Accused murderers ‘likely’ called an Uber in Pilgrim Downs killing, Sheriff confirms |

Accused murderers ‘likely’ called an Uber in Pilgrim Downs killing, Sheriff confirms

Leigha Ackerson will undergo a psychiatric examination to try to determine her men- tal condition in January 2018 when she and husband Jacob White allegedly broke into Catherine Kelley’s Vail Valley home, robbed and murdered her, crimes White pleaded guilty to in September.
Randy Wyrick| |

EDWARDS — Two accused murderers likely counted on an Uber as their getaway car.

Catherine Kelley, 74, was found strangled to death in her Pilgrim Downs home Wednesday, Jan. 24

Leigha Paige Ackerson, 24, and Jacob Taylor White, 23, are accused of killing her. They’re being held in the Eagle County jail with no bond, booked for first degree murder and first degree burglary. If they’re convicted, they face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The two brought a dog with them on the alleged rampage, according to their arrest affidavit. It’s being kept by Eagle County Animal Services. Last fall, Kelley had moved from Arrowhead to Pilgrim Downs to be closer to hiking trails. She had scheduled a housewarming party for this week, friends said.

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Uber driver waiting for two people

A Pilgrim Downs property manager spotted an Uber driver waiting at the locked Pilgrim Downs gate. He also saw lights on in Kelley’s home at a time of night when they would not normally be on, Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek said.

The Uber driver told the property manager that he had been called to the gate to pick up two passengers, the arrested affidavit said.

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 later 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, her body was found inside. Deputies cordoned off the area and began a systematic search with the help of a half dozen other agencies and a tracking dog from the Summit County Sheriff’s Office. They also sent an alert, warning Lake Creek residents to stay inside or “shelter in place.”

Searchers found White and Ackerson, and a 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.

Patience please

Van Beek has asked for patience from the public. No one is withholding information, he said, and the investigation is proceeding.

“While we understand that this is a very traumatic event for family and friends of the victim and our whole community, we want to be as transparent as possible while still upholding the integrity of the investigation, as well as the rights of the victims. Therefore, we limited what information could be publicly released until this afternoon,” van Beek said after Friday’s hearing before District Court Judge Paul Dunkelman.

Kelley was strangled to death, and the manner of death was homicide, said Kara Bettis, Eagle County coroner. She also received blunt force trauma to her head.

White and Ackerson made their first court appearance Friday afternoon, Jan. 26, before Dunkelman, who ordered that any other charges be filed by Friday, Feb. 9. White and Ackerson are scheduled to appear in Dunkelman’s court at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16.

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