Death at Camp Hale ruled murder
The victim is a 57-year-old, white woman from Summit County who worked for Keystone Resort. Her body, with a gunshot wound, was found around 7 p.m., Monday night lying behind a green pickup truck 150 yards down a dirt road near Camp Hale, just off U.S. Highway 24 near the Pando Railroad crossing.
Her name has not been released because police have not yet been able to notify family members.
But the murder has caused jitters in nearby Red Cliff, said Diana Cisneros, the town’s postmaster.
“It’s so close to home. It just hits hard when you don’t really know anything but it’s right at our back door,” Cisneros said. “It’s so scary to know that somebody’s out there maybe.”
Police were on the lookout Wednesday for two men driving a white or light-colored pickup truck that was spotted near the crime scene about two hours before the woman’s body was found by commuters travelling between the Vail area and Leadville.
“We’re fairly comfortable we know who the woman is. We just need to notify next of kin,” said Detective Doug Winters, of the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.
Investigators are pursuing several leads in the case, he said, adding that there is no evidence the woman was sexually assaulted.
The woman may have been seen in Red Cliff Monday afternoon.
“She came by the liquor store,” said John L. Martinez, owner of Johnny’s Liquor Store. “It bothered me she asked directions to Camp Hale and not to a campground or anyplace like that.”
Pando Junction is just north of Camp Hale, where the railroad tracks cross under U.S. Highway 24 between Red Cliff and Leadville. The woman’s body and the pickup truck were both visible from Highway 24.
News of the woman’s death also saddened co-workers at Keystone Resort, the Summit County ski mountain owned by Avon-based Vail Resorts.
“We are shocked and deeply saddened by the news that one of our employees was found dead under suspicious circumstances in Eagle County,” said Dawn Doty, communications manager for Keystone Resort. “On behalf of the Keystone family, our deepest sympathy goes out to her family and friends.”
Doty said although the woman did not die at work, Keystone Resort is cooperating with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office in the investigation.
“We will continue to work closely with them until this case is solved,” she said. “Because this is a shocking tragedy for our employees, we are providing counseling to any of her colleagues who need support at this time.”
Eagle County sheriff’s investigators and a crime scene squad from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation spent more than eight hours collecting evidence around the remote spot where the woman’s body was found.
An autopsy performed Wednesday revealed the gunshot wound was not self-inflicted, Kim Andree, spokeswoman for the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, said in a press release.
Police did not officially rule the death a homicide until Wednesday.
Further details of the crime scene are not being released due to the sensitivity of the case, Andree said.
The Summit County Sheriff’s Office is also participating in the homicide investigation.
Monday’s slaying is the first in Eagle County since Feb. 10, 2001, when Timothy “Chico” Destromp, of El Jebel, was beaten to death in his home during a night of heavy drinking.
Police arrested a drinking buddy, who immediately admitted to killing Destromp but has since retracted his confession and has been released on bail to await trial on a second-degree murder charge in Eagle County District Court in July.
The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office would like to speak with anyone who witnessed the crime or has any other information – especially anyone traveling over Battle Mountain Pass and on Highway 24 Monday afternoon or evening.
Anyone with information is asked to called Crimestoppers of Eagle County at 328-7007 or 800-963-TIPS or visit http://www.eaglesheriff.com and click on “extra, extra.”
Matt Zalaznick covers public safety, Eagle County Courts and Avon/ Beaver Creek. He can be reached at (970) 949-0555 ext. 606 or via e-mail at email@example.com.