Doug Winters never imagined he would be in the situation he is now.
“It’s funny — 20 years ago, I left for college and I had my future ahead of me and I was looking ahead, and I hadn’t even thought about coming back to Craig or anything like that,” he said. “As far as long-term goals, I just wanted to move my career forward and go wherever life took me.
“Looks like life is bringing me back full circle.”
In that 20 years, Winters has built a resume of investigative work at the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, he said. And that skill and experience will soon return to the area Winters once called home.
Elizabeth Oldham, 14th Judicial District Attorney, recently hired Winters, 37, to fill the investigator position vacated by Joe DeAngelo, who left the 14th Judicial District in mid-October to work as a criminal investigator for the Colorado State Attorney General’s Office in Denver.
Winters was born in Denver and raised in Craig. He now lives in Rifle and has been a detective for the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office since 1999, working on a number of high-profile cases in his tenure, he said.
Winters accepted the district attorney’s investigator position Dec. 20 and will begin work in about three weeks, Oldham said.
“We were very fortunate — we had a lot of qualified people apply,” Oldham said. “We interviewed five people and they had good experience, too, but we thought Mr. Winters actually had the most experience and we thought he would be a great fit with our office.”
Winters graduated from Moffat County High School in 1991 and graduated from Colorado Northwestern Community College’s police training academy in 1996.
Since joining the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, Winters said investigations have become his passion.
“It’s a good way for me to give back to the community,” he said. “I like the fact that we can help (with) and touch so many lives. But, most importantly, we need to hold people accountable for any type of wrongdoing, if there is any. That’s why we do the job that we do.
“There are laws in place that need to be upheld and we need to be fair and respectable when we do that.”
Oldham said she was impressed with Winters’ extensive experience as a detective.
Among other notable cases, Winters said he was the lead detective in the 2003 sexual assault prosecution of NBA player Kobe Bryant. The case was dismissed before it went to trial in criminal court and later settled out of court after a civil suit, he said.
“It was an interesting time (and) a very interesting case,” Winters said. “I felt it was a good case, obviously from an investigatory standpoint.”
Winters said he and another deputy responded to the original sexual assault call.
“She kept reiterating that this is going to be somebody … that we know,” he said. “So I am thinking that maybe it’s somebody within the community. Never did it ever cross my mind that it would be an NBA basketball player.”
The case was a milestone of sorts for Winters, who said he learned a great deal from handling such a high-profile case.
“I want to take the trainings and the experiences and the education that I have received here in Eagle County and bring them to the Moffat, Routt and Grand county areas, and try to bring that level of professionalism that the DA’s office has up there already,” he said. “I believe they have set the bar pretty high and I want to live by those standards.”
Winters ran for Garfield County Sheriff earlier this year, but lost in the primary election to his Republican opponent.
“It had been something that … had been one of my long-term career goals,” he said of running for sheriff. “But, most importantly, there were a lot of things going on in Garfield County that a lot of citizens pointed out to me and that I had seen.
“It seemed like the right time to try to make a change.”
The detective said he is not intimidated by the prospect of being the lone investigator for the judicial district. He said it’s an opportunity he looks forward to taking on.
“I look at it (like) I have a caseload when I am here, I’ll have a caseload up there, and it’s about doing what’s right,” he said. “I’m sure there are going to be challenges, but I don’t think I am intimidated by anything going up there.
“I think it is going to be a different, better challenge for me coming in.”