt adopted her sister, Susan. But when the aunt tried to also adopt Breisler, the state would not allow it because she already had five boys in her home. He was taken away at the age of

SEE NEW DA, PAGE A3

Ventilation causes carbon monoxide sickness at hockey tourney JOEL BLOCKER / DAILY PRESS

Cherrie Neuendorf holds a picture of her biological parents, Winifred and Archie Kerstetter, while talking with her long-lost brother, John Breisler, at her home on Saturday. The two last saw each other in 1951, when they were both small children. 18 months, and placed in a Lutheran children’s home in Minnesota, where he was adopted by a childless couple when he was 6. Neither sibling enjoyed an ideal childhood. Breisler said his adoptive mother suffered from alcoholism, and that his father was violent and controlling. He spent three years in a boys’ home, then began staying with his father off and on. “I was pretty much on my own from about 13 on,” he said. Breisler hit the road after high school, working for the music industry until he was in his thirties. He’s worked making printer ink for the past 23 years. Neuendorf also found herself in a children’s home because of her family situation. She had no idea

that in another state, her brother was going through a similar situation. “We went through everything the same, but not together,” Neuendorf said. She would go on to work in newspapers and hotel management, with her husband, Rick, a former police chief. The Neuendorfs moved to Montrose several years ago, and now manage Ikie’s Trailer Park. Cherrie also works at City Market, and with the Montrose Meth Coalition. But family was always on her mind. Neuendorf began searching after her adoptive mother died. An aunt came to the funeral home,

Published for the Uncompahgre Valley and Judy Landon

CLASSIFIEDS . . . . . .A8-9 COMICS . . . . . . . . . . .A10 WEATHER . . . . . . . . . .A11 OBITUARIES . . . . . . . .A11 CALENDAR . . . . . . . . .A12

News:

Snow likely today. Mostly cloudy tonight. High 30, Low 5 See details, Page A11

Helping feed the community Page A4

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Soup/Salad Tomato Basil Soup or Baby Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

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GUNNISON(AP) — Firefighters say an ice cleaning machine was the source of the carbon monoxide that sickened 54 people at a youth hockey tournament in Gunnison. Gunnison fire marshal Dennis Spritzer said Monday that the indoor ice rink’s ventilation system failed, causing it to recirculate the polluted air rather than pull in outside air Sunday. Firefighters are trying to determine why the system’s damper failed to open and have contacted the company that made it. Eight of the people who were sickened were hospitalized in serious condition. It wasn’t immediately known how they were doing Monday. Spritzer said the city-owned rink didn’t have carbon monoxide detectors but the devices will be installed before it reopens. He said there haven’t been any previous problems at the rink, which opened three years ago.

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INSIDE TODAY LOCAL . . . . . . . . . . . . .A2 LOCAL . . . . . . . . . . . . .A3 LOCAL . . . . . . . . . . . . .A4 STATE . . . . . . . . . . . . . .A5 SPORTS . . . . . . . . . . . .A6 NATION / WORLD . . . .A7

MONTROSE — Newly appointed District Attorney Dan Hotsenpiller is pledging improvements and greater communication with the public his office serves. He has also selected a new assistant district attorney, Keri Yoder, to be his second-in-command. “She is the senior attorney in our office,” Dan he said Monday. “She Hotsenpiller also shares my values and vision for the office.” Yoder is in charge of prosecutions in San Miguel County and the West End of Montrose County. She began with the District Attorney’s Office in 2002. Yoder replaces Jerry Montogomery, who became the Montrose County Court judge last month. Also last month, Hotsenpiller was appointed district attorney, to fill the vacancy created by Myrl Serra’s resignation. Serra resigned under a cloud Jan. 4, after having been charged with sex crimes last year. His case is to be heard Friday. Serra denies all charges and allegations against him. Hotsenpiller says he hopes to transform the DA’s office into “the best law office in the Western Slope.” “We need to start moving forward in lots of ways,” he said, citing efficiency, technology and what he calls “customer service” — a way of conducting business that appropriately addresses the

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Bennet calls for passage of FAA bill

NEW DA: Yoder named assistant district attorney

STAFF REPORT

FROM PAGE 1 needs of the public, victims, the courts, the probation division, juvenile services, and the defense bar. “We need to more efficiently do our job, and that means better communication with all those people,” Hotsenpiller said. “Our mission is public safety. We can only do that if we’re communicating with others and working with them.” Victims, for instance, need to understand the judicial process, and that means prosecutors have to communicate with them. The DA’s office needs to also work with the courts to improve the judicial process, Hotsenpiller said. He said he wants to reduce the amount of time smaller cases take up, in order to devote more staff time to prosecuting more serious offenses. A good approach is the “first appearance center” that got up and running a few years back. The center fast-tracks traffic infractions and minor cases, and benefits both prosecutors and defendants. Hotsenpiller said it’s a good example of how the DA can work with the courts to keep the judicial process flowing smoothly. Defense attorneys also benefit from communication, he said. “They need information from us to represent their clients. The more efficiently we are able to provide it, cases will get resolved quicker.” Even minor adjustments can help cases proceed at a better pace, for example, switching from faxing documents to emailing them, or at least, getting more than one scanner for the DA’s office. “We serve the public. Those are tax dollars” that fund the judicial system, Hotsenpiller said. “They’re your bucks. They’re my mine, too. Let’s use only a few of them. There are systems we can put in place to make the process work better. “I can’t (snap my fingers), but I’m trying.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet today called for the passage of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization bill. Bennet said in a news release that he wants to protect Colorado consumers, reduce delays and boost local economies around the state by improving service at smaller airports. He cited late arrivals and departures at Montrose Regional Airport, where, he said, 15 per-

cent of all flights departed late and nearly 16 percent arrived late in 2010. “This bill will help make air travel more reliable and ensure that Colorado’s airports, big and small, continue to be economic engines for our state and communities,” Bennet said in the news release. “Whether you are traveling to visit loved ones or for a business meeting, few things are more frustrating than sitting at your gate or on the tarmac while your flight

is delayed. The new FAA bill will help ease stress for travelers by bringing our badly outdated air traffic control system up to date. While security and safety remains a top priority, this bill will allow for more flights, fewer delays and greater opportunity for economic growth.” Bennet says the FAA Reauthorization measure, which has not been substantively examined or rewritten since 2007, will modernize the nation’s air transportation

system and reduce frustrating, costly delays by more than 20 percent— saving consumers time and potentially billions of dollars. In 2007, the total cost of all U.S. air transportation delays was $32.9 billion, including a $16.7 billion cost to passengers, according to the National Center of Excellence for Aviation Operations Research. When flights are delayed, the bill will protect passengers from having to sit on runways

for hours and require airlines to provide passengers with timely, accurate information regarding their flights. The bill also will require airlines to have plans in place for providing passengers with adequate food, water and access to restrooms during delays. Bennet touts the bill as a means of creating and protecting 280,000 jobs across the country by investing in airports and improving infrastructure.

AROUND THE VALLEY ▲ Note: Around the Valley runs as space permits. The Daily Press does not guarantee a specific number of times an item will appear or on what days the item will run.

