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Moffat County wrestling coach Dusty Vaughn resigns to take position in Idaho

Moffat County High School is on the lookout for a new head coach for the Bulldog wrestling program after this week.

Dusty Vaughn recently handed in his resignation as the head of the grappling team after one year with Moffat County.

Vaughn, also a Craig Middle School physical education instructor and member of the CMS football coaching staff, said the reason for his departure was in order to accept a coaching and teaching position in Boise, Idaho, where his wife, Kirby, will also take on a role as a school psychologist in the district.

Vaughn said the circumstances for the couple and their 6-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son were too good to ignore.

“We weren’t even looking for jobs, but it was something that came up as a great opportunity for our family,” he said.”It was a tough decision. Both my wife and I, in such a short time, have grown so close with the parents and kids in our wrestling community.”

During his time with the MCHS program, Vaughn had a small roster with a great deal of young athletes — with two seniors, only one of whom was able to finish the season — ending the year with four wrestlers qualifying for the state tournament, including Hunter Fredrickson, Anthony Duran and Dagan White, with regional champion Daniel Caddy ultimately placing fourth in his weight class.

Vaughn said he believes the potential of athletes returning to the team this winter is tremendous.

“There’s a lot of kids in that program who have continued to wrestle and continue to get better,” he said. “If Moffat County finds the right coach, I think the program will really take off.”

While in Craig, Vaughn also began the business Dusty’s Barbecue, providing savory meat dishes.

“We loved doing that and the interaction with people, the whole environment,” he said. “Barbecue brings people together.”

Dusty’s Barbecue will continue to operate in the region this summer before Vaughn and his family leave for Idaho, serving up food at Meeker’s Range Call and Steamboat Springs’ Art in the Park.

MCHS Athletic Director Bobby Howard said operations are underway to hire Vaughn’s replacement, with a goal of having the position filled by Aug. 1.

Howard said he was sorry to see Vaughn leave but respected his choice for his family.

“We wish Dusty the best. He’s not only a good coach but a good person,” Howard said. “He’s going to be missed around here.”

Man urinating in rain arrested: On the Record — June 20 to 24

Craig Police Department 

Thursday, June 20

12:38 a.m. On the 1000 block of West Victory Way, police in Craig responded to a drunk driver call. Craig police said they located the vehicle parked, but the suspect was not behind the wheel. 

9:45 a.m. On the 800 block of West First Street, police in Craig responded to a civil problem call. Craig police said they mediated a landlord-tenant dispute. Police in Craig responded to at least six other civil problem calls Thursday. 

10:37 a.m. On the 800 block of West First Street, police in Craig responded to a stolen vehicle call. Craig police said a caller reported a possible stolen motor home that Craig police turned over to the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office. 

11:13 a.m. Police in Craig responded to a sex crime call. Craig police said they continue to investigate a possible sex crime. 

12:36 p.m. On the 600 block of Hockett Circle, Craig community service officers responded to a code enforcement call. Craig police said a community service officer issued a verbal warning for weeds and junk vehicles.

1:47 p.m. At the Plan B Pawn Shop, police in Craig responded to a follow-up investigation. Craig police said no additional information was available Tuesday. 

6:06 p.m. On the 600 block of Wickes Avenue, police in Craig responded to a trespass call. Craig police said no action was taken after a caller reported a possible trespass at apartments in Craig.  

6:07 p.m. Police in Craig responded to a domestic violence call. Craig police said a caller reported a verbal disturbance, but when police responded they found and mediated a civil incident. 

10:53 p.m. On the 1000 block of West Victory Way, police in Craig responded to a theft call. Craig police said a caller reported a possible disturbance, but when police responded, they were unable to determine a crime had been committed. 

According to the Craig Police Department incident log, police in Craig responded to 54 calls for service on Thursday.

Friday, June 21

6:34 a.m. On the 300 block of Apple Street, police in Craig responded to a suspicious person/vehicle/article call. Craig police said a caller reported a man urinating on his shed in the rain, so police responded and helped get the man treatment for possible hypothermia. The 32-year-old Craig male was later arrested on a warrant from an outside law enforcement agency. 

