Saturday, September 8, 2007
Steamboat Springs Thursday's suspected murder of 1-year-old Brianna Simon would be the first homicide in Routt County since 2000, and only the seventh in nearly 30 years.
The county's most recent killing led to a life sentence for Thomas Lee Johnson of Longmont, who was convicted of first-degree murder in 2001 for fatally stabbing Steamboat Springs resident Lori Bases in her apartment on the evening of May 11, 2000. At the end of Johnson's 13-day trial, the jury determined that Johnson stabbed Bases to death because she was interfering with his relationship with another woman. The trial cost the Steamboat Springs Police Department $50,000.
The Colorado Court of Appeals granted Johnson a new trial last year because of an error in instructions given to the jury.
The last local murder before the Bases tragedy was the much-publicized shooting death of 52-year-old local businessman Gerald Boggs on Oct. 21, 1993.
Dubbed the "Black Widow" killing because of some bizarre circumstances involving one of two defendants in the case, the Boggs murder drew international attention. The interest of newspapers and tabloid TV shows didn't wane until the case was eclipsed by the O.J. Simpson murder trial.
Ultimately, Boggs' former wife, Jill Coit, and her boyfriend, Michael Backus, were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole.
Most of the murders in Routt County in the past three decades have involved love triangles, separated husbands and wives, or dysfunctional families.
Before the Boggs murder was a double homicide in September 1991. Bill Coleman, 45, shot to death his estranged wife, Jan, and her 43-year-old boyfriend, Luke McKee, at a Steamboat home.
Coleman shot himself the same day and died a few days later.
On Feb. 19, 1990, Justin Fredrickson killed his stepfather, Jim Kerley, while Kerley slept in a reclining chair in his home on Twentymile Road, about 12 miles southwest of Steamboat Springs. Fredrickson twice discharged a shotgun into his stepfather's body. The motive for the crime was a letter Fredrickson had found that implied a relationship between Kerley and an Illinois woman.
On Feb. 6, 1988, Stanley Jurgevich fatally shot Little Snake River Valley rancher George Salisbury Jr., who was planning to marry Jurgevich's former girlfriend, Tina Burke. Jurgevich claimed he was attempting to commit suicide at the foot of Salisbury's bed. Salisbury was sleeping at the time of the murder.
In December 1984, Hayden Valley Elementary School principal Dennis Wheeler was convicted of second-degree murder in the killing of coal miner Dewayne Rolando. That shooting revolved around a love triangle.
Victor Gocken pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the April 1979 death of Linda White, 21, of Steamboat Springs. White's body was never found.
Prior to 1991, the last multiple homicide in Routt County was in Oak Creek on Feb. 24, 1958. Retired coal miner Frank Gabossi Sr., 62, walked into a pool hall carrying a 30-06 rifle and announced he was going to kill everyone in the place, and then started shooting. George Kourkounis, 63, and Robert Jurkovich, 64, both retired miners like Gabossi, were killed. A third man was wounded, and later recovered from his injuries. Gabossi later shot himself to death in his home.