Brief by Martha Quillen
Regional News – November 2007 – Colorado Central Magazine
What’s It All About?
The Gunnison Country Times ran a front page story exploring why so many commercial properties are for sale there.
The newspaper reported that eight lodging businesses were for sale in Gunnison, as were a notable number of downtown shops and restaurants including “The Bean, Blue Addiction, The Gunnison Brewery, and The Corner Cupboard.”
Nancy Lapello, the owner of The Bean told the paper, “It seems like every business on Main Street is for sale.”
The September 27 Times headlined the feature: “Testing the waters, or serious about selling?”
And would-be sellers gave the newspaper numerous reasons for selling, including the difficulties of doing business where there’s a seasonal economy, lack of help, and rising real estate prices.
Many of those interviewed had been in business for many, many years, but that in itself accounted for some burn-out, exhaustion and a desire to move on — and some would-be sellers had reached retirement age.
The Time’s feature didn’t disclose any shocking surprises, but we found it interesting because Business for Sale signs are flourishing in windows over here in Salida, too.
We wondered, however, if such commercial sales might be fostered by the proliferation of real estate businesses in town and their tendency to display posters and advertisements in downtown windows, since such sales tactics tend to keep the possibility of moving on in mind.
Missing Man Stays Missing
Searchers combed western Fremont County for several weeks looking for Gary Lorenz, 63, who disappeared near his home north of Cotopaxi on September 24.
Lorenz, a retired Air Force Colonel with extensive survival training, suffers from Alzheimer’s and aphasia (a brain disorder that affects speech). He reportedly rode off on an all-terrain vehicle with his two golden retrievers to check on his horses — then never returned.
Search and rescue teams, ATVs, dirt bikes, rescue dogs, a helicopter, volunteers on horseback, and searchers with high tech thermal imaging equipment converged on the scene — and found very little. Although the ATV Lorenz was driving was discovered crashed, there was no indication that Lorenz had been injured — and no sign of him or the dogs.
After several weeks of searching, the Fremont County Sheriff’s Department decided to take another approach. Officials have cut back on the ground search but are continuing with the investigation. They’re looking into the alternate possibilities that Lorenz may have left of his own free will or been a victim of foul play.
Disturbing Display in Fairplay
In a bizarre and appalling twist of jurisprudence, Robert Amos, 44, dismissed his public defender in July and demanded the right to represent himself. Then at an August 13 hearing, Amos admitted to killing Alyssa Heberton-Morimoto, 26, and requested the death penalty. When District Attorney Molly Chilton sought life imprisonment instead, Amos reportedly became angry and claimed that the court was devaluing the life of the women he killed.
According to the Fairplay Flume, at the August hearing Amos claimed that he would kill again in order to force the government to execute him, and officials have taken his threats very seriously. Staff at the county jail classified Amos as a high security risk, and personnel there believe that wherever he ends up, correction officers should be forewarned and cautious.
On October 5, Amos was sentenced to life imprisonment plus sixty years for first degree murder — a sentence which guarantees that he will never be eligible for parole.
Westcliffe Homecoming Tragedy
Courtney Curtis, 15, of Cotopaxi, died after being run over by a parade float in Westcliffe on October 13. Curtis and several others had gotten off the float when it finished the homecoming parade’s short course. But then they ran over to get back on the slow moving flat-bed truck, which was supposed to carry the float back to the high school football field where it would be put on display with others.
While trying to climb back aboard the float, Courtney Curtis slipped and fell. About 400 people had turned out to watch the parade, and thus many students and on-lookers witnessed the accident. The driver of the truck quickly realized what had happened, and Curtis was treated ASAP, then airlifted to Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs, where she died shortly thereafter.
Custer County Coroner Arthur Nordyke told the Pueblo Chieftain that the truck driver and his wife were “just devastated.” And Custer County High School Principal Barb Jones told the Denver Post, “The trauma is overwhelming at this point.”
* On September 26, a young bull moose lounged in a meadow south of Highway 50 between Salida and Poncha Springs, attracting considerable attention. For several hours, cars and onlookers lined the road. And by late afternoon, Colorado Division of Wildlife Officers and a State Trooper had arrived to keep watch over the wildlife watchers.
* Bear visitations tend to be fairly frequent in the fall, especially at mountain cabins and rural homes. And occasionally a bear gets treed in one of Central Colorado’s towns or subdivisions. But an ursine visitor featured in the September 13 Chaffee County Times was photographed casually sauntering down a residential street in Buena Vista.
* The October Crestone Eagle featured a picture of a rattlesnake killed at the entrance to the Baca, where rattlesnakes had hitherto not been noted. Rattlesnakes are common on the dry west side of the San Luis Valley, but not near Crestone. Given this snake’s location, however, it’s assumed that other rattlesnakes must also be in residence in the subdivision.
