Moreau ‘talkative,’ ‘social’ before shootings
March 15, 2012
GEORGETOWN, Colorado – Defense witnesses said Richard “Rossi” Moreau was social and talkative in the hours before he allegedly pulled a 1911 Springfield .45 caliber handgun and shot four people, killing one.
During Wednesday’s testimony in Moreau’s murder trial, defense witnesses described the Moreau as calm, conversant and relaxed in the Sandbar in West Vail.
Local attorney Beth Ayres and a group of friends were enjoying a few drinks at the Sandbar, as college football played on television screens and they discussed dinner plans.
She was sitting across the Sandbar’s U-shaped bar from Moreau, who she said was social and talkative, not intoxicated.
Peter Geyer, of Edwards, was with Ayres.
Moreau wandered over to Geyer’s group for some light conversation. They talked, they joked. Moreau was calm, Geyer said.
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When they left, Moreau helped Geyer’s wife on with her jacket. The atmosphere in the Sandbar was festive as people talked and watched football, Geyer said.
Their group politely declined Moreau’s invitation to stay and have another drink, pulled on their coats and left for dinner. Moreau put on his brown leather jacket and dark green jungle safari hat, and sat back down at the end of the bar alone, the video shows.
When Geyer and his came back through the West Vail roundabout later that night, they saw all the emergency vehicles and thought there must have been a fire, Geyer said.
No, it was a shooting, they learned.
Well, it could not have been that guy we were talking to, Geyer said.
Yes, his wife said, it was.
“We were there tonight. I can’t believe there was a shooting,” Ayres said. “I was shocked. I was very surprised.”
Aristal Marquez works in Starbucks in the West Vail Safeway, and said she saw Moreau almost every day when he came in for a drink.
“He was always nice to me,” Marquez said.
Moreau was in Starbucks either the day of or the day before the shooting, Marquez said, but later than usual.
“You’re in late today,” Marquez said to Moreau.
“They changed my medication and I had a hard time sleeping,” Moreau replied, Marquez said.
Two weeks before when he’d come in, he was cheerful and talking, sometimes about his cats, Marquez testified.
That’s when Moreau’s behavior changed and he was less talkative, Marquez said.
Dr. Richard Martinez, a psychiatry professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, testified Tuesday that Moreau had been on a downward spiral for months, and couldn’t dig himself out of his increasing state of depression.
Moreau first sought treatment for post traumatic stress disorder in 1979, citing his time in Vietnam, Martinez said.
Steve Miller testified that he has known Moreau since 1972, when Miller moved to Vail.
Their last communication was a letter Miller wrote to Moreau after Moreau was in jail, Miller said.
They never talked about Moreau’s claims of post-traumatic stress disorder, Miller said.
“Did you ever see Mr. Moreau exhibit any signs of post traumatic stress disorder?” asked District Attorney Mark Hurlbert during cross examination.
Miller thought a moment, then said, “No.”
Moreau’s psychological problems became progressively worse as the years passed, according to testimony.
“He would tell you he was messed up and that he was proud to serve his country. He was very proud to serve his country,” said George Cadmus, Moreau’s neighbor in East Vail in the 1970s.
Moreau blamed Agent Orange and said he was traumatized by the death he saw in Vietnam, Cadmus said. He was trying to work with the Veterans Administration; he had fought for his country but they weren’t listening to him.
In the 1990s he went on full disability. By the 2000s he was having trouble coping with life, Cadmus said.
“His soul was tortured,” Cadmus said.
Miller and Moreau met as volunteers for the Vail fire department, part of a two-person training class – just them.
“He was conscientious and willing to learn, and you had to be willing to learn in those days,” Miller said.
Miller choked up and had to stop when he described Moreau as one of Vail’s Ravinos, a group of expert trick skiers, “remembering the good times,” he said.
“I was glad to be one of his friends,” Miller said.
Paul Tipton is retired and living in Boulder. He served with Moreau in Vietnam. Tipton and Moreau were part of a covert operation that required a top secret security clearance.
The defense used Tipton’s testimony to take the jury through life in Vietnam and how it could leave life-long scars.
Tipton described the disarray and lack of discipline that plagued them in Vietnam.
There was no real goal, it was classified as a police action so they had their hands tied behind their backs, Tipton said.
“People were dying for no specific goal,” Tipton said.
They kept score by body count, he said.
Tipton was 19 years old when he was drafted into the Army. Moreau picked him up at the airport when he arrived In Country. It was 1968 during the Tet Offensive, when the Viet Cong were trying to overrun military bases and government buildings.
They were together for a year in Vietnam, serving in the 371st, in Camp Evans. Everyone in the 371st had a top secret security clearance – “spooks” Tipton called them – and were ordered never to talk about what they did In Country. Tipton rarely has.
Camp Evans was a free fire zone. When they were on guard duty you could fire at anything that moved outside the wire, especially at night, when most of the mortars and shelling rained down on them.
They lived in tents built over pits to protect them from incoming rounds, but nowhere, and no one, was safe, Tipton said.
The tents were full of bullet and shrapnel holes, so they didn’t stop much of the rain that poured through during the monsoon season to create a mud hole.
When it was dry they filled the pit with beer cans they’d emptied themselves, he said.
One noncommissioned officer took the newspaper into the two-seater outhouse every morning and stay there. The only way to get him out was to blow him out, which happened when a mortar hit behind the outhouse and he got a butt full of shrapnel. He was awarded a Purple Heart, Tipton said.
Tipton described the disentary, the boredom, the death and destruction, and how the Vietnamese who acted like your friends that morning might try to kill you that night.
Moreau went on leave for 30 days and returned to Vietnam with long hair, love beads and flashing a peace sign. He didn’t get to keep them, Tipton said.
When Tipton’s tour in the war was up and he returned to the U.S. he was 20 years old. Sitting in the Los Angeles airport on his way home, he ordered a hamburger and a beer. He was refused service.
Tipton finished his testimony and stepped smartly from the witness stand. Moreau rose from the defense table and they saluted each other – a crisp military salute – as Tipton strode from the courtroom.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.