Alcohol server training class MONTROSE — The City of Montrose will host a state-certified alcohol server training class from 5 to 9 p.m. March 2, in the City Council Chambers of the Elks Civic building located at 107 S. Cascade Avenue. Call 240-1430 for more information.

Dolphin House needs donations for yard sale MONTROSE — The Dolphin House Child Advocacy Center is accepting donated items for its annual yard sale, now through Sept. 29. This year’s sale, which raises money to assist child abuse victims and their non-offending family members, will be held indoors at Camelot Gardens, thanks to the generosity of Sheree Wanner. The sale is Oct. 7 and 8, but donations of likenew items are needed now. Donations of furniture, toys, clothing, bicycles, books, kitchen items, bedding, linen, and miscellaneous items can be dropped off at 735 S. First Street, Monday through Thursday, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

will host a Valentine’s Dance Feb. 12, at the Lions Park Clubhouse. Caller is Larry Schulz of Grand Junction. Dance begins with rounds at 6 p.m., plus at 7 p.m. and mainstream from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Pancake breakfast fundraiser MONTROSE — Life Choices FamilyResource Center will host an AllYou-Can-Eat Pancake Breakfast from 8 to 10:30 a.m. Feb. 12, at Applebee’s Resturant, Montrose. Tickets are $7 and proceeds will benefit “Fashioned for Fun,” a summer girls program for 11 to 18 year olds. Tickets can be purchased from Life Choices or Genesis Christian Market Place. For more information, call 2494302.

San Juan Quilters to meet MONTROSE — San Juan Quilters Guild will meet at 9 a.m. Feb. 12, at the Montrose Sheriff ’s Office. All quilters are welcome. “Quilting 101” will continue for those who are learning quilting or for those who wish to refresh their

skills. For more information, call Sharon at 2404735.

Library book club to meet MONTROSE — The Montrose Library Book Club will meet at 9 a.m. Feb. 12, to discuss “Let’s Take the Long Way Home,” by Gail Caldwell. The Book Club meets by the fireplace inside the library before it opens. The front door is unlocked, but no automated. Call Meg at the library (964-2548) for more information.

Library hosts afternoon of games MONTROSE — The Montrose Library is hosting a Games Day for all ages from 2:30 to 5 p.m. Feb. 12. Call Meg at the library (964-2548) for more information.

Center. For more information, call 249-4402.

Camera club to meet DELTA — The Black Canyon Camera Club will meet at noon Feb. 14, at Heaven’s View com-

munity room, 1445 Porter Ct., Delta. There will be a free camera sensor and mirror cleaning class given by Steve Traudt after a short business meeting. The public is welcome. For more information, call 856-7809.

CORRECTION An editorial in Sunday’s Daily Press reflected two typographical errors. It was in the Opinion asking for community support of the Downtown Development Authority’s public input survey. • Accessing the survey online: http://balancedcommunity.com/montrose-community-survey; Complete the survey by texting the word “Montrose” to (970) 444-2332 (English) or (970) 599-193, (Spanish). • Or, to fill out a hard copy, visit a downtown store, pick up a paper version, fill it out and return. The Daily Press regrets these errors.

Senior center 38th anniversary MONTROSE — The Montrose Senior Citizen Center, which opened Feb. 14, 1973, with a Valentine’s Day open house at Lions Park, will celebrate its 38th anniversary at noon Feb. 14, at the Pavilion Senior

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Former DA bound for trial on sex charge

Community Solar Array ready for buy-ins

Serra accused of crimes against female office workers BY KATHARHYNN HEIDELBERG DAILY PRESS SENIOR WRITER

MONTROSE — Friday, for the first time in months, Myrl Serra sat at a table in a Montrose courtroom. But instead of prosecuting a case, Serra, the former district attorney, and his defense team were there pushing for the dismissal of his felony sex charge — unlawful sexual contact, with use of force. They argued during preliminary hearing that the complaining witness changed her story about what happened in Serra’s office April 16, 2010. They asked whether the woman, Jane Doe 1, had initiated any inappropriate conduct with Serra, her boss at the time. Mesa County District Judge David Bottger found, however, that the evidence presented by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office established sufficient probable cause for the case to proceed. Bottger bound it over for trial, which is to start July 18. In the same case, Serra is charged with misdemeanor unlawful sexual contact, criminal extortion, indecent exposure and official misconduct — charges not eligible for preliminary hearing. Serra is accused of forcing Doe 1 to touch his penis, and of grabbing her wrist so hard that it left marks. The woman testified Friday that she had trouble freeing herself, and that Serra was also touching her breast at the time. Serra is further accused of exposing himself to two other women who worked in his offices in the 7th Ju-

JOEL BLOCKER / DAILY PRESS

Jim Henegan, Delta-Montrose Electric Association renewable energy engineer, stands in front of the Community Solar Array and talks to area residents about the new program during an educational kickoff at DMEA's headquarters in Montrose on Friday. DMEA recently construction two, 10 kilowatt arrays, the one pictured here and another, at DMEA's Read service center in Delta County. BY KATI O’HARE DAILY PRESS WRITER

MONTROSE — Starting Monday, members of the Delta-Montrose Electric Association can reserve a piece of the Community Solar Array. And residents’ interests — if Friday’s event was any

‘We believe that many of our members are interested in more of their power coming from solar energy.’ Dan McClendon, DMEA’s general manger

JOEL BLOCKER / DAILY PRESS

DMEA members, including students from Hotchkiss, listen to DMEA's general manager, Dan McClendon, far left, talk about the Community Solar Array during its kick-off at DMEA's headquarters in Montrose on Friday. People can reserve a portion of the array starting Monday via DMEA's website only, www.dmea.com.

▲ indication — is growing. “It excites me and I want to be a part of it,” said area resident Nancy Ball. The cooperative (DMEA) held an educational kick-off near the newly-constructed

array at DMEA’s headquarters in Montrose on Friday, and the hands of more than 50 people flew upward when asked who was interesting in participating in the “local power partnership.” “We believe that many of

our members are interested in more of their power coming from solar energy,” said Dan McClendon, DMEA’s general manger, in a press release. “Our particular SEE DMEA, PAGE A2

dicial District, coercing sexual favors from one of them, and causing her to be afraid for her job. He was arSerra rested last September on the allegations, which he denies. Serra was re-arrested in December, for allegedly following one of the complaining witnesses around a local store. He was charged formally with violating bond conditions, violating the restraining order, and harassment on Friday in that case, which was set for preliminary hearing at 9 a.m. April 1. Under the questioning of First Attorney General Robert Shapiro, Doe 1 took the court through what allegedly happened to her last April: She said a male friend was coming from out of town on April 16, a Friday, and that she and other women in the office were hopeful they could go home early. She was texting both Serra and her friend that day, and said she sent Serra 63 texts concerning getting off early. Doe 1 said she received 93 responses from Serra. “He would respond (to requests) with what was I going to give him, what was in it for him,” Doe 1 said. “He sent a text and asked me to come back to his office.” She told two other women that she thought “I was in trouble because I pushed it too far,” but she went, and complied with Serra’s order to shut the door and sit down. He again asked what she would give him in exchange for being allowed to leave SEE SERRA, PAGE A3

Tapped out? Smuggler’s doors closed Montrose County GOP elects officers STAFF REPORT

