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Grand Junction man arrested on kidnapping charges in Mesa County

MESA COUNTY — At 2:53 a.m. Monday, Nov. 12, Mesa County Sheriff's deputies were called to a report that a man had broken into a home on the 2900 block of Clarinet Lane and was holding the occupants hostage, according to a news release from the Mesa County Sheriff's Office.

The male victim told deputies he woke up to the suspect holding a knife to his throat. He and a woman who was staying at the home were then held hostage in the living room for about an hour. The male victim was able to escape and run to a neighbor's house to call 911, suffering minor injuries in the process.

The female victim told deputies the suspect then pushed her out of the house, and they both left the area in her car. The female said she was assaulted in the process. Deputies were able to track the vehicle to a parking lot near the Fruita Welcome Center, and the suspect was arrested without further incident.

The suspect, David Gillespie, 31, of Grand Junction, was reportedly known to the victims.

Gillespie is being held at the Mesa County Detention Facility facing charges of two counts of second degree kidnapping, a Class 2 felony; first degree burglary, a Class 3 felony; and aggravated robbery, a Class 3 felony.

He also faces misdemeanor charges including two counts of false imprisonment criminal mischief, second degree criminal tampering, felony menacing harassment, two counts of third degree assault, two counts of reckless endangerment, menacing, and domestic violence.

The case remains under investigation.

Search called off for missing Front Range man believed to be in Steamboat Lake area

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Authorities have called off a search in the Steamboat Lake area for a 66-year-old man from the Front Range.

“With the resources that we have and with the conditions that are up there, we have searched all probable areas,” said Kristia Check-Hill, the Routt County Search and Rescue volunteer who served as incident commander. “Until we have further information, we will not be going back into the field.”

The man was last heard from on Saturday, Nov. 4, Check-Hill said.

Family members contacted local law enforcement Saturday, Nov. 10, because they believed the man could be on some family property near Steamboat Lake.

Routt County Sheriff's Office deputies located the man’s vehicle on the property Saturday.

At 1:15 p.m. Saturday, a team of five Search and Rescue volunteers set out looking for the man in areas near the vehicle. They returned to town at 5:40 p.m. after poor conditions in the field made the search dangerous, Check-Hill said.

“It’s hard to search in the conditions that we were up against — 10 inches of snow as it is and low visibility — but you put darkness on top of that, and you can't see what's even underneath your feet, so it does no good to be searching,” she said.

The safety of Search and Rescue volunteers is a priority, Check-Hill added.

At 8:15 a.m. Sunday, eight volunteers set out to comb additional areas mentioned by the family and other areas where they believed the man could be. Search and Rescue returned Sunday evening as conditions again worsened.

The family will continue to look for the man, Check-Hill said, though Search and Rescue warned them to be wary of the poor weather conditions. The family was instructed to report any clues to the man’s location to law enforcement.

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email ehasenbeck@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.

Craig native Aaron Kawcak bounces back from broken neck to coach at Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Aaron Kawcak jogs with a group of junior ability snowboarders across the snow to a parking lot by the fairgrounds.

The junior ability program is offered to kids 14 and younger at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. It provides advanced snowboard training for giant slalom, slalom, halfpipe, slope style and snowboard cross with optional competition participation.

For Kawcak, the new full-time head coach of the program, it was an opportunity to come home when he needed it most.

He sets them up for a dynamic warmup, which includes lunges, bear crawls, crab walks, running and other movements. Today, he plans on taking them for a hike up Emerald Mountain to help build up their strength and endurance.

"Coaching higher level kids, you get to build a relationship," Kawcak said. "Teaching, you get them for a half day or two days. Coaching, I became passionate about."

Kawcak grew up on his family's ranch in Craig. After working in the oil field for a few years after high school, Kawcak longed for something new.

He deemed himself a "decent" snowboarder, growing up with it, but didn't know he could turn it into a career. He impulsively left home and found out it was exactly what he wanted to do.

"I took a Greyhound to Utah," Kawcak said. "I got into a class at the University of Utah on how to teach snowboarding. I enjoyed it but didn’t know how to teach it or realize there was a whole industry and lifestyle. I fell in love with it."

Kawcak made his way through the ranks, earning a coaching position for Team Utah, the snowboarding sports club in Park City, Utah.

But Kawcak's grandfather was in and out of the hospital, and he felt like he needed to be closer to family to help out on the ranch.

