Deadly violence rare in Routt County | SteamboatToday.com

Deadly violence rare in Routt County

History is sparse but punctuated in region

Pilot & Today staff

Victor Gocken, front, is pictured in this March 1980 photo at the Routt County Courthouse. Gocken was found guilty of manslaughter in Steamboat Springs in 1979.

Editor's note: This article is an updated version of a story that appeared in the Steamboat Pilot in 2000 that was also updated in 2007.

The history of serious violence in Routt County is brief, but several notable stories stand out from the typical crimes in the rural region.

The June 11 shooting on Steamboat Springs' west side was the most recent in a sparse string of violence, and one that may have a better ending than several previous incidents. As of Friday, Steamboat Springs Police Chief JD Hays said shooting suspect Robert Cash and his wife, Rhonda Cash, are alive in a Denver hospital. Rhonda Cash reportedly is able to walk from her bed to a chair in her room after doctors removed a bullet from her spine. Robert Cash still is in critical condition and remains in a coma.

Police suspect that Robert Cash shot his wife at about 6:30 a.m. June 11. When police arrived for a welfare check at about 9:30 a.m., he reportedly shot himself.

Several other recent incidents led to death, including the January 2009 bar argument that turned into a street fight and led to the death of Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Lopez. Eduardo Capote pleaded guilty to manslaughter in that case and was sentenced to three years in prison this month. In the fight, he reportedly punched Lopez once in the head, causing Lopez to fall back and hit his head on the concrete. Lopez died a few days later.

Jurors found Eduardo Cap­ote and his brother David not guilty of third-degree assault and deadlocked on Eduardo Capote's more serious second-degree assault charge in February. The plea deal resulted, keeping the case from going to a retrial.

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In 2008, a jury found Luz Cisneros guilty of first-degree murder after she killed her 1-year-old daughter in 2007. A local judge sentenced her to life in prison with no possibility of parole.

That was the most recent homicide case in the county and only the seventh in 30 years.

In neighboring Moffat County, Terry Hankins was found guilty in 2009 of murdering his wife and abusing her corpse. He also was sentenced to life in prison with no parole.

Before that, Routt 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 resident Lori Bases in her apartment May 11, 2000.

The Colorado Court of App­eals granted Johnson a new trial last year because of an error in instructions given to the jury, but a Larimer County jury also found him guilty.

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 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 slayings in Routt County in the past three decades have involved love triangles, separated husbands and wives or family problems.

Before the Boggs murder was a double homicide in September 1991. Bill Coleman, 45, shot to death his estranged wife, Jan, and her 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.

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. White's body was never found.

Before 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, announced that 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. Gabossi later shot and killed himself in his home.

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