7:02 a.m. On the 1000 block of A Street, police in Craig responded to a burglary call. Craig police said a caller reported some missing documents from their vehicle. 

9:34 a.m. Police in Craig responded to a domestic violence call. Craig police said a 59-year-old Oregon man was arrested on charges of domestic violence and third degree assault. 

8:10 p.m. On the 400 block of Barclay Street, police in Craig responded to a traffic stop. Craig police said a driver was issued a citation on a charge of driving with a license that was canceled or denied. 

10:07 p.m. On the 800 block of Columbine Street, police in Craig responded to a drunk driver call. Craig police said a caller reported a possible drunk driver, but police did not make an arrest after making contact with the unattended vehicle. 

According to the Craig Police Department incident log, police in Craig responded to 49 calls for service on Friday. 

Saturday, June 22

1:30 a.m. At the west Kum & Go, police in Craig responded to a kidnap call. Craig police said a 28-year-old man was arrested on charges of second-degree kidnapping, aggravated motor vehicle theft, vehicular eluding, third-degree assault, reckless endangerment, reckless driving, and driving under restraint. 

8:31 a.m. On the 800 block of West First Street, police in Craig responded to a child abuse/neglect call. Craig police said they continue to investigate a possible case of child abuse. 

12:12 p.m. At Northwest Pawn, police in Craig responded to a weapon violation call. Craig police said they responded to an attempted weapons purchase and continue to investigate. 

12:30 p.m. On the 800 block of Legion Street, police in Craig responded to a theft call. Craig police said a caller reported a stolen bike and police continue to investigate. 

4:44 p.m. On the 2000 block of West Victory Way, police in Craig responded to a trespass call. Craig police said a caller at a local grocery store requested police issue a man a trespass notice for shoplifting. 

11:07 p.m. Near the intersection of U.S. Highway 40 and milepost 93, police in Craig responded to a traffic stop. Craig police said they issued a driver a verbal warning. Police in Craig responded to at least three other traffic stops Saturday.

According to the Craig Police Department incident log, police in Craig responded to 43 calls for service on Saturday.

Sunday, June 23

8:35 a.m. On the 700 block of Exmoor Circle, police in Craig responded to a hit-and-run crash call. Craig police said a caller reported a vehicle hit their mailbox and police continue to investigate. 

10:46 a.m. On the 400 block of Rose Street, police in Craig responded to a theft call. Craig police said a caller reported the theft of some vehicle accessories and police continue to investigate. 

11:12 a.m. Police in Craig responded to a domestic violence call. Craig police said officers made contact and determined no crime had been committed. 

5:22 p.m. Police in Craig responded to a missing person/runaway call. Craig police said a caller reported a possible stolen bike, but later found the bike. 

According to the Craig Police Department incident log, police in Craig responded to 29 calls for service on Sunday.

Monday, June 24

7:19 a.m. On the 1600 block of Yampa Avenue, police in Craig responded to a theft call. Craig police said a caller reported the theft of medication and police continue to investigate. 

10:02 a.m. On the 600 block of Wickes Avenue, police in Craig responded to a fraud call. Craig police said a caller reported they provided personal information to someone claiming to be from the social security office.

11:07 a.m. At the Rainbow Trailer Park, police in Craig responded to a follow up investigation. Craig police said they made contact with two suspects and issued them citations on charges of theft. 

12:09 p.m. On the 2000 block of West Victory Way, police in Craig responded to a property damage crash call. Craig police said they responded to a two-vehicle injury with no injuries and no parties were issued citations. 

2:51 p.m. On the 600 block of East Fourth Street, police in Craig responded to an agency assist call. Craig police said a 45-year-old Craig man was arrested on charges of possession of schedule I/II drug, possession of drug paraphernalia, and crime of violation of a restraining order. 

4:04 p.m. On the 1100 block of Barclay Street, police in Craig responded to an agency assist call. Craig police said they assisted another law enforcement agency, but no additional information was available Tuesday. 

5:10 p.m. On the 600 block of Ranney Street, police in Craig responded to a trespass call. Craig police said a caller reported they do extra patrols to remove any possible vagrants from an abandoned property. 

