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Inmate found dead at Public Safety Center

Christina M. Currie

The first death of an inmate since the opening of the Moffat County Public Safety Center was reported this morning.

John Alva Bartlett, 68, was found dead in his cell at approximately 2 a.m. this morning during a routine cell check at the Moffat County Jail.

The cause of death has not yet been determined, but it appears to be from natural causes, according to Moffat County Undersheriff Jerry Hoberg. There was nothing suspicious surrounding the death, he said.

Bartlett shared the dorm-like cells in minimum security with 16 other inmates, but because of the late hour, none noticed that Bartlett had died.

According to Hoberg, jail personnel do a check of the cells every half hour.

“They physically go through and check,” he said. “They walk through cells and make sure everyone is OK.”

Lt. John Forgay with the Craig Police Department is heading up the investigation. He is part of the 14th Judicial District Critical Incident Team, which was contacted as soon as the incident occurred, Hoberg said.

“Rather than us investigating an in-custody death, the team is called in so there is no appearance of a conflict of interest,” he said.

Bartlett turned himself in to the Moffat County Jail July 9 after he failed to appear at a motions and arraignment hearing. The hearing was on charges that Bartlett embezzled money from his elderly mother.

He was being held on a $44,000 bond and was facing charges of bond violation, bail violation, theft, theft from an at-risk adult, neglect of an at-risk adult, and third-degree assault of an at-risk adult.

According to court documents, Bartlett allegedly embezzled more than $131,000 from his mother, Violette Bartlett, who turned 101 in May.

Bartlett placed his mother in Valley View Manor in April of 2001 and then failed to pay for her residence, which resulted in a bill in excess of $30,000, according to court documents.

Bartlett also allegedly placed a lien of more than $15,000 on his mother’s house, which he lived in, to buy a car.

He also allegedly physically and verbally abused his mother, court records show.

Forgay will be assisted by the Routt County Sheriff’s Office in the investigation.

He was unavailable for comment at press time.

According to Deputy District Attorney District David Waite, the office may do a couple of house-cleaning procedures before dismissing the case. Any action Violette Bartlett may wish to take would become a civil procedure against Bartlett’s estate, he said.


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