MONTROSE — Friday night, people eager for a bite or a beer pulled up to Smuggler’s Brewpub and Grille. But instead of a friendly host, a sign taped to the door greeted them: Restaurant closed until further notice. Smuggler’s was shut down suddenly Friday, after sheriff ’s deputies served civil papers on the business that reportedly ordered its closure. Patrons who showed up to dine there were turned away, or left the parking lot before getting out of their vehicles. Inside, deputies and police officers were visible as they oversaw the execution of the civil paperwork. Few details were available at the restaurant Friday night. A call made to the number listed on the closure sign rang through to a real estate agency. The person who answered the phone at Smuggler’s in Telluride did not have information, and

said the owner would have to call back at a later time, because the Telluride pub was busy with Friday night traffic. A message left at another number for Smuggler’s was not immediately returned. The Montrose County Treasurer’s online records showed a demand for sale was recorded on Sept. 30, 2010, with the public trustee (treasurer) listed as the grantee. The Montrose County Assessor’s records show $26,000 in taxes due for 2010. A balance for that amount is shown as of Jan. 3, 2011, but the records do not indicate whether the bill has since been paid. The building and its property are valued at $1.4 million, and the assessed value is $430,000, per the assessor’s records. The pub’s closure Friday marks the second time in less than a month that Montrose has lost a restaurant. Belly, on Main Street, shut its doors in late January.

TODAY’S WEATHER

INSIDE TODAY Published for the Uncompahgre Valley and Dan Clader of Montrose

LOCAL . . . . . . . . . . .A2-3 STATE . . . . . . . . . . . . . .A4 NATION . . . . . . . . . . .A5-6 WORLD . . . . . . . . . . . .A7 SPORTS . . . . . . . . . . . .A8 CLASSIFIEDS . . . . .A9-11

COMICS . . . . . . . . . . .A12 WEATHER . . . . . . . . .A13 OBITUARIES . . . . . . .A13 COMMUNITY . . . . . . .A14

STAFF REPORT

MONTROSE – Dave Laursen was re-elected chairman of the Montrose County Republican Party Thursday night, and the slate of officers confirmed for the next two years. No action was taken regarding recent county property tax increases, or the determination of future GOP candidates for public office, Laursen told the Daily Press. Other officers elected include: • Bob Brown, re-elected first vice-chairman. • Brian White, second vice-chair. • Judy DeVincentis, secretary. • Carla Logan, treasurer. • Gerry Witt, strategy and planning committee chair. • Terri Leben, events and fund-raising chair. • Greg Fishering, public relations chair. • Lori Riewaldt, candidate support chair.

News: VA benefits counselor in town Friday Page A3

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SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2011

SERRA: Former DA also charged with harassment FROM PAGE 1 early, but turned down her offers of coffee, doughnuts, and fruit. When Shapiro asked what she thought Serra wanted, Doe 1 replied: “I thought something of a sexual nature. ... I told him I had a boyfriend and I didn’t want to mess it up. He told me, ‘Nobody has to know.’” Serra shut the blinds, she testified. “He unzipped his pants. He reached in. ... I stood up, covered my eyes, and backed against the door.” But Serra continued, getting within inches of her, she said. “He grabbed my hand and told me he wanted me to look at it. I tried to pull (her hand) away,” Doe 1 alleged, saying Serra kept pulling it forward, until she brushed his penis. She was able to extricate herself only with great effort, and the alleged encounter left red marks on her wrist. Two other women in the office noticed she was upset, and asked her what had happened, Doe 1 said. One of them told her to report it, and to talk to another woman who works in the DA’s office, Jane Doe 2. “A couple of us knew things had happened between her (Doe 2) and Myrl in the past,” Doe 1 said, so the women reasoned Doe 2 would know what to do. But she only told Doe 2 an overall account of what had happened, Doe 1 said. It was September, when Colorado Bureau of Investigation Agent Brooks Bennett interviewed her, and she turned over her cell phone as evidence so he could extract the photos she’d taken of her wrist on April 16. Serra’s defense team called Doe 1’s account into question. “The truth is, you and Myrl were talking about having a sexual relationship,” attorney Colin Bresee said. “You got up, and you closed the door.” “Not correct,” Doe 1 said, repeating the same words after Bresee suggested she was planning to have an affair with Serra, and was texting her boyfriend to ask if she could go ahead and do Serra “a favor.” Doe 1 said her cell

JOEL BLOCKER / DAILY FILE PRESS

Myrl Serra, right, and his attorney, Colin Bresee, leave the courtroom after Serra's hearing in Grand Junction last November. phone was at her desk at the time, and also that her boyfriend was coming over Monarch Pass, so he did not have cell reception. Bresee also questioned how the woman knew she was touching a penis if her eyes were closed. She clarified later to Shapiro that she felt bare skin. Serra had one hand around her wrist, and was using the other to touch her breast, Doe 1 testified, so, “unless he had a third hand,” what she was feeling was a sexual organ. Serra’s defense also raised issue with the description of events, and time between the them and the investigation. Bresee and co-counsel Peter Albani said that when Doe 1 spoke with the CBI, she first said the incident happened in March. Date-stamped photos of her injuries, though, later provided the April 16 date, Bennett testified. Bennett said that his agency began investigating Serra, after a man working in the DA’s office reported seeing him send an inappropriate text message to a former

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girlfriend. (That girlfriend had sought restraining orders against Serra in an unrelated matter, but those requests were denied.) Doe 1 was interviewed more than once, Bennett said, and Doe 2 had pointed the CBI to her. Albani asked whether it was true Doe 1 told Bennett two versions

about what happened — one in which Serra attempted to make her touch him, and another in which he succeeded. Bennett was able to point to parts of another agent’s report showing another witness’ statement that Serra had allegedly forced Doe 1 to touch him. But Bresee contended Shapiro had brought a weak case. “There was no touching. (Doe 1’s allegation) was nothing more than inappropriate advances,” he said, arguing that law enforcement had verified that. Even during Doe 1’s second outcry, he said, there as no allegation of touching, or force. “We don’t have a sexual contact story until September,” Bresee said. “We have someone saying, ‘I don’t know what I saw ... all I know is I felt skin on the back of my hand.’” Bresee had already subpoenaed Doe 2’s records of her investigation into Doe 1’s complaint, but since these apparently don’t exist, he wanted to put the other woman on the stand. But Bottger said nothing Doe 2 could say would change the outcome of the prelim, where evidence is weighed in the light most favorable to the prosecution to assess probable cause. Bottger also ordered Serra to turn over the password to the Blackberry he had used for state business.