8:34 p.m. On the 500 block of Lincoln Street, police in Craig responded to a follow up investigation call. Craig police said police continue to investigate a possible theft case. 

According to the Craig Police Department incident log, police in Craig responded to 63 calls for service on Monday.

West Portal Industries wants you for Craig manufacturing

There’s a small manufacturing business in Craig with big plans for the future.

Having recently secured a contract to make small parts for a major Department of Transportation supplier across multiple states, Jim Stoddard and his West Portal Industries wants to help put Craig on the manufacturing map.

Jim Stoddard, co-owner of West Portal Industries, shows off his newly manufactured parts.
Clay Thorp/Craig Press

“We are teaming up to put people to work and make people some money,” Stoddard said.

Their shop isn’t large, but their ideas are. Stoddard has enlisted the help of an inventor and entrepreneur, Rich Foster, who helped design West Portal’s new guardrail part for a large Department of Transportation project. Foster’s part helps prevent worker injuries and saves time on the job site as the part facilitates the handling of multiple guardrail sections at one time.

Jim Stoddard and Jeremy Rentola stand next to West Portal Industries’ machinery.
Clay Thorp/Craig Press

“There’s never a need to have your fingers in between or under any of the guardrail panels,” Foster said of how his patented part works.

Stoddard has extended an invitation to inventors and entrepreneurs across the Yampa Valley to work with West Portal Industries to make their inventor dreams a reality. Stoddard has filled his website with patent and project ideas, marketing information, and lots of plans for the future. He said over the past few years he’s invested almost six figures into acquiring the machines it will take to make Craig a light manufacturing hub, but has started a kick start campaign to acquire a few more of the expensive manufacturing pieces.

“It’s all my personal funds that have gone into this,” Stoddard said of the machines currently in his small shop.

Jim Stoddard stands amongst the high-powered machines that dot his small shop.
Clay Thorp/Craig Press

Craig might also be a hub for the manufacture of light plastic parts, if Stoddard has anything to say about it. He’s hired Jeremy Rentola, an injection molding and plastics expert, who says he plans to fill a needed niche for non-metal, light manufacturing in high volumes.

“Any type of knowledge of non-metal things, Craig lacks,” Rentola said.

Jim Stoddard watches West Portal Industries’ 3-D printer cast a plastic part to safely secure tie-down slack on vehicles with tie-downs for heavy loads.
Clay Thorp/Craig Press

Stoddard also has plans to partner with Colorado Northwestern Community College on possible offering classes for credit or as part of the college’s community education program to teach residents how to manufacture light parts.

“It’s in our grasp to partner with the college and teach people how to tool with CNCC machines,” Stoddard said.

For more information, visit westportalindustries.com.

From the Museum Archives: The deadly Meeker bank robbery of 1896

In the middle of a Tuesday afternoon on October 13, 1896, three armed men entered the Bank of Meeker located in the Hugus Store on Main Street. Two warning shots were fired and the eight store patrons and employees were disarmed and corralled to the center of the room. An estimated $1,600 was then placed in a sack. Everything seemed to be going smoothly for the gunmen, but things were about to go south — as in six feet under, south.

Gunshots emanating from inside a bank typically warrants suspicion. This wasn’t lost upon Deputy Game Warden W.H. Clark, who was outside at the time. Clark immediately put out the call to help cover the exits of the Hugus store. Several well-armed Meeker citizens happily obliged.

Meanwhile inside the bank the three bank robbers were instructing their captives to walk single file out the door where their getaway horses were tied to a nearby freight wagon.

Once the trio exited the building behind the hostages, it didn’t take long for them to realize they were staring down the barrels of rifles, shotguns and pistols in nearly every direction. With their options limited, and evidently ruling out surrender, they took the only option left: attempt to shoot their way out of a nearly impossible situation.

The head bandit took the first shot and struck Deputy Clark in the chest. Then, as soon as the two other bandits left the protection of their human shields to mount their horses, all hell broke loose. A violent volley of shots seemingly came from every tree, wagon and window in sight. When the smoke cleared, two of the bank robbers and one of their horses lay dead on the ground. A couple of the hostages were also hit most likely from friendly fire.

