Final autopsy report on Steamboat Springs man released by coroner
June 10, 2015
Steamboat Springs — Longtime Steamboat Springs resident Edward Zimmerman died of blood loss resulting from multiple sharp-force injuries to the neck, according to the final autopsy report released Wednesday by Routt County Coroner Rob Ryg.
"Based on the history provided and the autopsy findings, the cause of death is exsanguination due to sharp force injury of the neck," forensic pathologist Michael A. Burson, of Loveland, wrote in the report.
Zimmerman also suffered a single gunshot wound to the left side of the face, which Burson stated "may have incapacitated, although (it) did not kill," as well as multiple blunt-force injuries to the head and other traumas — including a fracture of the hyoid bone — the last of which he described as being consistent with manual strangulation.
Burson noted in his report that Zimmerman had likely been rendered unconscious prior to the fatal neck injuries.
"…evidence supports a diagnosis of manual strangulation as contributing to death and possibly rendering the decedent unconscious prior to the sharp-force injuries of the neck occurring," he wrote.
The toxicology report indicates that cannabinoids were detected in both Zimmerman's blood and urine, but results were negative for cocaine and alcohol.
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Burson officially classified Zimmerman's death as a homicide.
Court records unsealed late last week revealed Zimmerman's body was discovered in a shed at a rural Steamboat Springs residence rented by Lucas Johnson and his wife, Kristen, both of whom were arrested in mid-March in connection with Zimmerman's murder.
In his report, Burson elaborated on this revelation, saying Zimmerman's nude body was found in a chicken coop on the Johnson's rental property "securely wrapped in multiple pieces of plastic and secured with apparent black duct tape."
He added that the plastic used to secure Zimmerman's body had been "carefully cut in a linear fashion along the anterior surface of the body."
On March 19, Lucas Johnson was formally charged with first-degree murder, second-degree burglary, child abuse, possession with intent to manufacture or distribute more than 50 pounds of marijuana and theft.
Kristen Johnson was formally charged March 26 as having acted as an accomplice to her husband.
Zimmerman, 46, was reported missing Feb. 28 after not showing up to work for two days.
According to the affidavit released last week, Zimmerman's sister, Robin Mizerak, was immediately suspicious when her brother failed to report for work and "suspected foul play because Zimmerman is seriously involved with the marijuana industry and that she knows Zimmerman associates with some unsavory people."
A subsequent search of Zimmerman's home revealed an elaborate marijuana-growing operation throughout several rooms with many of the plants having been cut down and taken.
On March 3, deputies stopped Lucas Johnson driving Zimmerman's car south on Routt County Road 14.
Johnson told deputies Zimmerman had dropped off some "smoke" to Johnson on Feb. 27 and then gone to Denver for an unknown reason. Johnson said he had permission to drive Zimmerman's car.
In the back seat of Zimmerman's car, deputies found between 5 and 10 pounds of marijuana buds, according to the affidavit. Johnson was then charged with unlawful possession of more than 12 ounces of marijuana.
Deputies also contacted Kristen Johnson on March 3, who said the last time she had seen her husband had been that morning.
That night, deputies searched the Johnsons' home and discovered Zimmerman's body shortly after midnight.
A three-day preliminary hearing for the Johnsons is scheduled to begin Aug. 31.
(Reporter Matt Stensland contributed to this story.)