Alleged Tri-County vandal has history of attention-seeking

Dan Pesch made headlines in 2017 for apparent false murder confession

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The man police say repeatedly vandalized Tri-County Health Department's Aurora offices and threatened staff over the COVID-19 shutdowns has a long history of attention-seeking behavior involving law enforcement — including confessing to a high-profile murder case in Elbert County that ended with dropped charges in 2019.

Dan Pesch, 36, was arrested by Aurora police on May 18 on suspicion of one count of criminal mischief, a class 5 felony, and misdemeanor counts of harassment and defacing property.
 
Pesch remained in custody at the Arapahoe County jail as of May 21. His bond, originally set at $50,000, was reduced to $5,000 on May 20. His next scheduled court appearance is set for June 23.

According to an affidavit in the case, police believe Pesch threw rocks through windows at Tri-County Health's offices at Chambers Road and Hampden Avenue in Aurora on three occasions, on April 15, April 18 and April 20, following up with threatening messages from his personal Facebook account, railing against the agency's stay-at-home order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the affidavit in the case (Warning: explicit language)

“Best part of your policy is that I can keep vandalizing the (expletive) out of your building and the cops won't do (expletive) about it lol,” read one message from Pesch's Facebook account to Tri-County Health. “Spray paint and broken windows are just the beginning (expletive).”

Pesch returned several times in early May to write vulgar messages on the building's doors, police say, following up with more Facebook messages.

“Hope you're enjoying putting small businesses under,” read a May 2 message from Pesch's account. “Enjoy your broken windows (expletive).”

Undercover officers staked out the building, and arrested Pesch after encountering him outside the building on May 8. Officers transported him to an Aurora hospital, where staff gave him two doses of a sedative because of his “combative behavior,” according to the affidavit.

Pesch was charged with  failure to obey a lawful order and resisting arrest, according to an Aurora Police spokesperson, but he was released from the hospital and not taken to jail because of COVID-19 restrictions.

The building was vandalized again on May 11. An Aurora police detective called Pesch, who reportedly ranted against Tri-County's stay-at-home order.

Pesch told the detective that Tri-County officials “deserve to pay” for the impacts of the shutdown order, according to the affidavit: “They're just not getting the message,” Pesch told the detective. “So, I just have to keep increasing the intensity.”

The next day, Tri-County Health received another message from Pesch's Facebook account: “Cops can't be posted at your building every night. I'll get you, you (expletive). All of you.”

Another message from Pesch's account, sent on May 13, read, “Watch out (expletive). It's coming. You have destroyed lives. Payback's going to be (an expletive).”

Aurora Police issued a warrant for Pesch's arrest on May 15.

Aurora Police officers again spotted Pesch outside the Tri-County Health building at about 8:15 p.m. on May 18, according to a department spokesperson.  Pesch fled on foot when officers approached him, but was apprehended after a short chase. 

Pesch was arrested on the outstanding warrant,  failure to obey a lawful order and resisting arrest.

A search of Pesch's criminal record showed Pesch is accused of breaking windows or destroying property in at least seven other incidents in 2019, including at Denver's Auraria Campus, an East Colfax bank, and an Aurora church.

Pesch confessed to several of the incidents, according to the affidavit. Most of the cases are ongoing, according to court records.

Pesch previously made headlines in Elbert County in December 2017, when the Elbert County Sheriff's Office announced Pesch had been charged with murder in the 2010 death of Kiowa High School teacher Randy Wilson.

Pesch had repeatedly confessed to murdering Wilson in a series of Facebook messages and in-person interviews with Elbert County investigators, as well as in cryptic text messages to Greenwood Village police, rambling handwritten notes left at Southwest Plaza shopping mall, and handwritten messages scrawled on the walls of his Littleton-area apartment. Pesch's behavior prompted his partner to leave the state with their two young daughters.

But once in custody in Elbert County, Pesch recanted his confession to murder. Further, his confession did not match physical evidence in the case, Pesch's DNA was nowhere to be found on the evidence, and Pesch's adopted father provided an alibi for the night Wilson died.

During the case, a Colorado Community Media investigation revealed that Pesch had a long history of falsely confessing to crimes, including a series of cabin burglaries in Chaffee County in 2010 and an apparent reference to a then-unsolved 2009 murder of a Saguache County man, a slaying for which another man has since been convicted.

Pesch's public defender in the Elbert County case argued that his confession and strange behavior were motivated by mental illness and drug abuse.

Prosecutors dropped the murder charge against Pesch in the Wilson case in February 2019, more than a year after he was arrested. Pesch pleaded guilty to felony attempted escape, a charge incurred when he broke away from arresting officers outside the Elbert County Jail in 2017.

As part of his probation imposed in Elbert County District Court, Pesch was required to complete a full psychiatric evaluation and comply with any recommended treatment, complete a substance abuse treatment program, attend cognitive behavioral therapy, submit to random drug tests and maintain employment of at least 40 hours a week.

Pesch's last listed address was The Recovery Center, a sober-living facility in Denver run by the Mental Health Center of Denver.

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