The third bandit, though struck several times, limped down a side street while continuing to shoot until he finally fell to the ground. He lived for another hour or so until he proclaimed “Oh, mother!” and took his final breath.

As for the money? It never even left the bank! It was found still sitting inside seemingly forgotten by the obviously novice bank robbers.

It was later determined that the three now-dead men were George Law, Billy Olmstead and Jim Shirley. All of them had ties in and around Northwest Colorado. None of the men were considered particularly menacing nor had significant run-ins with the law prior to that day.

It was also discovered that, however haphazardly the robbery unfolded, the bandits at least had the forethought to make getaway preparations. 17 days after the shootout, a camp consisting of rifles, ammunition and a relay of three horses was discovered about six miles northwest of town. Unfortunately, the horses had been tied-up without food or water and one had already died; the other two were nursed back to health.

Despite being shot in the chest, Deputy Clark made a full recovery as did the other wounded. Only the three careless bank robbers and one of their horses lost their lives that historic day in 1896.

White River Museum is currently preparing a Meeker Bank Robbery exhibit planned for this summer.

Paul Knowles is assistant director of the Museum of Northwest Colorado. To learn more, drop by the Museum of Northwest Colorado at 590 Yampa Ave., or visit the museum’s Facebook page, facebook.com/MuseumNorthwestColorado.

Breckenridge troll Isak Heartstone reopens with new look in new location

BRECKENRIDGE — Breckenridge’s beloved trail troll, Isak Heartstone, is ready to receive visitors at his new home.

The 15-foot tall wooden sculpture reopened to the public Tuesday after closing in fall 2018 when nearby residents complained about too much traffic and noise from thousands of visitors.

“Its popularity was beyond all exceptions,” Breckenridge town manager Rick Holman said. “That’s why we felt it was important to bring it back.”

After it was dismantled, artist Thomas Dambo reimagined the troll — using its original head, heart, hands and feet — and rebuilt it in May in a new location near the Stephen C. West Ice Arena and Illinois Gulch trailhead.

The celebration is the culmination of months of planning by a relocation committee and trail work by the town’s open space and trails department.

“We put together a community committee … to find a new location for the troll to bring him back in some reimagined form,” Breckenridge Open Space and Trails manager Anne Murphy said.

The committee — which was composed of Breckenridge residents, town council members and town employees — worked to find a location that was accessible and adventurous, offered an outdoor experience for visitors and could sustain a high amount traffic. The committee also searched for a site that had parking and no residential areas nearby.

The new site “checked all the boxes for us,” Holman said.

The new directional Trollstigen trail — which was built by a six-person team from the trails department along with a local contractor — features a rock-lined path, 200 feet of wooden boardwalk and a flagstone area in front of the troll for photos and selfies, Murphy said.

Isak Heartstone, created by Danish artist Thomas Dambo, sits in the new site along Illinois Creek on Monday, June 24, in Breckenridge.

“We decided this trail has to sustain a lot of foot traffic for a very long time to come,” Murphy said.

She said the town hopes to keep Isak for as long as possible, planning for a 10-year timeframe.

Holman described the new viewing area as “unbelievable,” saying town staff went above and beyond in creating Isak’s new home.

“I don’t think anyone ever dreamed it would be as popular as it was,” he said.

Free HIV tests available at Northwest Colorado Health

More than one million people are living with HIV in the U.S., and about 15 percent of these individuals don’t know they have it. HIV is preventable and treatable. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone age 13 to 64 be tested for the virus at least once as part of routine health care.

People most often get HIV through sexual behaviors and needle or syringe use. A pregnant women also can pass the virus to her child. Learn more about HIV risk at cdc.gov/hivrisk. Untreated, HIV will lead to AIDS, the most severe stage of infection when a person’s body can no longer fight illness. Once a person knows their HIV status, they can take steps to prevent or treat it.

Medication is available to protect people at high risk from getting the virus. If a person has HIV, medication will help them live long and healthy lives and prevent them from transmitting it to others. Most health insurance covers HIV testing. If not, free tests are available at Northwest Colorado Health, 745 Russell St. To make an appointment, call 970-824-8233.