VA benefits counselor in town Friday STAFF REPORT

MONTROSE — A Veterans Benefits Administration representative will be on the Western Slope Monday through Friday. This is an in-person visit, not part of the TeleBenefits counseling now available at the VA Medical Center and satellite clinics. The representative will be in Montrose Friday (see schedule below). The VBA representative will be able to assist veterans with such items as filing for a service connected disability, information on home loans, veterans’ education programs, veterans’ pensions, widows’ pensions, vocational rehabilitation and other veterans’ programs. Her schedule is: Monday 7 - 11 a.m.: Travel Denver to Glenwood Springs Noon – 4 p.m.: Glenwood Springs TeleHealth Clinic — Walk-in clinic, (970) 945-1007 Tuesday 8 a.m. – noon: Day Shelter for the Homeless on Pitkin Ave. — Walk In

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SATURDAY

MONTROSE

April 16 2011

VOL 128, NO. 282 75 cents MONTROSE, CO 81401 www.montrosepress.com

Officials Second trial slated for former DA hopeful EXTRA Judge: Bond violation case against Serra can proceed BY KATHARHYNN HEIDELBERG DAILY PRESS SENIOR WRITER

MONTROSE — Bond conditions clearly prohibit Myrl Serra, the former district attorney, from having contact with the alleged victims in his sex case, visiting Judge David Bottger ruled Friday. Serra was arrested and charged last year with unlawful sexual contact, indecent exposure, extortion and official misconduct. He is accused of coercing sexual favors from women in his office. One of the women says that last Dec. 5, Serra harassed her in a local department store as she tried to hide behind a rack of clothes. He “smirked” at her for several seconds, she testified Friday, when Serra came before the court for preliminary hearing on the allegation the encounter was a violation of bond

conditions in the sex case. Serra is also charged with harassment and violating a restraining order in the alleged incident Dec. 5, but because these are misdemeanor charges, they are not eligible for a prelim. “I looked up and saw Mr. Serra heading to the store with his son,” the woman, “Doe 1,” testified Friday. “We turned around and went back to the men’s department ... beSerra cause of the charges, I decided it would be best not to say something or do something.” She said Serra walked straight toward her, so she sent away her three sons, and tried to conceal herself. “I was hunched over, hoping he wouldn’t see me. ... He was staring right at me over the clothes rack. He smirked at me.” This made her “very uncomfortable,” Doe 1 said. “It made me feel as though he was letting me know he was going to get away with it.” But Serra’s defense attorneys said it isn’t a crime to look SEE SERRA, PAGE A2

Seeking redress of grievances Construction in front of the county courthouse didn't put a damper on attendance at Montrose's annual Tea Party rally Friday. People turned out in force to make known their feelings about the federal government, and the way the country is headed. Rally speakers included those advocating for the Fair Tax, and also students of constitutional law. The event, hosted by the local 9/12 Project and Western Colorado Conservatives, was themed around all four stanzas of The Star Spangled Banner. A second rally took place in Delta Friday evening.

Photos by Joel Blocker / Daily Press (From top down) Dean Farrar of Montrose urges Tea Party rally-goers and Tea Party opponents to think through their disagreements. The sign is not intended as an insult, but to stimulate thought, he said, adding that radicals from either side can hurt people. BettyAnn McCluskey holds a sign, while her husband, David, looks on during the rally. Linda Rutherford, left, and Louise Bell, hold signs.

deal will fly BY KATHARHYNN HEIDELBERG DAILY PRESS SENIOR WRITER

MONTROSE — Negotiations to salvage EXTRA Aircraft’s proposed relocation to Montrose were under way Friday, after the company rejected proposed airport lease terms as too pricey. “We’re in negotiations,” confirmed Sandy Head, executive director of Montrose Economic Development Corp. ‘We are still in The MEDC discussions with has been working the Montrose since last County year to bring the commission.’ Germanybased aircraft manErrol Bader ufacturing firm EXTRA’s chief of corporate to Mondevelopment trose, but the ▲ arrangement requires incentives from several parties, including a “critical” one from Montrose County — a lease agreement to get EXTRA into a hangar facility on Montrose Regional Airport. A lease was due April 4, but in a letter of that date, the county proposed a lease rate that was too high for EXTRA, which came close to pulling the plug, Head said. “It got pretty serious last week, but we are working together, and we are negotiating, and that’s really all we can say,” Head said. “I think the flames have been put out, and we are moving forward. The county is working with us, and we’re working with EXTRA.” Montrose County Attorney Bob Hill said the April 4 letter was not public record, county spokeswoman Kristin Modrell said. On behalf of the county manager, Modrell said the county is reserving comment until it’s known whether EXTRA will accept a new deal. “We are still in discussions with the Montrose County commission,” said Errol Bader, EXTRA’s chief of corporate development, in an email to the Daily Press. “Because of our (negotiations) with the county, I’m not at liberty to discuss the details. ... We are hopeful the discussions will be constructive.” Ken Keith, EXTRA’s CEO, was out of the country Friday, and not able to return messages left for him. Head did not divulge the April 4 letter’s contents, but said the county offered numbers “at least double” of what was expected. Although the proposal’s numbers were of rates at fair-market value, that is not the correct way to evaluate the rates aviation companies doing business with airports ought to pay, she said. “It’s a misunderstanding.” Had the county stuck with the higher numbers, EXTRA would have walked, she said. Instead, the county is renegotiating. The lease agreement is a critical component of other incentives being SEE EXTRA, PAGE A3

INSIDE TODAY Published for the Uncompahgre Valley and Leroy Kiser of Montrose

LOCAL . . . . . . . . . . .A2-5 STATE . . . . . . . . . . . .A5-6 NATION . . . . . . . . . . .A7-8 WORLD . . . . . . . . . . . . A9 SPORTS . . . . . . . . . . .A10 CLASSIFIEDS . . . .A11-13

COMICS . . . . . . . . . . .A14 WEATHER . . . . . . . . . .A15 OBITUARIES . . . . . . . .A15 COMMUNITY . . . . . . .A16

Sports: Wildcats edge Lady Indians for second time this season Page A10

TODAY’S WEATHER It will be mostly sunny High 65, Low 35 See details, Page A15

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SERRA: Not guilty plea entered; trial slated for August 'It made me feel as though he was letting me know he was going to get away with it.'

FROM PAGE 1 at someone in public, and they questioned Doe 1’s motives. While she texted another alleged victim about the encounter, and said on the stand she was left shaken and “sick to my stomach,” Doe 1 did not call police, and waited until the next day to contact Brooks Bennett, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s lead agent on the case. Further, Doe 1 has filed notice of a lawsuit against the county, said attorney M. Colin Bresee. The Montrose Combined Courts do not yet have a record of the notice, Clerk Jodi Hanson said later Friday. Defense attorney Peter Albani also asked Doe 1 why she had not approached a store clerk, or gone somewhere else in the store. “Your intuition is to go to the men’s department and hide behind the clothes rack?” he asked. She replied that her intuition was to go to the nearest place, which was the men’s department. The defense team also questioned Doe 1 and

— The complaining witness in Myrl Serra's bond violation case ▲ Bennett about the “smirk.” In her initial interview with Bennett, the woman reportedly said: “It was the same look he always has on his face.” Bresee quizzed her about that statement Friday, suggesting she meant the word “always” literally. But on redirect by First Assistant Attorney General Robert Shapiro, Doe 1 said the smirk came out in certain situations, not all the time. “When he would make a comment in the office, or think he was being funny. When I would approach him about the docket,” she said. “It wasn’t like he’d walk in and say ‘Good morning’ and smirk. ... It was as meaning he thinks he can get away with whatever he wants.” Bresee and Albani at-

tacked the case on the basis that a casual glance is not “contact.” Bennett said that when Serra allegedly approached the rack where Doe 1 was trying to hide “that starts the incident. When Mr. Serra observed (Doe 1), that’s the decision point Mr. Serra is at,” he testified. Bennett said under questioning that he hasn’t interviewed the employees working in the store that day, or other customers present at the time of the alleged contact. Video footage corroborates much of Doe 1’s allegations, he said, but the encounter itself is not on film. Bresee and Albani also contended the bond order didn’t specify that Serra could not have contact with the witnesses. A person has to “knowingly” violate bond conditions, they

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Mag chloride, pot hole patching underway

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MONTROSE — Montrose County Road and Bridge crews have started their mag chloride program. They will be magging roads in the Olathe area and working their way south. The department also has crews working on pot hole patching. The county asks that drivers please be patient and observe signage.

