Charges filed in Rio Blanco County shooting
August 25, 2011
The suspect in a fatal Aug. 5 shooting in Rio Blanco County was allegedly under the influences of drugs or alcohol, according to court records.
Neil James Joy, 30, is charged in Rio Blanco County District Court with reckless manslaughter, a Class 4 felony, and unlawful possession of a firearm while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or a controlled substance, a misdemeanor.
Martin Beeson, Ninth Judicial District Attorney, filed the charges Aug. 19, which stem from the shooting death of Meeker resident James "Jeb" Berthelson, 32, in rural Rio Blanco County.
Joy turned himself in to authorities Aug. 9. He and Berthelson were friends.
According to reports from Rio Blanco authorities, Joy and Berthelson left Meeker at approximately 5 p.m. Aug. 5 to scout elk.
They were 45 miles northeast of Meeker when a firearm allegedly in Joy's hand discharged between 10:30 and 11:30 p.m., and a bullet struck Berthelson in the back of the left hip.
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According to court documents, Joy initially told authorities at the scene that Berthelson was struck in the back by a bullet that had ricocheted.
EMTs tried to revive Berthelson at a ranch house not far from the shooting, but were unsuccessful.
It was the ranch owner who made the first 911 call, authorities said.
Berthelson's body was transferred to a medical examiner in Grand Junction, where an autopsy was performed and forensic evidence was collected.
Rio Blanco deputies, an investigator from the district attorney's office and Colorado Bureau of Investigation agents returned to the scene to interview witnesses and compile physical evidence for three days.
Upon completion of their investigation, authorities believed evidence collected at the scene and the medical examiner's report contradicted what Joy told to law enforcement, Beeson said.
Joy later turned himself in.
His next appearance is scheduled for 10 a.m. Oct. 7. He is represented by Grand Junction attorney Gordon Gallagher.
Deputy district attorney Gene Tardy, who works for the district attorney's office in Meeker, is assisting Beeson in prosecuting the case.