Man dies following Wednesday shooting at Bear Valley Inn in Craig
October 6, 2017
CRAIG — One man is dead and his wife is in jail following a shooting Wednesday at Bear Valley Inn in Craig.
The couple had been drinking heavily and "messing around" with a rifle — which they reportedly believed was not loaded — in their hotel room, according to court documents. The couple appeared to have been living there as they looked for employment in town.
The victim, 48-year-old Michael Adam Freese, died Thursday of his injuries, according to a Friday news release from the Craig Police Department and the 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office.
Freese's wife, 40-year-old Rachel Ann Niemeyer, will be charged with manslaughter, second-degree assault, two counts of prohibited use of a weapon and second-degree assault of a police officer — she reportedly kicked an officer in the shin — according to the release. She was originally arrested on a charge of first-degree domestic violence.
Freese was transported to the hospital Wednesday evening with an "extremely serious, life-threatening injury," according to an emergency room physician’s statement, which was included in the arrest affidavit for Niemeyer. The bullet entered his right ear and lodged in the C2 vertebra of his spine. He was flown to St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction, where he died the following day.
During interviews with officers, Neimeyer offered a fuzzy account of what happened, asking officers repeatedly if she had shot her husband. In other moments, she remarked she had done it and claimed that Freese set her up, according to the affidavit.
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She said Freese was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease four to five months earlier and that he "told her to just take him out back and shoot him or put arsenic in his tea," the affidavit said.
Neimeyer told officers Freese had been playing around with the gun; then, they'd passed it back and forth. She added Freese had told her the weapon was not loaded. They were pulling the trigger as they passed it back and forth, she said.
They may have gotten into an argument at one point, according to Neimeyer's account. She told officers her husband beat her when they fought, but it didn't happen regularly, and "everything had been getting better."
The pair had just interviewed and landed jobs at the Clarion Inn earlier that day. They had started drinking to celebrate, and she had consumed a bottle of wine, Freese had consumed a six-pack of beer and both had taken three shots, according to her account in the affidavit.
They had been married about three years, Neimeyer told officers.
Bear Valley Inn caretaker Anton Scherbl had attended Tuesday's Moffat County commissioners meeting, during which October was declared Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
"When sitting at the county commissioners meeting, I had no idea it would come to my door step," he said. “I am very sorry that this happened to Craig."