Snyder Flats burn slated STAFF REPORT

GRAND JUNCTION — Federal fire officials from the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit are planning to burn 75 piles on the Snyder Flats area to reduce hazardous fuels and improve wildlife habitat. The burn will be conducted when weather, moisture, and fuel conditions allow between now and April 29. The burns are primarily oak brush and pinon-juniper slash. Weather conditions will be monitored and burns will be implemented when conditions are suitable for safe and effective prescribed burns and good smoke dispersal. All prescribed fires in the Upper Colorado River are conducted under approved burn plans with smoke permits from the state of Colorado. For additional information on this burn, call the Grand Junction BLM at 244-3000.

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OURAY— Since April 4, travelers have seen various stages of the single lane reconfiguration over the Bear Creek Bridge on US 550 about 2 miles south of Ouary, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation. As of Thursday, temporary paving and signals are in place on both ends of the bridge. The signals allow for one direction of traffic to travel through the bridge area at a time and is alternated about every two minutes. The single land is in effect 24/7. With the traffic adjusted off of the bridge, the focus is the demolition of the existing structure that spans an about 300 foot drop. During construction hours, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, the signal will be supplemented with flagger manned traffic control during critical construction activities. When night work occurs, 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday through Thursday, crews may extend traffic holds up to one hour. CDOT will announce night work prior to its start. For more information, visit www.coloradodot.info/projects/550bearcreekbridge.

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said. Bottger interrupted Bresee as he questioned Brooks about the bond sheet, however. The judge said the bond paperwork is in the file. “Is there any serious doubt that the bond says no contact with (Doe 1)?” Bottger said. The question is whether that information had been filled in after Serra signed the sheet, Bresee said. And in closing, Albani said the case against Serra is weak, even when evidence is considered in the light most favorable to the prosecution. “We don’t have any information” as to how the notice of bond occurred, he said. “Clearly, there’s nothing in the restraining order that says he can’t go about his business in Montrose. The no-contact evidence requires more.” But Bottger said there’s probable cause to support the bond-violation complaint. In addition to the bond order bearing Serra’s signature, court records show bond was discussed with Serra Nov. 3, 2010. The bond and restraining order both exclude Serra from the witness’ locations. “The bond condition is clear,” Bottger said. “Whether he smirked is beside the point. What that means is beside the point.” Serra entered a notguilty plea. Trial was set for Aug. 29 -31. The sex case goes to trial July 18.

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VOL 128, NO. 359 75 cents MONTROSE, CO 81401 www.montrosepress.com

Former DA’s sex trial halted

Get your motor running

Myrl Serra’s case now slated for October prosecution BY KATHARHYNN HEIDELBERG DAILY PRESS SENIOR WRITER

GRAND JUNCTION — Prosecutors did not withhold email and other computer-generated evidence from former District Attorney Myrl Serra’s defense, but his lawyers were not able to view all of it, despite good faith efforts. That is Mesa County District Judge David Bottger’s stated reason for calling off Serra’s trial on sex offenses, which was slated to begin in Montrose Monday. Serra is now set for trial Oct. 31. Trial on a separate matter — violation of a restraining order, bond conditions, and harassment — is still a go for Aug. 29. “The idea is to ascertain the truth,” Bottger said at a hastily called hearing in Grand Junction Thursday. This can be accomplished by giving Serra’s attorneys more time to pore through emails and other electronic evidence stored on a hard drive that the Colorado Attorney General’s Office supplied, the judge said. Serra was the sitting DA in Montrose and surrounding counties last September when he was arrested on allegations of unlawful sexual conduct, indecent exposure, criminal extortion and official misconduct. The charges stem from complaints that he coerced sexual favors from women working in his office. Serra, who has since resigned, denies all allegations, including additional complaints that he harassed one of the witnesses by following her through a department store last December, thereby violating a restraining order and bond conditions in the sex case. Serra attorney M. Colin Bresee fought repeatedly to have the trial delayed or the case bounced altogether. He alleged in motions and in court that the AG’s prosecutors violated evidence rules by not turning over a hard drive containing thousands of emails from Serra’s former work computer and other electronic records. First Assistant Attorney General Robert Shapiro fought just as tenaciously to keep the trial on track, saying in motions and again in court Thursday that he has gone above and beyond rules governing evidence. He said the trial needed to stick to the original schedule for the sake of Serra’s alleged victims. The hearing showed that the evidence in question was provided to Bresee and co-counsel Peter Albani, but that they lacked the necessary software to retrieve it all. Garfield County Sheriff ’s Cpl. Eric Ashworth, the forensic computer examiner assisting Shapiro, told Bottger and Bresee that he had provided everything on the hard drive, which was turned over to the defense. He used two programs, an imager that actually acquires the evidence and then a software program called Forensic Toolkit that analyzes the electronic evidence. Bresee had the emails — but not the access and software necessary to view them all, Bottger said. “We’re in kind of an unusual situation,” the judge said. “That is not a discovery (evidence) violation.” Yet, “It could be a problem,” he said, because the defense clearly made goodfaith effort to review the evidence. SEE SEX, PAGE A2

JOEL BLOCKER / DAILY PRESS

Donna Salcedo, middle, shuttles her grandchildren, from left, Migule Gonzalez, 3, and Alicia Gonzalez, 8, down South Rio Grande Avenue from the Montrose Recreation District's Aquatic Center Thursday afternoon.

Fighting fire with science BY KATI O’HARE DAILY PRESS WRITER

The Uncompahgre Plateau become the focal point for researchers and fire management officials who came to the area this week to learn about and share methods in which to manage and prevent fire under power lines. With its varying elevations comprised of diverse terrain, the plateau was a perfect study area, said David Gann of the Nature Conservancy,

LEARNING, SHARING AND MANAGING

COURTESY PHOTO

A group of scientists, researchers, government officials and others who manage forests and study its ecology meet on the Uncompahgre Plateau Wednesday, part of a two-day field trip aimed to bring both sides together for collaborative efforts in forest safety and restoration, particularly dealing with power lines.

INSIDE TODAY Published for the Uncompahgre Valley and Ron Workman of Montrose

LOCAL . . . . . . . . . . . . .A2 STATE . . . . . . . . . . . . . .A3 HEALTH . . . . . . . . . . . .A4 NATION . . . . . . . . . . . .A5 OPINION . . . . . . . . . . .A6 SPORTS . . . . . . . . . . . .A7

which sponsored the two-day field trip. Also making it a perfect study area is the fact that the Western Area Power Association’s main lines to support power in Phoenix zigzag across the plateau. “Fire on the plateau could shut down a significant amount of power,” Gann said Wednesday. “Today, we shared ideas on how to decrease the risk of fire under power lines. ... there are cost benefits in doing it well.”