A week before his intended move back to Craig in July 2017, Kawcak went cliff jumping with his friends and broke his neck. Lying nearly paralyzed in the water, unable to move his arms, Kawcak's friends fished him out and rushed him to the hospital.

"I was in a halo for three months, not being able to move," Kawcak said. "Looking back, it was really emotional. It was like being locked up in a cage for months not being able to move or shower."

A halo is a metal frame that includes a vest, stabilization bars and a metal ring that circles the patient's head, fastened to the skull. Kawcak remained in the hospital for a week before returning home in Craig.

He was told that fewer than two percent of people who break their c1 vertebrae have a chance to walk again, and the injury can sometimes be fatal. For that week in the hospital, he couldn't walk, but he would spend the next six months in physical therapy.

"It was in the air. They didn’t know if the halo was going to work," Kawcak said. "If that doesn’t heal right, they would’ve fused it. I didn’t know if I would have full movement."

Three months later, Kawcak was taken out of the halo and put in a neck brace, continuing through physical therapy to gain back movement.

Summer turned into winter, and Kawcak wondered if he could go back to coaching.

He interviewed with Tori Koski, the snowboard program director at the winter sports club, and he took on a volunteer coaching job for the winter, driving from Craig to Steamboat Springs every day.

"I was like, 'Well the only positions we have left are volunteering,' and he was like, 'I’m in,’" Koski said. "He worked way more than he asked for, came to USASA nationals, coached trampoline this summer. We needed a head coach for this program to go full time, and he was great with the kids."

Kawcak said that he took his neck brace off for the initial interview, scared that it called his ability into question.

"In my head, I thought I was capable of doing it but honestly didn’t know if I was going to be able to handle it," Kawcak said. "I was very cautious, but also, it was a very big confidence builder."

The return to snowboarding was a mental hurdle. Kawcak thought any time he fell, his neck would break. But, as he continued his volunteer coaching through the winter, he felt more comfortable getting back to the sport he loved.

"Being around the kids and the whole winter sports club environment was healthy for me," Kawcak said. "It’s worked out well."

To reach Leah Vann, call 970-871-4253, email lvann@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @LVann_Sports.

Officers investigate fraud reports in Craig: On the Record — Thursday, Nov. 8

Craig Police Department

Thursday, Nov. 8

8:38 a.m. On the 800 block of Ashley Road, officers with the Craig Police Department responded to a report of a threat.

9:10 a.m. In Craig, officers investigated a report of a possible drug violation or incident.

9:42 a.m. On the 11000 block of Moffat County Road 103, officers provided assistance to another agency.

12:56 p.m. In Craig, officers investigated a report of a possible sex crime.

1:28 p.m. On the 2300 block of Jeffcoat Drive, officers investigated a fraud report.

2:13 p.m. On the 600 block of Taylor Street, officers investigated a report of a suspicious person, vehicle, or article.

3:05 p.m. On the 1000 block of West Victory Way, officers investigated a report of a threat.

3:48 p.m. On the 900 block of Finley Lane, officers responded to a motor vehicle crash involving property damage.

4:14 p.m. On the 800 block of East Victory Way, officers investigated a report of a possible weapons violation.

4:55 p.m. On the 1100 block of School Street, officer investigated a report of a threat.

5:14 p.m. On the 800 block of Pershing Street, officers investigated a fraud report.

5:31 p.m. On the 2000 block of West Victory Way, officers investigated a theft report.

7:02 p.m. On the 600 block of Wickes Avenue, officers investigated a theft report.

8:37 p.m. On the 700 block of Hospital Loop, officers responded to a 911 hangup call.

9:24 p.m. In Craig, officers investigate a report of a possible sex crime.

Ex-Vail city employee allegedly slept with child prostitute in Glenwood Springs

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The man charged with soliciting a minor for prostitution in Glenwood Springs is a Gypsum resident and worked for the town of Vail for more than 24 years, the Post Independent has learned.

Ronald Braden, 53, appeared in Garfield County District Court Wednesday on bond, and was released with a court protection order prohibiting him from having contact with children under 18 years of age.

Judge Denise Lynch of the 9th District also ordered Braden to remain in Colorado, unless granted permission to travel from the court, according to case documents.

Braden had led information services for town of Vail since he was hired in June 1994, most recently holding the title of director. Braden’s employment with the town of Vail officially ended Monday, a spokesperson for the town said, and he was placed on leave Oct. 24.

