Environmental terrorism in Vail
September 2, 2005
Two Elk FireThere are some environmentalists who purport to be altruistic but instead have been highly destructive. One group, the Earth Liberation Front, set fire to the Two Elk Restaurant on top of Vail Mountain October 19, 1998, causing $10 million in damage. The perpetrators have not been caught. It was a major incident of environmental terrorism and one of the worst examples of mayhem along I-70.The group blamed Vail Resorts for ignoring environmental protections. Its main thrust was that Vail was harming the habitat of the lynx, an animal they could not find in the area.Just Who Can You Trust?Maybe this story does not qualify as mayhem, but it did shock many of the early Vailites.One of Vail’s original investors who built a home on Mill Creek Circle in 1962 was found to be a fraudulent art dealer. Prominent in Denver’s social circle and president of the Denver Art Museum, he would break into wealthy homes when the owners were away and steal valuable objets d’art by artists such as Renoir and Cezanne. Through an accomplice, a former belly dancer and later a widow of a wealthy oilman, the paintings were fenced to collectors in Europe and South America.The thief was eventually caught, convicted, and sent to prison. It was a disgraceful blow to the Art Society of Denver.After serving his terms, the culprit ended up in Houston. Years later, a well-known Vailite’s brother said he had a new friend in Houston who was helping him with his art collection. It is hard to keep a good crook down! His name: Bill Warren.
Manor Vail robberyIn 1966, during Vail’s early years, thieves robbed the Manor Vail, then the most prominent lodging facility. Claire Elliot, Vail’s only policeman, arrived as the thieves were leaving. The thieves surprised Elliot, stripped him of his gun, and tied him to a tree outside the entrance with his own handcuffs. The thieves took the clerk hostage and left him off in Salida 100 miles away. They were never caught.Diamond J In 1961, when Vail was being built, there were very few places to eat. One dining place, however, was about three miles east of Eagle on U.S. Highway 6. It was called the Diamond J, and it was a rowdy hangout for the many cowboy-like ranch hands who would fill its bar around 6 o’clock each night. The Diamond J featured large T-bone steaks so big they would hang over the edge of the plate.It was fun to sit in the bar at the Diamond J and watch the action. One night, two cowboys began arguing. It got to the point where they stepped outside and began a furious fight. Moments later they came in, faces bloody, arm in arm, and laughing like they were best friends.The restaurant was a typical roadside stop, but the bar was always entertaining and a fun place to be.The original owner of the Diamond J was Wayne Jones. Today, there is no sign that the restaurant and bar ever existed. The location is part of a huge equestrian and residential development with beautiful homes.
Close to the location of the Diamond J is a gigantic white horse barn with a bright red roof that is hard to miss-another bit of local history along the way.Mysteries As for murders, there were a few.Two prominent early Vailites were drinking in Avon’s Hole in the Wall restaurant. It became boisterous and almost closing time. The bartender knew the two had had enough to drink and refused to continue to serve them. One became irate and started to cause trouble. The bartender jumped over the bar and shot and wounded him. Out on bond, the bartender fled to Mexico. He was later caught and arrested in Mexico for dealing in drugs.Six to 10 years later, he returned to Vail. The injured, who recovered from his wounds, didn’t press charges and the case was dropped.Several years ago Max Spatelli, owner of a bar in the little town of Bond, just northwest of I-70, felt a patron had had too much to drink and stopped serving him. The patron went home, got a gun, and shot Max dead through a window.Ted Bundy
In 1975, the notorious serial killer Ted Bundy committed two homicides, one in Vail and one in Aspen. In Vail, he molested a young girl, Julie Cunningham, whose body was found later in western Colorado. In Aspen, he was captured and escaped twice. The first time, after being arraigned, he was placed in a second-story room, where he jumped from the window, landed in a flowerbed, and fled.The second time, several days later, disguised as an injured person with bandages, he was spotted by a sheriff’s deputy, arrested, and placed in a proper prison in Glenwood Springs. Again, after starving himself, he forced his way out through an air duct.Ted Bundy was finally captured in Florida and sentenced to death.State Bridge In 1961, when Vail was being planned, Delmar Spooner, an escaped convict from Cañon City Prison, was stopped for a minor driving violation at State Bridge on the Colorado River. Thinking he was recognized, he shot and killed the Eagle County deputy, John Fletcher Clark. For those of us from the East, we thought it really was the Wild West.Vail, Colorado