CLASSIFIEDS . . . . .A8-11 COMICS . . . . . . . . . . .A12 WEATHER . . . . . . . . .A13 OBITUARIES . . . . . . .A13 CALENDAR . . . . . . . . .A14

Sports: A derby of the curvy Page A8

Dozens of experts — ranging from forest ecology professors at Colorado State University to federal forest and wildlife officers and national conservatory leaders — met for the field trip on the plateau. The event was aimed at increasing collaboration and communication between all those that serve and research the state’s forests. “We need to improve collaboration between fire science and those who manage the fires on the ground,” said Jim Free of the Uncompahgre Partnership. Event participants included those from governmental agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the state Department of Wildlife. Representatives from the office of U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and U.S. Sen. Mark Udall also attended, as well as representatives from the local Uncompahgre Partnership project, CSU professors and graduate students. With an array of vegetation zones, the plateau provides an example of different management approaches as one climbs in elevation, Gann said. Discussions among the officials dealt with how agencies can determine the desired conditions and management approaches in the state’s forests using science and research. From a science standpoint, understanding the ecology of an area helps management of that area go in the right direction, the Nature Conservancy’s Merrill Kaufmann said. “Good stewardship, and good ecology, often means realizing that many of today’s forest are not natural at all. Here the scientific community can help,” states information from the pro-

TODAY’S WEATHER Sunny. West winds 10 to 15 mph in the afternoon. High 88, Low 58 See details, Page A13

SEE FIRE, PAGE A2

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FRIDAY, JULY 15, 2011

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FIRE: State experts visit Uncompahgre Plateau to discusses collaboration FROM PAGE 1 gram provided by the U.S. Forest Service. Professor Dan Binkley studies the ecology of forests at CSU, but he wasn’t present just to share his knowledge of forest history — he was also there to learn. “Everyone here is learning

something new,” he said. Binkley said that though he studies forest ecology, he doesn’t know much about forest birds or fire behavior. And that was the goal of the field trip — to allow local experts to learn from other local experts so that collaboration and communication can strengthen the health of forests. That kind of collaboration

has had positive results. The Uncompahgre Partnership, a restoration project, was recently funded by the federal government. It addresses 160,000 acres of landscapescale fuels and restoration projects that not only protect the forest by reducing fuels and supporting natural fires but also create jobs. The entire project spans

gardens. A food dehydrator is also needed for drying fruit in season.

Christ’s Kitchen is in need of volunteers to cook and serve meals from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. weekdays at its new location in the Penn Mall. Call 252-6415 to leave your name and number for more information. Christ’s Kitchen is also accepting fresh tomatoes and lettuce from home

Fairy tales offered at library The Montrose Regional Library, 320 S. 2nd St., presents “Grimm’s Fairy Tales,” at 2 p.m. July 22 in the story room. School-age children are invited to hear such favorites as “The Three

Little Pigs,” “Little Red Riding Hood” and “The Frog Prince.” For more information, call 2499656, option 2.

Science program planned for kids Children ages 8-12 are invited to sign up at the Montrose Library for a science program, “Creepy, Crusty Pond Critters,” scheduled from 4 to 5:30 p.m. July 26. Space is limited. RSVP by stopping by the library or calling 2499656, opt. 2.

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Free Child Identification Kits – Police officers will be on site to answer questions and help with the kits. *Donations will be accepted and will go to help a child in our community with special needs*

Car Seat Fittings – The Car Seat Coalition will be on site to help with questions as well as showing families how to properly install their car seat.Talk with us if you have a need for a car seat.

PLUS • Mobile Library • Fire Truck from 2-3 pm • Free snow cones

To comment on this story, visit our website at www.montrosepress.com.

Mill temporary closes because of low inventory BY KATI O’HARE DAILY PRESS WRITER

Montrose’s timber mill may continue operations today after a short shutdown this week due to a weak inventory of logs. “We are pretty sure (we’ll operate today) but it depends on what we see coming in tonight (Thursday),” said Patrick Donovan of Cordes and Co., a Front Range firm appointed to operate the Intermountain Resources timber mill that is in receivership. Donovan said several factors contributed to the mill’s low stockpile, including muddy forests and timber contracts. The mill currently is

contracted with private land owners and loggers who purchased federal timber contracts. It also is fulfilling two U.S. Forest Service contracts that were set up prior to receivership but which Donovan said were economically feasibly to complete. Most of the logs are coming from northern and central Colorado, he said. “We really had a difficult spring this year because of the heavy winter,” Donovan said. “The forest was hard to get into.” The mill also hit a roadblock when the Forest Service decreased by 60 percent the number of logs to be cut in a third-

party contract. Mill officials had anticipated having that full contract of logs and were counting on it to keep the mill running regularly. As a result, the mill only operated about two weeks in April and in May, Donovan said. And though the mill may operate again today, its future is still shaky. Donovan said he did not know if operators will be able to stockpile for fall, when the mud usually returns. Additionally, loggers soon will have to compete with the state’s hunting season, which prevents them from logging Fridays through Sundays. To comment on this story, visit our website at www.montrosepress.com.

SEX:AG found not to have violated evidence rules FROM PAGE 1 Bresee then asked again for a continuance. Shapiro said Bresee was rehashing old arguments Bottger previously ruled against, and, further, had wrongly suggested to the court Shapiro had not turned over the material. A similar argument concerning information that could be contained on Serra’s work Blackberry is also disingenuous, Shapiro argued. The AG’s investigators haven’t been able to search it, because it is password encrypted, and Serra did not provide the password, he alleged. Bresee’s most recent court

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nership.org. “One thing we’ve done well here is connect healthy landscapes with healthy communities,” Gann said. “We’ve made strong efforts, though it’s taken 15 years, to educate people on the value of taking care of public lands.”

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filing states another person in the DA’s office had set up the Blackberry password. “There is nothing to turn over,” Shapiro said. “The defense has steered the court down avenues based on how the court has ruled. ... He has created new issues simply to gain a continuance. They’ve had six weeks to analyze (information),” he added. “We had no idea they were having problems viewing the email. I don’t believe the basis (for a continuance) is legitimate. This case should proceed.” Shapiro offered to voluntarily toss the emails generated by the forensic examination of Serra’s work computer but said there are emails from other sources that are fair game. Bresee rejected the offer. He likened the emails to “pieces of a string”

that don’t tell the whole story because they don’t show in their entirety the conversations Serra was having. If provided in their entirety, the emails could contain evidence that would serve to clear Serra, Bresee said. “We would like to have the same access,” he said. “I want the evidence.” Bottger then continued the trial but stated prosecutors hadn’t violated any rules of evidence. Shapiro informed the court he will use the extra months to gather more evidence from the computers that he hasn’t yet introduced. He also noted that a report Ashworth furnished to Bresee explicitly states what software to use to get the emails. Bottger offered Shapiro the address to the Court of Appeals, stating: “I’ve ruled. We’re rescheduling the trial.”

