Charges could come today in Rio Blanco County shooting |

Charges could come today in Rio Blanco County shooting

Joe Moylan

Martin Beeson, Ninth Judicial District Attorney, expects to file charges today in Rio Blanco County District Court against a man allegedly involved in the Aug. 5 fatal shooting of his friend.

However, the prosecutor said he could not comment on specific charges until they are filed.

"I'm not allowed to talk about what charges may be filed," Beeson said. "I know what charges are going to be filed, but until they are filed speaking about them would be a direct violation of my ethical responsibilities."

Authorities allege Neil James Joy, 30, shot and killed James "Jeb" Berthelson, 32, of Meeker, two weeks ago in rural Rio Blanco County.

Joy turned himself into authorities Aug. 9 and was arrested for manslaughter.

A court proceeding is scheduled for 11 a.m. today in district court. Beeson referred to the hearing as a "filing of the information."

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According to court documents, Joy and Berthelson, who were friends, left Meeker about 5 p.m. Aug. 5 to scout elk. They were 45 miles northeast of Meeker when a firearm allegedly in Joy's hand went off between 10:30 and 11:30 p.m.

A ranch owner near the shooting made the initial 911 call at 11:32 p.m., according to authorities. It's believed Joy made contact with that person, Beeson said.

Rio Blanco County Sheriff's Office deputies and EMTs were dispatched to the scene. Beeson believes a Flight for Life unit may have also responded.

"Joy loaded the victim (Berthelson) into the bed of his truck," Beeson said. "They arrived at the ranch owner's home at about the same time as first responders."

EMTs tried to revive Berthelson, but were unsuccessful.

Joy was questioned about the shooting by authorities at the scene, Beeson said.

"He told sheriff's deputies that the victim was struck in the back by a bullet that had ricocheted," Beeson said.

Berthelson's body was transferred Saturday to a medical examiner in Grand Junction, and an autopsy was performed.

According to the medical examiner's forensic report, Berthelson had not been struck by a ricochet in the back, but by a straight shot from Joy's gun.

Rio Blanco deputies, a district attorney's office investigator and three Colorado Bureau of Investigation agents processed the scene and conducted interviews for three days, Beeson said.

"They found physical evidence that was not consistent with the story he had first given," the district attorney said.

Authorities made arrangements to bring Joy in for an interview Tuesday morning, Beeson said.

Sheriff's office deputies and CBI agents interviewed Joy and presented evidence collected at the scene and through the medical examiner.

"When the defendant was confronted with that evidence, he changed his story," Beeson said. "He acknowledged that the firearm was in his hands when it discharged and that the bullet went into the victim."

Joy was released after the interview. He turned himself in that night and later posted bond.

Deputy district attorney Gene Tardy will assist Beeson in prosecuting the case. Grand Junction attorney Gordon Gallagher is representing Joy.

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