Colorado treats marijuana taxes like ‘a piggy bank,’ but top lawmakers want to limit spending to two areas

Colorado lawmakers “hear it all the time,” says Sen. Rachel Zenzinger.

“There’s so much suspicion around what we’re doing with marijuana money,” the Arvada Democrat told The Colorado Sun. “There is this perception that there’s a lot of money and we’re just not spending it on education like we should.”

The complaints from constituents and policy advocates are aimed at the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund, a depository for about half of the $272 million the state is expected to generate this fiscal year from marijuana-related taxes. The legislature has guidelines for how the money should be spent, but lawmakers can use it for just about anything they want. And in practice, they do, splitting the money among dozens of different programs, across more than a dozen state agencies.

“Right now, it just kind of is a piggy bank that folks look to when they want something funded,” said Sen. Dominick Moreno, a Commerce City Democrat who leads the Joint Budget Committee. “It has become a pool of money that you can just raid.”

Now — five-plus years and $1 billion in tax collections since recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado — top Democratic budget writers say they want to change how pot tax revenue is appropriated, recommending new guardrails for a fund that will total $159 million next budget year. The result: Instead of the 14 preferred uses for marijuana money currently spelled out in state law, state budget writers have settled on just two priorities: education and the opioid crisis.

Read the full story on The Colorado Sun website.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported news organization dedicated to covering the people, places and policies that matter in Colorado. Read more, sign up for free newsletters and subscribe at ColoradoSun.com.

Jury finds Rifle man guilty of drunken driving in fatal crash

GARFIELD COUNTY — A Garfield County jury on Monday found Cody Christopher guilty of all charges, including two counts of vehicular homicide, for a December 2017 rollover crash north of Rifle that killed two adult men and seriously injured a 10-year-old boy.

The jury delivered its verdict after more than four hours of deliberation, just before 9 p.m., concluding five days of trial plus one day of jury selection.

An emotional Christopher, 41, exited the courthouse in Glenwood Springs surrounded by family and friends, thanking them for coming. Between 20 and 30 of Christopher’s friends attended the trial each day.

“It’s a real tragedy,” said defense attorney Lawson Wills in closing arguments before the jury deliberated. Christopher “lost two of his very best friends, but ladies and gentlemen, don’t make more of a tragedy of this.”

Prosecutors said that Christopher, 41, drank to intoxication and then drove his two friends, Matthew Smith, 36, and Trent Johnson, 41, as well as Johnson’s then-10-year-old son, up the dirt Puma Paw Road several miles north of Rifle on Dec. 28, 2017.

The Ford Excursion rolled off the road and into a creek bed, killing Johnson and Smith, and injuring the boy. Christopher also was injured in the crash.

WHO TO BELIEVE

Neither the prosecution’s evidence from witnesses nor the defense’s theory of the events were completely consistent.

To find him guilty, the jury had to find that Christopher drank to excess — apparently reaching a blood alcohol level of .237, three times the legal limit to drive — then got behind the wheel and drove about half a mile from the ranch buildings before driving off the cliff.

The strongest evidence of Christopher’s guilt may have come from Christopher himself. He told investigators in the early morning hours, while he was in treatment for head injuries and, according to his mother, not making any sense, that he was driving.

Wills presented the theory that Christopher was not driving. In his testimony Friday, Christopher said he was not certain whether he was driving at the time of the crash, but did remember switching seats with some in the car just before the crash.

Prosecutors said that story was too convenient.

“It is only months later that the defendant tells you he wasn’t driving, and if he was, he wasn’t drunk,” 9th District prosecutor Sarah Nordgaard said in closing arguments.

Wills focused on the inconsistencies and missteps in the prosecution’s case, including chain of custody issues related to blood drawn from Christopher, selective testing of DNA evidence from the crash, and improper interview tactics.

On Friday alone, two first responders testified during the prosecution’s rebuttal that they were the first to arrive on the scene, and that the other showed up later.

“These guys can’t even agree on who showed up first,” Wills said.