LOCAL

MONTROSE DAILY PRESS

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DUDS: The life span of a uniform is only four or five years FROM PAGE 1 support us with our fundraisers and we appreciate that,” the coach said. Wright said though a bulk of the money raised came from the football team’s fundraising efforts, the school’s athletic department also contributed a portion of money to help fund new duds. He also said that the MHS athletic de-

partment helps all of the school’s teams replace uniforms every “four to five years” based on how much money it can afford and the condition of the current uniforms. The football team definitely was in need of an upgrade to its uniforms, he added. “They were four years old and torn up,” Wright said. “They were worn out.” After weighing options, Casebier said

he opted to switch from Rawlings uniforms to Under Armour because they were reasonably priced and a great quality. When the uniforms arrived at MHS, the coach said he liked what he saw. “I thought they looked really good,” Casebier said. “I was pleased with them.” More importantly, the coach said, he was appreciative of the community for

packing in at Montrose Community Stadium for the team’s first game of the year last Friday. “Montrose has always support our team and once again, they did that,” Casebier said. “Our boys deserve that. They work hard.” The Indians travel to Farmington, NM, this Friday to take on Piedra Vista at 7 p.m.

Alleged Serra victim ‘froze’ during encounter BY KATHARHYNN HEIDELBERG DAILY PRESS SENIOR WRITER

Myrl Serra, a former district attorney, might not have said anything to the woman he allegedly harassed, but, “This is a case where actions speak louder than words,” said First Assistant Attorney General Robert Shapiro. Serra is charged with harassment, violation of bond conditions imposed in an earlier sex case in which the woman is alleged to have been a victim, and violation of a restraining order. He allegedly encountered the complaining witness, Jane Doe 1, in a Montrose department store last December. (She is one of three alleged victims in Serra’s unlawful sexual contact and indecent exposure case; the Daily Press does not identify alleged sex crime victims.) Monday was the first day of his trial. The bulk of it was spent seating a jury, and prospective jurors were quizzed about what they knew of the case, as well as what they think constitutes “contact.” Serra did not enter the store last Dec. 5 to intentionally commit a crime, Shapiro said. He did not know the woman was shopping there at the same time. It’s what Serra allegedly did after spotting her — hunkered down behind a clothes rack — that put him in violation of a court’s no-contact order, which was a violation of his bail bond, and also rose to the level of harassment, the assistant AG said. Doe 1 was shopping in the store with her children, but the primary objective of the family outing that day was to visit a nearby store, which sold the correct pellets for her son’s pellet gun. After the alleged encounter, she went ahead with the trip to the other store, because she did not want to have to explain to her young sons what was going on, she later testified. She didn’t know specifically what the restraining order protecting her prohibited Serra from doing, she said. When she

saw him coming into the store, she hid behind a clothes rack in the menswear department, where she had been shopping, because she did not want Serra to see her. She then hurriedly told her children to go to another part of the store. But Serra knew his bond conditions and the order prohibited contact with Doe 1, Shapiro said. “This was the framework that Myrl Serra, then the district attorney, had to follow,” he said. “She (Doe 1) was proactively distancing herself and shielding her children. ... She was doing everything in her power to minimize contact.” But Serra “made a beeline” for where she was hiding, Shapiro said, and gazed down on her for several seconds while smirking in a way the woman equates with “power, control and authority,” Shapiro said. “She took that to mean he was intimidating her, sending a message to her.” Doe 1 testified that she hid, but when she looked up, Serra was looming over her. Though he ri-

fled through the shirts on the rack “he was looking at me. Mr. Serra was not taking his eyes off me,” she said. “I froze. I couldn’t move. I didn’t know what to do. It felt like it was a long time. I didn’t know what to say or do.” Serra didn’t say or do the things a person might do upon accidently encountering someone with whom contact is prohibited, she testified. After Serra left, the woman rounded up her children, went to the car, and sent several text messages to another of Serra’s alleged victims in the sex case, seeking advice. A day later, she contacted the Colorado Bureau of Investigation agent involved in the earlier case, and he contacted store management, who turned over video footage. The cameras did not capture the encounter itself, but what they did capture backs Doe 1’s story completely, Shapiro said earlier, during his opening. Tellingly, the woman did not know there were video cameras in the store, he said.

Serra’s alleged contact “was not inadvertent. It was not incidental. It was knowingly,” he told jurors. “This is a very simple case about a man who, as a prosecutor, clearly knew what he was allowed to do,” but instead “took advantage of an opportunity to send a clear message that he could not be messed with. “The defendant is guilty of all three charges.” Defense attorney M. Colin Bresee reserved the right to make an opening statement later. During jury selection, he repeatedly made clear his position that chance encoun-

B R E W I N G • C O M PA N Y

ters in public places are not “contact.” The trial is slated through Wednesday. Today is expected to open with cross-examination of the complaining witness.

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Jahani, Peper plead not guilty Page A5 WEDNESDAY

MONTROSE

August 31, 2011

VOL 129, NO. 34 75 cents MONTROSE, CO 81401 www.montrosepress.com

Co-workers back Serra accuser BY KATHARHYNN HEIDELBERG DAILY PRESS SENIOR WRITER

JOEL BLOCKER / DAILY PRESS

Jami McBeth of Cortez makes sure a .38 revolver is empty while participating in a handgun cleaning class during Women On Target shooting clinic held in Ridgway Saturday afternoon.

Readying to aim and fire Gun club hosts women’s training day BY KATHARHYNN HEIDELBERG DAILY PRESS SENIOR WRITER

RIDGWAY — They loved the smell of gunpowder. So said the women left standing at the 4-H center here Saturday evening after a long day of classroom and hands-on training through the National Rifle Association’s Women on Target clinic. The clinic, sponsored by the Chief Ouray Gun Club, proved even a beginner can safely and effectively use firearms if properly taught — whether the gun is a small .22, or a booming .380 rifle. “A hundred women shooting — this should be interesting,” one of the attendees said as she headed into the Ouray County 4-H Center for classroom training bright and early Saturday. “It looks like it’s going to be good,” said Gayle Buske, master firearms instructor and Women on Target clinic director, as she surveyed a full room.

All 100 slots in the class were filled, but thanks to a couple of noshows, Buske didn’t have to turn down women who showed up for

the wait list. “I’m so glad you all are here,” she said to the audience — everyone from crack shot experts to beginners and those who hadn’t shot in decades — a few minutes later. “To SEE AIM, PAGE A3

JOEL BLOCKER / DAILY PRESS

Paula Murray focuses on her target while getting ready to shoot a 12 gauge shotgun as instructor John Young looks on during the Women On Target shooting clinic held in Ridgway Saturday afternoon.

