Joe DeAngelo, a Craig resident and former chief investigator for the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, stands Friday in Moffat County District Court. DeAngelo has accepted a criminal investigator position with the Colorado State Attorney General’s Office in Denver after working for the district attorney for about five years. His last day was Friday.

Photo by Brian Smith

Joe DeAngelo, a Craig resident and former chief investigator for the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, stands Friday in Moffat County District Court. DeAngelo has accepted a criminal investigator position with the Colorado State Attorney General’s Office in Denver after working for the district attorney for about five years. His last day was Friday.

DA investigator leaving for position with Attorney General

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Joe DeAngelo doesn’t own a television, but that hasn’t prevented him from catching glimpses of crime dramas like “Law & Order.” He said he doesn’t quite understand what he sees.

“The way these men and women on these television shows interview and interrogate people is wholly counterproductive,” he said. “It doesn’t work. … It is science combined with an art.

“That is what is fascinating is studying that and become a master of my craft.”

DeAngelo has worked to sharpen his craft as the chief investigator for the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office for almost five years.

His time in that office, however, came to a close Friday.

DeAngelo, 43, accepted a position as a criminal investigator for the Colorado State Attorney General’s Office in Denver. He begins work Oct. 15.

“I have aspired to work for the Attorney General’s Office, or something along those lines, my entire life,” he said. “It has presented itself, so (I’m) absolutely very excited about it.”

As a criminal investigator for the Attorney General’s Office, DeAngelo said he would focus on more specialized and in-depth investigations. The position is his “dream job,” he said.

“This is my last move, hell or high water,” he said.

DeAngelo started his law enforcement career as a deputy sheriff with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office in Florida, where he worked for five years.

His investigating career began as a detective in Fort Wayne, Ind., where he worked police corruption, general crimes and homicide cases for several years, he said.

From there, DeAngelo took a job as an investigator with the 20th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Boulder.

During his time in the office, he worked on several high-profile cases including the JonBenet Ramsey murder case. He investigated the case for eight months, then several years cold, he said.

He was the first DA investigator to work the case and was tasked with looking for the intruder, a different perspective than was previously taken, he said.

During his time in the office, he also worked a criminal investigation into the St. Vrain Valley School District’s bankruptcy.

After his time in the Boulder DA’s office, DeAngelo started graduate school at Regis University in Denver for his master’s degree in criminal psychology.

He accepted the job for the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office before finishing his master’s degree. He later received the degree in 2007.

After earning his degree, DeAngelo was offered a position as an adjunct professor at Regis, where he teaches weekend courses on forensic psychology, one-on-one lessons and supervises student master’s degree thesis.

He is currently working on his doctorate in human development, he said.

During his five years in the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, DeAngelo has had a hand in more than 500 cases and led investigations on 150 major felony cases. He said he usually worked about 20 cases at a time.

Although his time in the office was busy, DeAngelo said he loves working to understand the criminal mind.

“It is not just understanding criminals,” he said. “That is one segment of our population, it is understanding the human condition.”

The highlight of DeAngelo’s investigative career in Moffat County, he said, was the Terry Hankins murder case.

Hankins was found guilty in August 2009 of first-degree murder, a Class 1 felony, and abuse of a corpse, a Class 2 misdemeanor, in connection with the June 2007 death of his wife, Cynthia.

DeAngelo said he devoted seven months over the case’s two-year life span.

“There was nothing more fascinating (or) compelling than working the Hankins case,” he said. “Although I worked 70 to 80 hours a week, I knew about three days into it that Cynthia was dead.

“I strongly suspected Terry Hankins had something to do with it. I didn’t know what or how, but it was putting that puzzle together. It was just absolutely fascinating.”

DeAngelo also investigated the case of former Craig Police Department detective Ken Johnson and his relationship with Craig resident Tausha Merwin.

Johnson pleaded guilty in April to attempting to influence a public servant, a Class 4 felony. He was sentenced to serve seven days in jail, 53 days of jail work release, 150 hours of community service and two years of probation.

“Johnson’s case, as troubling as it was, had to be done,” he said. “I don’t want to say it is a shining moment because it is not. It was a moral imperative.”

DeAngelo also had a hand in the case of former Dinosaur town marshal Russell “Wayne” Eller. Eller allegedly falsified his application and resume for the position and misled the Dinosaur town council.

DeAngelo has also helped investigate five murder cases in the judicial district, he said.

Working with the staff and prosecutors in the DA’s office was “one of the greatest experiences of my life,” DeAngelo said.

Although he will “greatly miss” working for the office he has called home for nearly five years, DeAngelo said he is excited to continue to making a living studying the art and science of interrogation techniques, criminal behavior and the detection of deception.

“It’s fascinating to not only study and learn what interview and interrogation techniques work and be able to teach them, but actually be able to (apply) them,” he said.

But, the icing on the cake for DeAngelo is teaching those techniques to younger investigators through Regis University and his work at various offices.

“But believe me I have lots to learn myself,” he said. “This is one of those professions I’ll spend 40 years in and just start to scratch the surface.”

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