Unlike most of us, Austin Stewart, 29, of Gunnison, was willing to persevere for years in order to make his point.
In November of 2003, Stewart went to Florida with fourteen other members of the Gunnison Valley Peace Initiative in order to protest at the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) Summit. The FTAA wants to expand the North American Free Trade Agreement through Central America, South America, and the Caribbean (excluding Cuba) and Stewart and his group are against it.
But they definitely weren’t eager to get arrested far from home, since “we had to get back to work and school.” Thus they participated in a permitted march through the streets of Miami, then left as soon as police started dispersing the crowd.
Stewart, three others from his group, and Celeste Fraser Delgado, a Miami reporter that they were staying with, headed toward her home, and were walking down the sidewalk when a patrol car pulled up and ordered them to get on the ground. They all complied.
Stewart told the Gunnison Country Times that they were not informed that they were being arrested or what they were being charged with at that point. Later that day, they were charged with failure to obey a lawful command and non-violently resisting arrest (“which was a total fabrication” according to Stewart).
The charges against the group were dismissed the next morning, but Stewart says it was a month and a half before he recovered full feeling in his hands due to the tightness of the hand-cuffs the officers used. He subsequently agreed to participate in a lawsuit brought by the Southern Legal Counsel, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and many attorneys who specialize in civil liberties, which alleged that police used excessive force to intimidate and unlawfully arrest innocent bystanders and protesters who were merely exercising their free speech rights.
Stewart was the only member of the Gunnison group who joined the suit, and he had to make two trips to Florida during the next four years in order to testify. But, the Gunnison Country Times reported, for Austin Stewart participating in the suit was an easy decision:
“There has to be a check on the power of the police,” Stewart said. “When they cross a line they should be accountable for their actions in the same way that when citizens cross the line, they should be accountable for their actions.”
A settlement was reached on September 21 which didn’t admit guilt on the part of police, but mitigated some of the “emotional and physical costs.” Stewart concluded that, “Fortunately, we do have recourse. That’s one of the things that’s wonderful about this country.” Stewart, however, couldn’t disclose the details of the settlement — under the terms of the settlement.
We applaud Stewart and others who demand justice and stay the course.
But do backroom bargains and secret settlements actually curb criminal conduct? Although money occasionally changes hands, American police, courts, and attorneys keep colluding to conduct their affairs in secret and conceal criminal conduct from the public. And just how is that fair and just to Americans?
It’s good that our system provides some recompense for citizens who are wronged. But we should also demand honesty, openness and transparency from the courts that we the citizens pay for.
* In an attempt to keep track of local health care options, Ed Quillen attended an informational meeting held by the local chamber, but came home complaining that the conversation embraced too much “irrelevant newspeak.” Presenters emphasized the need to be “proactive not reactive” along with the importance of “changing perspectives,” embracing a “paradigm shift,” and looking at long-term “sustainability.”
* A Custer County man was treated for rabies after a bat landed on his back. The treatment was precautionary since the bat was not captured and it was unknown whether the man was actually bitten.
* Vandals armed with black, silver, and white markers defaced signs, pavement and old buildings along Leadville’s historic Mineral Belt Trail in late September.
* A $5.4 million foreclosure was filed against FC Spruce Hill LLC and Whispering Aspen Land and Development LLC in Park County. As usual, a manager for the development announced that such problems were typical for large developments and would be resolved. But the matter left many locals wondering and worrying about the financial future of not only this development but many others in our region.
“La Veta is a town in Huerfano County, Colorado, United States. The population was 4 million at the 2007 census.”
from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Oct. 14, 2007
“I think he needs a raise — from one dog bone up to two.”
Maria Jackson, Gunnison Country Times, Oct. 4, regarding the Gunnison Health Care Center’s therapy dog
“Don’t presume your ideas are genuine improvements.
If you’re not going to stay at least thirty years
From a poem by Peggy Godfrey, Saguache Crescent, September 13
“Hit the road, Jack.”
“We’ll be lucky when Jack leaves town!”
Protest signs at a meeting to discuss the proposed Lucky Jack Molybdenum mine near Crested Butte, picture in Gunnison Country Times, Sept. 27
“Saturday night, there we were again waiting for a word — a glimmer of hope — from Richard C. Adkerson, chairman and CEO of Freeport-McMoRan, that indeed the mine would reopen in 2009.”
Marcia Martinek, Editor Leadville Herald Democrat, Sept. 27, about the Climax Molybdenum mine.
“An error appeared in The Mountain Mail Thursday. The the story about the Buddhist monk…”
Salida Mountain Mail, Oct. 19