The woman accusing former district attorney Myrl Serra of harassment is truthful and of “great integrity,” three of her co-workers testified Tuesday. “She’s a very truthful person,” said witness Cynthia Loesch. Serra’s defense attorneys quizzed the complaining witness as to why she did not immediately call police after encountering Serra in a department store last Dec. 5. They said the woman, Jane Doe 1, had “options” other than sending her children to another part of the store and hiding behind a clothes rack, and questioned her credibility. Despite being restrained by court order from contacting her, Serra stared down at her and smirked, the woman testified Monday. She took it as an act of intimidation and control, she said. Serra, 49, is charged with harassment, and with violating both the bond conditions and a restraining order put in place in an underlying case, in which Doe 1 and two other women are alleged to be victims. He is charged with unlawful sexual conduct, indecent exposure, extortion and official misconduct in that matter, which is set for trial Oct. 31. “You had some options when you saw Mr. Serra,” defense attorney M. Colin Bresee said during Doe 1’s cross-examination Tuesday. He went on to suggest Doe 1 could have walked into the ladies department or behind a large cosmetics counter to avoid Serra. The woman said she supposed so, but Bresee’s hypothetical scenario — reversing the roles and asking her to consider whether some sort of “facial gesture” would be explicable had she found Serra hiding in a clothing rack — was shot down by Judge David Bottger as irrelevant and “far afield.” First Assistant Attorney General Robert Shapiro made clear through his redirect that it’s Serra, not Doe 1, who was obliged to explore other options upon encountering her. He, not she, is the restrained party, Shapiro said. Under his redirect, she also explained that, contrary to earlier reports, she has not sued Montrose County over the Serra matter. There is only an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission proceeding concerning policy changes within the district attorney’s office. The woman reiterated that she hadn’t contacted law enforcement immediately after the encounter because she did not have a copy of the restraining order at the time and so was unable to verify whether Serra might be in violation. One of her co-workers took the stand to explain the text messages Doe 1 sent her SEE SERRA, PAGE A5

Only three candidates file to run for school board BY KATI O’HARE DAILY PRESS WRITER

There will be a Montrose County School Board election come Nov. 1. The district has received three candidate petitions for the open school board positions, as well as one certification for a write-in candidate, said Laurie Laird, district spokeswoman. Candidates for district seats

B, D and F will appear on the ballot. Candidates must reside within the district in which they are running. The District D seat is currently held by Barbara Bynum, who was appointed to the position by the board after it was vacated when Connie Majors relocated. Bynum is running for that seat. She has served on the board for just more than two

years, currently as vice president. She is a stay-at-home mom of two school-age children and community volunteer. Tom West also is running for District D. He is a retired Montrose High School teacher, according to Laird. There is only one candidate for the District F seat, Phoebe Benziger. The seat currently is held

INSIDE THE DAILY PRESS Published for the Uncompahgre Valley and Lester Sanderson of Montrose

LOCAL . . . . . . . . . . .A2-7 BUSINESS . . . . . . . . . .A8 OPINION . . . . . . . . . . .A9 STATE . . . . . . . . . . . . .A10 NATION . . . . . . . . .A11-12 WORLD . . . . . . . . .A13,15

SPORTS . . . . . . . . . . .A14 COMICS . . . . . . . . . . .A16 WEATHER . . . . . . . . . .A17 OBITUARIES . . . . . . . .A17 CLASSIFIEDS . . . . . .B1-4

Sports: Montrose boys tennis squad sweeps Hotchkiss, 7-0 Page A14

by her husband, Dr. Michael Benziger, who is ineligible to run again because of term limits. The district received no petitions for District B, a seat currently held by Steve Arnold, who is not running for re-election. The district did, however, receive confirmation that D. Seth Felix has been certified as a write-in candidate for

TODAY’S WEATHER Mostly sunny in the morning then becoming partly sunny. Southwest winds 10 to 15 mph. High 91, Low 60 See details, Page A17

that seat, Laird said. He needs only one write-in vote to be elected, she said. Candidates had to submit a candidate petition with 50 signatures, which was due to the district office last week. Write-in candidates had one extra day to submit their certification, Laird said. To comment on this story, visit our website at www.montrosepress.com.

MONTROSE DAILY PRESS 3684 N. TOWNSEND MONTROSE, C0 81401 HOURS: MONDAY-FRIDAY 8 A.M. - 5 P.M. TEL: 970-249-3444 FAX: 970-249-3331

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MONTROSE DAILY PRESS

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 31, 2011

A5

Jahani, Peper plead not guilty STAFF REPORT

Indicted doctors Sam Jahani and Eric Peper rolled up to court Tuesday in SUVs, trading rounds of smiles and good wishes, reports Daily Press media partner KKCO 11 News, the NBC affiliate in Grand Junction. Once inside the federal building in Grand Junction, both tendered notguilty pleas to dozens of counts, including health care fraud resulting in the deaths of four Western Slope patients, as well as fraud, money laundering and conspiracy. The men deny all charges and have through their attorneys promised a vigorous defense. Jahani and Peper were arrested at their court hearings Tuesday, but immediately released after being fingerprinted, reports KKCO. Jahani operated Urgent Care Inc. clinics in Montrose, Delta and Grand Junction, and employed Peper. Those offices, with Jahani’s Montrose Coun-

SERRA: Former district attorney’s defense questions credibility FROM PAGE 1

KKCO / COURTESY PHOTO

Eric Peper prepares to enter the federal building in Grand Junction Tuesday to enter a not guilty plea to dozens of charges. ty home, were raided in 2009. Investigators seized “truckloads” of documents and patient records. A federal grand jury indicted the doctors in early August. Agents picked up Peper at his home in Florida; Jahani was taken into custody in Texas, where he was still practicing medicine on an unrestricted medical license issued by that state. At the Tuesday hearing, no trial date was set, and there was no word as to whether the doctors

would be tried in Grand Junction or Denver, reports KKCO. Jahani and Peper were ordered to make initial appearances in Grand Junction, though they had asked the court to move the appearances to Denver. KKCO 11 News report Matt Vanderveer provided the information about Tuesday’s court appearance. Background information is from previous Daily Press reports.

Back to School

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soon after the Dec. 5 encounter. That woman, Jane Doe 2, is also an alleged victim in Serra’s sex case, so the Daily Press is not identifying her by name. “She said she had seen Myrl. I asked if she was OK. She indicated that she froze, that she didn’t know what to do,” Doe 2 said. “She said she was in the store, and he made a beeline to her. ... She said she felt like she was going to be sick. I told her if she was going to be sick to throw up on Myrl.” Doe 2 and her husband hurried toward the store after text messages from Doe 1 stopped. On the way there, her husband slammed on the brakes, because he saw Serra driving off, Doe 2 said. At last, she heard from Doe 1. “She finally texted me back and said she and the boys were going to be OK. ... She was freaked out.” Doe 2 next saw the complaining witness at work Dec. 6, speaking with another co-worker about the incident. “I remember asking (her) if she’d gotten a copy of the order. I’d men-

tioned to her she should report what happened,” however, Doe 2 didn’t know if a crime had been committed because she didn’t have a copy of the order herself. She reiterated that when defense cocounsel Peter Albani asked whether she had told Doe 1 to call 911. Loesch testified later that Doe 1 “was very upset about it,” but had not called law enforcement because she was trying to figure out what to do. Both witnesses said they did not regularly socialize with Doe 1 outside of work. The jury on Tuesday also heard from another co-worker, Doe 1’s eldest son, and the department store’s manager. The boy testified about being in the store with his mother and brothers, while the manager discussed store layout and explained who she saw on the store’s surveillance footage. Colorado Bureau of Investigation Agent Brooks Bennett took the stand for the prosecution late Tuesday. His testimony is expected to continue today, which is the trial’s last scheduled day.

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Montrose County DA sex offenses