Behind the scenes

District attorney's investigator settles in to new position

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Joe DeAngelo's office looked and sounded the part of a work in progress last week. The walls were mostly bare. Unpacked boxes were evidence of his recent arrival.

"Excuse my mess," he said. "I'm still getting settled in."

DeAngelo is settling in to Craig as the 14th Judicial District's new investigator.

The Colorado native moved after he finished college and has spent most of his professional career out of the state. He left Colorado in the late '80s to pursue a law enforcement job in Florida.

"It was the time to be a cop in Florida," said DeAngelo, who admitted that the TV show "Miami Vice" played a part in his decision to head south.

"My buddy and I were attracted to that lifestyle so we took a chance and headed down there."

DeAngelo grew up in Lake--wood , and attended Metro State College in Denver. He also took online classes from Charter Oak State College in Connecticut.

His first job was as a deputy sheriff in South Florida in an area where drug trafficking was prevalent.

"It was a good training ground for me," he said. "We kept busy with a lot of diversity."

The next stop for DeAngelo was Fort Wayne, Ind., which is where he got his first taste of detective work. He was assigned to work with the prosecuting attorney on public corruption cases.

"I had an intense case that involved an officer in a narcotics-trafficking case," he said. "The investigation took 18 months, and it was the most intense 18 months of my life."

He worked for the prosecuting attorney for three of the six years he was in Fort Wayne.

"That is when I saw that my career was moving toward being an investigator," he said. "It is what I was drawn to."

After six years in Fort Wayne, DeAngelo came back to Colorado to work for the district attorney's office in Boulder County.

During his time in Boulder, he assisted in the investigation of the JonBenet Ramsey murder.

"I knew I was doing things right when I was coming to the same conclusions in the Ramsey case as the professionals with letters at the end of their names," he said.

"I had a blast in Boulder, and I knew it was time to pursue the career further."

To further his training, DeAngelo enrolled in graduate school at Regis University in Denver. He studied forensic psychology with an emphasis on issues related to crime.

DeAngelo plans to complete his thesis while he's in Craig. But finding the time to finish the thesis could be a challenge.

"I had cases to work on my first day," he said.

DeAngelo has kept in close contact with former investigator Ray Birch during his first weeks.

"I want to follow in his footsteps," DeAngelo said. "From what I see he did a fine job."

In the coming days the new investigator plans to get to know the area and local law enforcement.

"Knowing local law enforcement is key for me," he said. "I'll do some cases myself, but there will be times when we'll be helping each other."

DeAngelo said crimes in Craig are similar to everywhere else he's been, but "it's on a smaller scale than in a place like Fort Wayne."

The previous two investigators went on to pursue elected law-enforcement positions.

DeAngelo said he didn't see that in his immediate future.

"Maybe after five years it will be different," he said. "But I see myself settling in here for a while."

Outside of the office, DeAngelo is a self-described gym rat. He competes in body-building competitions and in a decathlon-like event in the law enforcement Olympics.

"My dad was a P.E. teacher, so fitness was always part of my family," he said.

DeAngelo has two sons, Donovan, 13 and Avi, 2. They live with their mothers.

"I've been divorced twice," he said. "It's something you see with cops."

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