Braden’s charges are included in a larger Colorado grand jury indictment handed down Oct. 22, alleging a prostitution ring operated out of the former Plaza Inn, which is no longer in business, in north Glenwood Springs.

The indictment charges Damara Hester, 25, and Dasjuan Goode, 30, of transporting two juveniles to Glenwood Springs in July 2017 and holding them at the hotel before driving at least one of the juveniles to a sex buyers’ home to perform acts of prostitution,” the indictment said.

Braden allegedly was one of those who engaged in the activities during that time. The pair put ads for the two minors online and exploited them sexually for money, according to the indictment.

On at least one occasion, Braden “met the juvenile at a hotel/motel in Glenwood Springs and paid money to engage in sexual intercourse with her,” according to the indictment.

He is charged with four felony counts, including soliciting for child prostitution, pandering of a child, patronizing a prostituted child, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

A defense attorney for Braden, Alaurice Tafoya-Modi, said “Mr. Braden looks forward to addressing the allegations in a court of law.”

Hester remains in custody at the Garfield County jail with bail set at $50,000. Goode was arrested Oct. 25 and is currently being held in Brighton with bond set at $100,000, according to Adams County Sheriff records.

Ninth District prosecutors have filed to have Goode transferred from the Adams County jail to face the charges in Garfield County, Assistant District Attorney Ben Sollars said.

Craig agencies respond to multiple-vehicle crash along Highway 13

CRAIG — Craig and Moffat County’s emergency responders were on the scene Friday morning at the intersection of First Street and Colorado Highway 13, the scene of a multiple-vehicle crash.

The collision resulted in significant damage, as one vehicle was rolled over the east side of the highway.

Craig Police Department was the lead agency in charge at the scene, with Craig Fire/Rescue and Memorial Regional Health EMS among those assisting. Two parties were transported to MRH, but responders have not yet been able to provide information about related injuries.

Craig Press will have more on this story as it develops.

Rewards of service: Craig couple grateful for lessons learned in Navy

CRAIG — U.S. Navy veterans Kris and Hannah Wood got to know one another — and learned quite a bit about life in the process — when neither was very far removed from high school (though Hannah had attended a year of community college by that time).

They met while serving in the same squadron in Washington state. They'd known each other for "a couple of years before that," Hannah said, but on deployment, "we both kind of discovered who the other one was."

They were married after Hannah left active duty in 2013.

About three months ago, the couple relocated to Craig, Kris's hometown, from Texas, where Hannah was born and where Kris was serving his final active-duty tour as a recruiter. He retired from the Navy in 2017 with 20 years of service.

Hannah remains in the Navy Reserves, but with their son, Miles, who's just turned 3, and a second child due in about three weeks, life has moved the couple beyond the military, and Hannah plans to complete her service in March, after a total of 11 1/2 years.

"I'm really going to miss it," she said. "I loved being in the Navy."

Their service took them around the world — several times.

"We re-po'ed aircraft," Kris said, which Hannah explained refers to "repositioning."

It's "where you fly one aircraft to a location, pick up another one, take that one to another place, pick up a different aircraft, and fly it home," she said. "So we basically flew around the northern hemisphere — all the way around."

They weren't pilots, but their roles were no less critical; Kris served as a flight engineer, or FE — one of several jobs he held in the Navy — and Hannah, as an in-flight technician.

"We were pretty much glorified in-flight mechanics," Kris said. "If it breaks, we had to get it in a configuration to where we could land safely or get home."

Hannah added the path to becoming an FE is rigorous, and many who begin either drop out or fail out.

"They basically run the airplane, not the pilots," Hannah said with a laugh. "I mean, the pilots set power and actually fly the aircraft, but the FEs are the ones that push all the buttons and monitor all the gauges."

"Yeah, we ran all the systems," Kris agreed. "We controlled the fuel, the engines, the air conditioning, hydraulics — pretty much everything it takes to keep an airplane in the air."

Hannah's role was different, though no less important.

"On the flip side of that, I was an in-flight technician," she said. "So, I did all the electronics and all the mission systems and communications and navigation."

They said their jobs were often challenging, as the aircraft they served on were often older.

In particular, they mentioned the Lockheed EP-3E, the same model of aircraft that was involved in an aerial collision in April 2001 and initiated an emergency landing on China's Hainan Island.

"That's the same aircraft," Hannah said. "I flew that plane on my last deployment. We still fly that plane. They fixed it up and sent it back out."

She added that a friend of hers told her she'd seen parts of the same aircraft in a museum.

