Extradition trip to London for Garfield County case cost nearly $21,000
Glenwood Springs, CO, Colorado
The investigation and prosecution of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, murder suspect Marcus Bebb-Jones has cost the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office more than $38,000 in travel and related expenses since 2006.
Those costs were inflated after a group – including District Attorney Martin Beeson, Deputy DA Jeff Cheney, Garfield County Sheriff’s Commander Bill Middleton and Detective Eric Ashworth – became stranded in London for five days, as air travel was suspended due to the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland.
The group left on April 10 and were scheduled to return on April 17; however, they weren’t able to return to Colorado until April 23. In all, the group spent 12 nights in London after strong winds carried volcanic ash and dust particles over much of Europe, closing most major airports for close to six days.
According to expense reports issued by both the sheriff’s office and the district attorney’s office through a Colorado open records request, the April trip cost a reported $20,968: $13,918 for the two sheriff’s office deputies, and $7,050 for Beeson and Cheney. Those figures include airfare, lodging and daily per-diem rates.
The obvious difference in costs between the two offices came down to lodging expenses and per diem rates.
The sheriff’s office paid $6,868 for lodging, an average of $286 per room, per night, for a 12-night stay. The DA’s office lodging costs were reported at $1,906, or an average of $159 per night. Beeson confirmed that he and Cheney shared one room the entire stay.
Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario explained the lodging cost difference most likely occurred because the downtown London hotel where the deputies stayed probably “jacked their rates” when travelers became stranded.
The sheriff’s office reported per diem rates of $144 per day per person compared to the DA’s per diem rate of about $75 per day per person.
The sheriff’s deputies had made at least three previous trips to the UK as part of their investigation. Those trips occurred in December 2007, April 2008 and November 2009.
Both Beeson and Vallario confirmed that they anticipated the trip and included the costs in the 2010 budget. Vallario added that the extra expenses incurred by the volcano delay will not have much effect on the year’s remaining budget.
“We do get extraordinary expenses now and then including being stuck in London,” Vallario wrote in an e-mail.
Vallario said the investigations budget includes related travel expenses. The Sheriff’s Office will track the unanticipated expenses until the end of the year and if the additional expense can be absorbed, it will be. If not, a reappropriation of funds will have to occur to cover the costs. However, Vallario said, he does not anticipate a reappropriation in 2010. He noted the Sheriff’s Office returned over $2 million that was unspent in the 2009 budget, “and it appears that we are on track to save some money this year, too,” Vallario wrote.
Vallario said the expenses are just a part of an international investigation, and that the Sheriff’s Office will do whatever it takes to bring the case to conclusion.
“Ms. Bebb-Jones was a daughter, and mother and a human being. She was brutally murdered and her body was dumped in the wilderness. Unlike some, the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office does not put a price tag on human life,” Vallario wrote. “We will spend whatever is necessary to bring the person responsible for killing her to justice.”
And it seems like that day may finally be approaching.
A London district court judge approved the extradition of Bebb-Jones, 46, at an April 12 hearing. However, the actual extradition order will have to come from the Home Secretary and could take more than a year if Bebb-Jones appeals the decision, according to Beeson.
Bebb-Jones is accused of murdering his wife, Sabrina, and dumping her body near Douglas Pass in rural western Garfield County, north of Grand Junction. The couple owned the Hotel Melrose in Grand Junction before Sabrina’s disappearance in 1997.
Bebb-Jones returned to live with his mother in Kidderminster, Worcestershire about one year after Sabrina’s disappearance. Her skull was found by a rancher in 2004. But Bebb-Jones was not arrested until November 2009. However, that arrest was the result of an extensive, five-year investigation headed by the Sheriff’s Office.
The trips to the UK were necessary for investigators to interview key witnesses, including two former employees of the hotel Bebb-Jones and his wife owned at the time of her disappearance.
Such extensive murder investigations are rare in Garfield County. However, the Sheriff’s Office is also currently investigating the murder of Janine Ann Johler, 38, of Aurora, whose dismembered body was found in an apple orchard near Canyon Creek in June 2009. Sheriff Vallario reported that the Johler investigation has incurred costs of about $35,000 to date.
Beeson has said previously that the Bebb-Jones case, regardless of where it’s prosecuted, has to be prosecuted by a taxpayer-funded DA’s office. He’s also said that this case is very serious and his office will prosecute it with the seriousness that it deserves.