Authorities: Fatal fall from cliff ‘suspicious’
DENVER, Colorado ” A Chaffee County sheriff’s official says a coroner’s inquest or grand jury may soon be convened to determine whether the death of a woman who fell from a 10-foot cliff into a stream in 2004 was accidental.
“The death is very suspicious,” sheriff’s Lt. Rob Martellaro told The Denver Post for a story published in Monday editions.
Nancy Ann Mason died May 30, 2004. Her husband, Dan Mason, said his wife screamed twice after she slipped while fishing. Yet sheriff’s officials say an autopsy showed Nancy Mason’s neck was broken and that she couldn’t have screamed.
Dan Mason told The Denver Post that the scream may have been a “paranormal” manifestation.
“I told them an angel pulled me out of the water,” he said. “That angel was as real to me as my children. Maybe the angel screamed.”
The couple met in 2002 at a support group for divorcees after she had divorced disbarred attorney Todd Linville, who is in prison on a 2005 conviction of bilking clients out of $3.3 million.
Dan Mason soon moved into her home in Highlands Ranch along with his friend Efren Gallegos. Dan Mason married her the next year.
However, Dan Mason and Nancy Mason’s mother said the couple got tired of having Gallegos around. So, Dan Mason said, he, his wife and Gallegos took a trip to the ghost town St. Elmo near Salida as a going away trip for Gallegos.
Dan Mason said his wife went alone to a ledge where he couldn’t see her to cast her fishing line.
Authorities later found her fishing pole beneath the spot with no bait on the hook and no bait or gear nearby, Martellaro said.
Dan Mason said he nearly drowned trying to save his wife and that Gallegos helped pull them out.
This past Memorial Day, county authorities re-enacted Gallegos’ feat with the help of a fit firefighter and dummies and concluded it would have been highly improbable, Martellaro said.
Dan Mason said he did not know how to perform CPR, so he and Gallegos left his wife and went for help. The people Mason and Gallegos flagged down for help told deputies they thought it odd that the two were wet only from the knees down, the newspaper reported.
An autopsy concluded the death was “consistent with an accident,” but Martellaro said that doesn’t mean Nancy Mason’s death couldn’t have been intentional.
Martellaro said Nancy Mason’s will was changed weeks before her death. Her mother, Miriam Gaede, said she doesn’t think her daughter wrote the will because it misspells the name of one of her sons.
Dan Mason said the idea for the will was his wife’s.
He received about $100,000 from his wife’s estate. Police say he could have received more, but he wouldn’t discuss his wife’s death with insurance investigators.
Today Dan Mason and Gallegos live in Texas, where they moved after Nancy Mason’s death.