"Yeah, there were parts in a preserved aircraft we had on ours." Hannah said.

"They update them constantly, but there are still plenty of malfunctions," Kris added.

While many of the skills the couple mastered in the military are translatable to certain sectors of the civilian world, both Kris and Hannah said the true value they received from having served is to be found in the more non-tangible things they learned.

"The things I took away from the Navy aren't really the technical things I learned," Hannah said. "But I used my GI Bill to get a master's degree."

But even that isn't at the heart of why both Kris and Hannah say they are grateful for their time in service.

"I think the biggest thing I took away from the Navy is how to make friends, how to work hard, how to stand up for myself, and how to see something bigger than myself," Hannah said. "I mean, not just me matters; not just what my unit is doing matters. It's a really big picture, and I'm just a little piece of it."

She said she would recommend the military to any young person approaching graduation, not because she wants to recruit for the military, but rather because she knows first-hand the tremendous advantages to be had from service.

"Going through all the training teaches you how to have a backbone and how to stand up for yourself and how to have pride in yourself and in your job and what you do," she said. "I could not recommend it enough."

She added that, as a woman, it was "neat" to do the same types of work as her male counterparts "and sometimes do it better."

Kris agreed.

"As a recruiter, I was in high schools all the time, talking to students, and they thought they had their life planned out, but when you ask them how they're going to pay for college … they have no clue. … The military gives you a job. It gives you the training on top of the travel and the experience and schools. If you're able to get in now, you should go in."

‘Red wall’ in Moffat County not enough to stop ‘blue wave’ crashing across Colorado state offices

CRAIG —While Moffat County was among the majority of Colorado counties favoring Republican candidates, the red wall was not enough to prevent a blue wave from delivering Democratic control to nearly all Colorado’s state offices.

A map showing the counties voting for Republican versus those voting Democrat candidates for state office in 2018. While the number of red counties was greater, the number of people voting in blue counties was larger ultimately resulting in a sweep of races in favor of Democratic candidates for state offices.

The red/blue political divide is no longer clearly split between the Western Slope and the Front Range, or even urban versus rural. Instead, it might be more accurately defined as a difference between the haves and the have-nots. An analysis of voting trends shows that counties voting Democratic are some of the most affluent and populous in the state.

Republican incumbent Secretary of State Wayne Williams lost his re-election bid 46.31 percent to 51.24 percent to Democratic candidate Jena Griswold. In stark contrast, 78.15 percent of Moffat County voters voted to retain Williams, with only 18.6 percent favoring Griswold.

The state treasurer’s position, vacated when Walker Stapleton decided to run for governor, was a contest between Republican Brian Watson and Democrat Dave Young. In Moffat County, Watson received 79.05 percent of the vote compared to 17.41 percent for Young. However, with 50.85 percent of the total votes across Colorado, Young defeated Watson, who earned 46.46 percent of the total vote.

The trend continued in the race for Colorado’s Attorney General, a seat vacated when incumbent Cynthia Coffman made an unsuccessful primary bid for governor earlier this year, as Democrat Phil Wieser earned 50.04 percent of the vote compared to the 46.94 percent earned by George Brauchler. In Moffat County, 79.47 percent of voters favored Brauchler, with only 17.27 percent casting their votes for Wieser.

State offices include regents for the University of Colorado system — a nine-person governing board established in an amendment to Colorado’s Constitution.

A map showing the proportion of counties supporting the Republican (red) versus the Democratic candidate for Regent of the University of Colorado to represent the Third Congressional District.

This year, Moffat County voters helped select one at-large representative and the representative for the 3rd Congressional District.

Democrat Leslie Smith earned 50.48 percent of the vote, edging out Republican candidate Ken Montera, who had received 44.75 percent of the vote. In Moffat County, however, Smith earned only 17.53 percent of the vote, compared with 77.56 percent who voted for Montera.

Bucking the blue trend, Republican candidate for Regent for the University of Colorado for the Third Congressional District Glen Gallegos won his seat with 50.98 percent of the vote, compared to the 43.25 percent received by Democratic challenger Alvin Rivera.

Support for Gallegos was strong in Moffat County, where he received 77.82 percent of the vote, compared to 16.32 percent of votes cast for Rivera.

While Moffat County voters did not cast ballots in the race for regent to represent the 5th Congressional District, it was also won by a Republican — Chance Hill —who received 62.62 percent of the vote, compared to the 37.38 percent earned by Democratic candidate Tony Wolusky.