The prosecution’s case, Wills said, really rested on the testimony of Colorado State Patrol Sgt. David Everidge and CSP Trooper Kirk Bartunek, who spoke to Christopher while he was disoriented and in treatment at Grand River Hospital and later at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction.

Wills also presented Christopher as courageous for dealing with the situation, while prosecutor Nordgaard framed the question before the jurors as “the hard evidence the people presented to you, or the defendant’s excuses.”

“The defendant doesn’t get a pass just because he killed two of his friends,” Nordgaard said. “The defendant doesn’t get a pass just because he helped a child, who just saw his dead father, get back to help.”

In addition to the two counts of vehicular homicide for the deaths of Johnson and Smith, Christopher was found guilty of vehicular assault for the injuries to the 10-year-old, child abuse, driving under the influence of alcohol and reckless driving.

Sentencing in the case was scheduled for Aug. 8 at 1:30 p.m.

Craig police part of multi-county car chase that ends with spike strip stop

Police in Craig were involved in a high-speed chase across four counties Saturday that ended when a kidnapping suspect’s vehicle was taken out with spike strips.

Thomas Mannon, 28, was arrested on charges of second-degree kidnapping, aggravated motor vehicle theft, vehicular eluding, third-degree assault, reckless endangerment, reckless driving, and driving under restraint.

According to a Monday news release from the Craig Police Department, Craig dispatch relayed to police a disturbance call at a local convenience store in which the reporting female was unable to talk to 911 dispatch.

Thomas Mannon, 28, was arrested on charges of second-degree kidnapping, aggravated motor vehicle theft, vehicular eluding, third-degree assault, reckless endangerment, reckless driving, and driving under restraint.
Courtesy Photo

“The communications officer could hear a disturbance on the open phone line,” the release said.

CPD says Craig Police Officer Tracy Mendoza was first at the convenience store and witnessed a physical disturbance between a male and a female near a white pickup. But when he attempted to make contact with the truck, the chase was on.

“…the truck pulled out of the parking lot at a high rate of speed with the male and female inside,” the news release said.

Craig dispatch still had an open line inside the pickup and said the female was being assaulted and was not in the truck of her own free will. Police were hot on their tail as dispatch soon lost phone contact with the female.

As the chase continued toward Meeker, officers with CPD and a Moffat County Sheriff’s Office deputy soon joined in the chase before it abruptly ended — for a moment.

“Approximately a mile outside of Meeker, the truck stopped suddenly in the middle of the road and the female was pushed out of the truck,” CPD’s release said. “The female was injured and was transported by ambulance to the hospital in Meeker.”

Police said the truck then took off again at a high rate of speed.

“Craig officers stopped pursuing the truck at that point and deputies from the Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office started pursuing the truck,” the release said. “Rio Blanco officers pursued the truck over Douglas Pass into Mesa County. Mesa County law enforcement officers used spike strips to take out all four tires on the truck, and were able to take the suspect into custody.”

Mannon may now be facing a host of charges across multiple counties.

“Both Moffat County Sheriff’s Office and Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Officer are also seeking additional charges on Mannon,” the release said.

Monday train derailment not expected to damage Moffat County coal operations

A derailment in Craig Monday morning shut down a portion of tracks until crews could clear several train cars full of coal that had tipped over.

Crews with Union Pacific Railroad were on the scene Monday working to safely get the engine off the tracks to begin cleaning up the mess.

Kristen South, a Union Pacific spokeswoman, the company said six train cars derailed about 6:30 a.m. Monday.

“The good news is the crew wasn’t hurt,” South said. “We are still investigating the cause.”

In an email, Tri-State Generation and Transmission confirmed the coal belonged to them and was on its way to Craig Station.

“The rail cars were transporting coal from the Colowyo Mine to Craig Station,” said Elizabeth Rugile, an internal communications manager with Tri-State.

Tri-State said the company has plenty of coal stockpiled for use at the station, and Monday’s accident won’t affect their operations.

“No impact to either the Colowyo Mine or Craig Station operations is expected at this time,” Rugile said. “The stockpile of coal currently available at the station will meet the fuel needs to operate the station until the rail line is repaired and trains are once again running as scheduled.”

Union Pacific did not provide an estimated timeline for completion of the cleanup.