Here is a summary of the major cases we have prosecuted since Jan. 8 when I took office as your new district attorney. If you are wondering why we are not updating you on several of the major cases in your jurisdiction, it is because we are prevented from discussing them by pre-trial media orders issued by the judges in each case.
• On Feb. 22, Conner Donohue pleaded guilty to the hit-and-run death of Officer Jeremy Bitner of the Englewood Police Department. On May 28, 2012, Mr. Donohue, while intoxicated, struck Officer Bitner with his Nissan Pathfinder while Bitner was performing a traffic stop of another driver on Broadway near Belleview Avenue. That second driver was also injured by Mr. Donohue. Sentencing is scheduled for May 31, occurring within days of the one-year anniversary of Officer Bitner's death. I led the prosecution team in this case.
• A DNA match enabled us to prosecute Daniel Lopez for the murder of Yong Soon Kirk, a 65-year-old widow, in her Aurora home in 2007. Lopez was convicted by a jury on three felony counts: murder in the first degree (after deliberation), murder in the first degree (felony murder) and first-degree burglary. The homicide investigation, spearheaded by the Aurora Police Department Major Crime Unit, identified the genetic profile of the suspect early in the investigation. Detectives and analysts from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation eliminated more than 50 possible suspects over the course of two years. Detective Miller was notified in February 2009 that Lopez was a possible suspect after Lopez's DNA was added to the statewide DNA database after a felony drug conviction. DNA, including blood on the victim's underwear, and palm prints from the crime scene were later directly matched to Lopez. In reference to Mr. Lopez's prosecution, I commented: “Justice means trying the most challenging cases that may have been forgotten. This conviction honors the memory of Mrs. Yong Soon Kirk and demonstrates our determination to prosecute cases that may have been left unsolved.”
• Here is a chilling story of domestic violence. DeSean Owens was found guilty of six counts of violence against his former girlfriend. They included assault, kidnapping, menacing and violating a protection order. The events took place on April 3, 2011, in Aurora. In a series of violent acts against his former girlfriend, Owens pulled the victim out of her apartment at knifepoint, and severed most of her finger when the victim put her hands in front of her face and screamed for help. He forced her into his truck and then drove her to a park where she believed the defendant would kill her. She secretly dialed 911 and was rescued by the police. Mr. Owens has nine prior felony convictions and faces a potential sentence of from 15-96 years in the Department of Corrections.
• On January 15, 2012, Amir Bland and another unidentified, masked and armed gunman robbed the Movie Tavern in Aurora. They confronted seven employees at the restaurant, held them at gunpoint and took money directly from the employees themselves, the business safe and cash registers. In less than two minutes, they got away with just over $7,000 in cash. Bland led the police on a high-speed car chase but was eventually caught. When he was arrested, he was wearing a bulletproof vest and had a gun holster on his hip. Mr. Bland was convicted for the robbery and faces a double-digit jail term.
• Nathan Dunlap has been sentenced to death for shooting five employees at a Chuck E. Cheese's in Aurora in 1993. Four of the victims died and he severely injured another. Mr. Dunlap has been scheduled for execution in August. I have issued this statement: “While all murders are tragic, some are truly heinous. Execution should remain a potential sentence for the very most culpable, calculated, and cold-blooded killers.” There has been a request for clemency from Mr. Dunlap's defense team, which we have vigorously opposed.
• Reese Slade was sentenced to 108 years in the Department of Corrections for assault in the first degree on Douglas County Sheriff Office Deputy Jason Jarrett, Attempted assault in the first degree on another officer and menacing on DCSO Deputy Kevin Nichols. He was also convicted of DUI, possession of methamphetamine and Oxycodone. At a prior hearing, he had been determined to be a habitual offender.
On February 5, 2010, defendant Slade was pulled over pursuant to a REDDI report of a DUI and refused to comply with Deputy Jarrett's repeated orders to get out of his car. Eventually, when Jarrett tried to pull him out, Slade resisted him and drove off with Deputy Jarrett hanging out of Slade's car, and crashed into a fence. Then, defendant placed his car in reverse and drove backwards, with Jarrett still hanging out of the driver's side door. Slade's car crashed into a trailer and a fence, pinning Deputy Jarrett between the car door and the trailer. One of the officers and his K9 were also nearly struck by the car as Slade drove it in reverse. Eventually, the officers were able to place Slade under arrest. In a subsequent search of defendant's car, they recovered a loaded handgun, a quarter-pound of methamphetamine and some Oxycodone. At the time of his arrest, Slade had several prior convictions including: felony possession with intent to distribute a Schedule I controlled substance (from 2006) and felony theft from the elderly (from 1995).
• A warning to parents of children using smartphones with geolocators: We held a press conference to make a public safety announcement jointly with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office. DCSO has discovered a disturbing trend of predatory adult behavior using smartphone apps with geolocator functions. Adults are texting and then meeting with children and having sex with them. Since these phone apps can be anonymously downloaded by anyone, anywhere, law enforcement can't identify or catch the offenders. Often the children go onto the sites and pretend to be over 18 and meet with adults, sometimes without considering the potential health hazards of unprotected sexual activity. I have issued a statement warning predators: “We are watching you and will find you!”
• In March 2012, Thomas Hild stole $480,000 worth of jewelry in Parker by digging a tunnel from the neighboring business into the Apex jewelry store and then drilling open their substantial safe. The evidence presented at trial included video surveillance footage of the defendant committing the theft. Hild was convicted by a jury of theft, conspiracy to commit theft, second-degree burglary, criminal mischief and conspiracy to commit second-degree burglary. His sentencing is set for June 14, and he will be sentenced as a habitual criminal.
• A tragic event in Elbert should serve as a warning for teens to drive carefully and without distractions. A young man was sentenced to two years' probation for driving through a stop sign. Another car hit the side of the youth's car, killing his passenger in the front and seriously injuring another in the back seat.
• In Elbert County a couple was convicted of multiple counts of abuse. Up until 2012, Christine O'Rourke and David Stantoine were licensed as an animal shelter by the State of Colorado. In July 2012, after receiving reports of dead and malnourished animals, the Elbert Court Sheriff's Office, in cooperation with other agencies, including Colorado Humane Society, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Denver Dumb Friends League, executed a search warrant of defendants' property. The officers had veterinary help in assessing the animals. During that search, officers had to seize eight horses, two alpacas, two rabbits, five dogs and a potbellied pig due to neglect for medical and/or nutritional needs. Various animal carcasses were also located on the property. Defendants pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and were placed on probation. They have since been re-arrested on a similar offense. They are presumed innocent on this case unless and until proven guilty.
In conclusion, I urge all members of the public to report any suspected criminal activity to local law enforcement and to contact the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office if they have questions or concerns about pending cases where they are victims of crime.
George Brauchler is the district attorney for Colorado's 18th Judicial District, which includes Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties.