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Sunday, April 6, 2008   

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Proposal kills death penalty to free funding for cold cases

With 18 unsolved homicides in Fort Collins and Larimer County, and more than 1,200 statewide, a victims' rights group is pushing for increased funding to find the killers.

And they're proposing to do it by replacing the state's death penalty.

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"We have killers walking among us, murderers living in our neighborhoods," said Howard Morton, executive director of Families of Homicide Victims and Mission Persons. "It's a shame that a life has been ended violently and the perpetrator never been prosecuted."

A law passed last year established a cold case task force at the Colorado Bureau of Investigations; but with limited funding. Morton said using the $3 million appropriated annually for the state's rarely used death penalty law would speed things up.

"If you're murdered in Colorado, the chances are 3 in 10 that your murderer will never be prosecuted," Morton said. "How would your family deal with that?"

Nationally, the "clearance" rate for homicides has been declining, from 76 percent in 1978 to 62 percent in 2005, the latest year for which federal statistics were available.

Cases can go cold for reasons ranging from uncooperative witnesses to incompetent investigations.

In Larimer County, some of the unsolved murders date back a century, as is the case of Joseph Allen, who was found beaten to death in 1907 in Fort Collins.

There?s 21-year-old Jessica Arredondo, who was run off the road, beaten and left in a ditch in 1988.

And someone out there knows what happened to Gay Lynn Dixon on Jan. 30, 1982, and her family is still hoping that person will step forward.

Dixon was last seen alive leaving a high school keg party; her body was found in Rist Canyon the next morning, her jaw broken and three bullet wounds to the head. She?d been 17 for less than two months.

?The hope that I have is that the people who were around and the information that they have,? said Laurie Wideman, Dixon?s sister, last summer. ?I hope that, as they mature, they?ll be able to come forward.?

Peggy Hettrick, who was found fatally stabbed and mutilated in Fort Collins in 1987 is not on the list, likely because her case was considered ?solved? when Morton?s group compiled this list.

But earlier this year, a judge freed and vacated the life prison sentence of Tim Masters, the man convicted in her death. Morton said it?s possible Hettrick would not be included on the list now because her case remains under active investigation by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers.

Morton said he?s learned over the past five years that hammering on local law enforcement to reopen cases is often unproductive. The new law requires agencies to turn over cold cases to Colorado Bureau of Investigation if survivors request it.

?The objective is to get more resources to effectively address our unsolved murders,? Morton said.

That being said, he added, ?the time to solve a crime is when it happens, not 20 years later. We need to put those people behind bars.?



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Comments by: mfischer2 Posted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 8:10 pm
Why should we give Broderick any more consideration than he gave Masters? Also, if believing Broderick is guilty of some malfeasance makes you a nutjob, you're going to need a lot of straight jackets.

Comments by: thelor Posted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 4:36 pm
I still find it wonderfully heartwarming that we've all convicted a man in the court of public opinion without his due process.

You fellas are all right. I say we string up Broderick at College and Mountain... who cares about the result of the in-progress independent investigation? Some nutjobs on the internet say he's guilty, therefore he's guilty.

Comments by: pat 2 Posted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 11:11 am
Are you suggesting that the people in charge of making sure the rest of us don't lie, cheat, steal, or kill, should actually refrain from doing those things themselves, and be punished if they do any of those things? Do you mean that the people who enforce the rules should actually follow the rules? What an original idea! Maybe it'll catch on... in your dreams.

Comments by: mfischer2 Posted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 10:14 am
pat 2: Amen! Howabout a bill that would make crimes by police actually be prosecuted? I know that's jumping the gun a bit, but at this point, I don't think the Weld County DA will bring any charges against Broderick.

Comments by: pat 2 Posted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 9:20 am
Let's not forget: the Hettrick murder would have had a much greater chance of being solved if Jim Broderick and others had not been so keen on concentrating every effort on convicting Tim Masters. Every time the case went cold and was reopened again, it was always with the same goal: get Masters. Some feeble efforts were made so it would appear that others were being considered for the crime, but in actual fact there was always only one suspect. Lesson one in solving a murder: Don't decide who did it on the first day, while obstinately ignoring any other explanation.

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Originally published March 22, 2008

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Want to know more?

To learn more about unresolved homicides in Colorado, visit www.unresolvedhomicides.org



Unsolved homicides in Larimer County

> Sept. 14, 1998 ? Gary M. Birks? body was found under a railroad trestle between the Poudre River and College Avenue. Birks, a transient, had been beaten. His killer has not been caught.

> Aug. 24, 1996 ? Two boys playing along Horsetooth Reservoir discovered a plastic garbage bag containing the body of a newborn baby girl. The child, who investigators named ?Baby Faith,? was born alive, but died of suffocation. Investigators have not been able to identify the baby?s mother or her killer.

> Nov. 26, 1988 ? Jessica Arredondo?s body was found on a roadside embankment on U.S. Highway 36 near Estes Park. The 22-year-old Denver resident had been abducted after a car accident.

> Dec. 25, 1984 ? Donald D. Ova?s body was discovered in Lower Poudre Canyon. He had been shot and dumped in the area sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas. A suspect was identified, but not enough evidence could be found to make an arrest.

> July 9, 1982 ? Orma Bell Smith?s body was found near a stream in Big Elk Meadow south of Estes Park. The 94-year-old Longmont woman had been stabbed. Two possible, unrelated suspects were identified, but there was insufficient evidence to make an arrest.

> Jan. 30, 1982 ? Gay Lynn Dixon?s body was discovered about 16 miles outside of Fort Collins on a road in Rist Canyon. A suspect was questioned, but there was insufficient evidence to make an arrest.

> May 19, 1979 ? Morton S. Rosenfeld?s severely beaten body was found in his Estes Park home. A suspect was identified and failed a polygraph test, but there wasn?t enough evidence to make an arrest.

> March 12, 1979 ? Walter A. Perry, 29, and his 9-month-old son, Kimo, were found in the remains of their Loveland home, which had been burned.
Investigators suspected an arsonist set the fire and that robbery was a probable motive, but a suspect never was identified.

> June 25, 1977 ? Steven Meredith Kirk?s decomposing, beaten body was discovered in the back of his camper in the parking lot of a Fort Collins motel. Robbery was listed as a probable motive, and more than one person might have been involved, but no suspects were ever identified.




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