Alleged murderers plotted their rampage in Pilgrim Downs death, charges say
EAGLE — Two Denver residents are accused of strangling a beloved Edwards woman to death, as well as planning and conspiring ahead of time commit the murder.
Jacob Taylor White, 23, and Leigha Paige Ackerson, 24, each face eight felony charges for allegedly murdering Catherine Kelley, 74, while they were robbing her Pilgrim Downs home Wednesday, Jan. 24.
If they’re convicted, then they’ll spend their lives behind bars. Colorado law requires them to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
They are both charged with:
Murder 1, After deliberation.
Murder 1, Felony murder.
Conspiracy to commit Murder 1.
Burglary 1, Armed with weapons or explosives.
Aggravated Robbery, with intent to kill, maim or wound.
Conspiracy to commit Aggravated Robbery, with intend to kill, maim, or wound.
Conspiracy to commit Burglary 1 and Assault.
Tampering with physical evidence.
Ackerson and White are being held without bond in the Eagle County jail. They make their second court appearance at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16, before District Court Judge Paul Dunkelman.
What’s known so far
“There are numerous hypotheses regarding this case, and we are investigating them all,” Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek said.
What is known is that Kelley was strangled and suffered blunt force trauma to her head.
White and Ackerson brought a dog with them to the crime scene, according to their arrest affidavit.
It also appears that they hired an Uber, either to get the to the crime scene, to get away, or both. A Pilgrim Downs property manager spotted an Uber driver waiting at the locked Pilgrim Downs gate. When the property manager questioned the driver, the driver told the property manager that he had been called to the gate to pick up two passengers, the arrest affidavit said.
The property manager also saw lights on in Kelley’s home at a time of night when they would not normally be, according to the arrest affidavit.
The property manager went to Kelley’s door, but got no response. He decided something was wrong and used the gate intercom to contact his house, asking his wife to call 911, according to the arrest affidavit. There is limited cell service in that area.
Deputies arrived moments after the property manager called 911 and found a window broken on the ground level, along with other signs of forcible entry. They also found two sets of fresh footprints in the snow around the house.
Following those footprints away from Kelley’s home, they spotted articles taken from the home and strewn around the property.
After quickly obtaining a search warrant to enter Kelley’s home, deputies found her body inside.
Deputies cordoned off the area, and began a systematic search with the help of a half-dozen other agencies. Deputies also sent an alert, warning Lake Creek residents to stay inside, or “shelter in place.”
Searchers found White and Ackerson, and the dog they brought with them, about 400 yards from Kelley’s home, shivering and cold in single-digit temperatures. They were taken to Vail Health and treated for exposure.
Kelley was scheduled to have dinner with a friend that night, but they canceled those plans. That friend tried repeatedly to call Kelly’s land line that evening, and after receiving no answer went to Kelley’s door. She received no answer at the door, friends said.
Kelley reportedly had told friends and neighbors she was looking for some help washing windows and other chores. Whether those helpers turned out to be White and Ackerson remains unknown.
Kelley had moved to Pilgrim Downs from Arrowhead to be closer to hiking trails, friends said.
White and White?
Her alleged murderers were both born in Maryland, according to court documents, and listed their home address in Elkton, Maryland. In 2015, the two moved to Denver from the East Coast, according to Ackerson’s social media posts.
They were married Nov. 9, 2013, according to their social media posts.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.