Hill and Gallegos joined State Board of Education member for the 4th Congressional District Debora Scheffel as the only Republican candidates to win their races for state office.

In a politically divided state, the ripples of the blue wave will have long-lasting impacts across Colorado.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

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High school students survive car crash into Maroon Creek

ASPEN — A car with five high school students inside missed a corner Wednesday night on Maroon Creek Road and flew off the road, down an embankment and into Maroon Creek, a witness said Thursday.

A T-Lazy 7 Ranch resident, who was one of the first people on scene, said his father called him and told him a car was in the river and people needed assistance.

“He said a girl was still in the vehicle,” said Jesse Dean, 27. “We wanted to make sure everyone was safe and stable.”

When he reached the car ­— a Tesla — he found a man and woman still inside, though neither appeared seriously injured. Both were conscious and responsive and were not trapped, he said.

Three others who were in the car were on the road at the time and also did not appear seriously injured, Dean said.

The car appeared to have missed a corner near the T-Lazy 7 and may have flown as much as 100 feet off the road and 20 feet down an embankment into Maroon Creek, he said.

Police and paramedics arrived about the same time as Dean, who helped them carry the girl out of the car.

Alex Burchetta, operations director for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, said all the occupants of the car were minors and area high school students. All five were taken to Aspen Valley Hospital and at least one may have been flown to a larger hospital, though that could not be confirmed, he said.

The Colorado State Patrol was called to investigate the crash, though a trooper did not immediately return a message seeking comment Thursday.

Dean praised the safety measures built into the Tesla.

“They were extremely fortunate,” he said. “For all intents and purposes, it flew 100 feet before landing.”

Editorial: The fight’s not over

The 2018 midterm election is now in the history books; after months of rancorous debate and campaign rhetoric, the candidates have either won or lost, and the issues have either been embraced or rejected.

It's over.

And that includes Moffat County Referred Measure 1A.

We won't mince words; we were bitterly disappointed by the outcome on this issue. Measure 1A would have ensured Moffat County Libraries and the Museum of Northwest Colorado would continue their vital services to this community into the foreseeable future, free from the capricious stroke of the budgetary axe. And, it would have done this in return for a pretty insignificant increase in taxes. As we editorialized last month, we saw 1A as the most sensible path to preserving these two treasured local institutions.

But, the majority of county voters disagreed with us, and we respect and accept their decision.

Our purpose here is not to demonize a choice we happen not to agree with; instead, it is to propose a path forward in light of that choice.

During both the lead-up to and aftermath of Tuesday's vote, we caught a glimpse of the reasons so many of our neighbors felt 1A was not a good idea.

Some seemed to express opposition to any tax increase, whatsoever, for any reason, whatsoever.

Others said county and city leaders had not done enough to divert existing funds to the libraries and museum before approaching voters with a mill levy.

Still others stated they never visit the library or museum, anyway, and questioned why they should even care.

Yet, one of the most telling comments we read following 1A's defeat went something like this:

"A vote against Measure 1A was not a vote against the libraries or the museum; it was a vote against higher taxes when other options might be available," and we believe that wholeheartedly.

If the question had been: "Shall Moffat County starve the Moffat County Libraries and the Museum of Northwest Colorado of funding until they die," we seriously doubt the measure would have received a single "yes" vote.

This tells us most in the community share our conviction that the libraries and museum are irreplaceable community assets and that their closures would be a horrific blow to the economic, educational, and cultural well-being of Moffat County.

If this is the case — and we sincerely believe it is — then we challenge ourselves and our neighbors to turn our noble words into tangible action.

As we acknowledged, the 1A question is settled, but the financial crisis facing the libraries and the museum was not settled with it — on the contrary, it was exacerbated. If we fail to act, both will eventually be forced to close their doors.

The bottom line is this: If we truly value the enrichments we enjoy by having a vibrant, active library system and a world-class western museum in our community, then it is we who must fight to preserve them.

What can we do?

We can attend and speak up at meetings of our local governing bodies. We can call our local leaders. We can write letters. We can let the Powers that Be know, in no uncertain terms, that allowing the libraries and the museum to wither and die on the vine is not an option we're willing to accept. And, if we still see no meaningful action, we can fire our leaders at the ballot box and hire new ones who will fight for the things we hold dear.

But if we do none of this — if we instead simply give up on two community treasures like the libraries and the museum — then we WILL lose those treasures.

Even worse, we'll deserve to.