Gross described as ‘quiet, subdued, polite’
EAGLE – The man who police allege shot and killed Maria Madrid on Friday shouted expletives at her family before firing rounds into the woman’s chest and head. But Shari Hoffman remembers Charles Gross, 55 – the man arrested Monday and charged with Madrid’s murder – as polite.”He was very quiet and very subdued, and from what I remember, he was very polite,” said Hoffman. She said she met Gross while she was working in the deli of Village Market in Edwards, where Gross used to have lunch. Gross was the primary topic of conversation Wednesday evening in Eagle’s Brush Creek Saloon – a watering hole he had frequented before his arrest Monday. “Chuck was the nicest guy,” said bartender Petra Richards as she scanned the happy-hour crowd for Gross’ drinking buddies. As she weaved through the crowd in the smoky bar decorated with old license plates, an older patron smacked her rear end, but Richards laughed it off and pointed out a few men at a dark wooden table. The camouflage-clad men sat drinking beers and smoking cigarettes in the glow of a fluorescent Corona beer sign. They bore the telltale dark palms of welders – the occupation they shared with Gross. “He was just the nicest guy in the world, happy-go-lucky,” said Justin Morrison, who hung out with Gross a few times a week at the saloon.Morrison described Gross as a “laid-back guy” who liked to fish and hunt and who had owned a welding business for 20 years.
According to police reports, Gross fired on the Madrids’ pickup truck at a campsite north of Dotsero after accusing them of not picking up their trash. Morrison said Gross wasn’t especially environmentally conscious.”He wasn’t a tree-hugger,” he said of Gross, who had no prior criminal record in Colorado or Michigan, where he had divided his time over the last 15 years. “I’ve never even seen him get riled up in a bar,” said fellow drinking buddy Brian Weber. Gross’ sister, Karen McGraner, declined to comment about her brother. ‘Pure rage’The day after the shooting, police found Gross’ abandoned truck and camper about 20 miles from the campsite Gross shared with the Madrids for a few hours Friday, as the Gypsum family enjoyed a picnic. On Monday, when police received a tip from an area resident that a man matching the shooting suspect’s description was walking down Colorado River Road, they investigated and found Gross.”I didn’t mean to kill her,” Gross allegedly told police, according to an arrest affidavit filed with the Eagle County court. Gross also allegedly told police he had his gun in the backpack he was carrying, the affidavit says. “It was pure rage,” he allegedly said, according to the affidavit “I thought about running or hopping a train, but I’m too old to run.”
When Maria Madrid’s husband, Eliseo, and son, Joel, were asked to pick Gross out of a photo lineup, Joel Madrid immediately identified Gross, saying he was “high 70s to low 80s” percent sure it was the man who killed his mother. But contrary to earlier reports, the arrest affidavit said Eliseo Madrid told police he couldn’t be sure if the killer was any of the men in the lineup, adding he didn’t want to incriminate an innocent man. The affidavit says Joel Madrid was closer to the killer than his father when the shooting occurred. ‘She was badly injured’After suffering bullet wounds himself, Eliseo Madrid raced his injured wife to the home of Dotsero-area resident Russel Ammon the closest house he could find. Ammon said he was first afraid for his own family when he saw the Madrids’ car zooming up his driveway, the honking horn cutting through the air. But he soon realized the Madrids were harmless and in great need of help, he said. “He came to the door yelling that his wife had just been shot,” Ammon said. “I could see that she was badly injured, and Joel was holding on to her.” Ammon said he immediately called 911, and then fetched his daughter, Angela, who lives next door. A family doctor at the Eagle Valley Medical Center, Angela Ammon examined Maria Madrid while her father bustled around getting towels and gloves to help her. “A lot of it I don’t recall,” Russel Ammon said. “There wasn’t much we could do. Poor Eliseo and Joel were dealing with an awful tragedy, and we had the frustration that you can’t do anything. Nothing seems like enough.”
Russel Ammon said the minutes crawled by as he waited for police to arrive at his home about a mile north of Dotsero. “It was a moonless night, and very dark out here,” he said. “We’re a ways out, and it seemed like an eternity before they arrived. Everything seems to go slow once you’re waiting on help.”Just minutes after police arrived, Maria Madrid faded away, dying in her son’s arms. “Eliseo was very upset,” Russel Ammon said. “He just could not understand why someone would do that. He just kept on asking me, ‘Why?’ But there’s no reason. It’s just hard to understand such a senseless tragedy.” Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or email@example.com. Contributing to the Madrid familyDonations for the Madrid family are being accepted at any First Bank location or can be mailed to First Bank of Eagle, P.O. Box 4390, Eagle, CO. 81631-4390. Alpine Bank has set up the Maria Madrid Memorial Fund and donations can be made at any Alpine Bank. Vail Valley Charitable Fund, which is aiding the Madrid family with funeral costs in conjunction with the Beaver Creek Resort Co., can be reached at 328-1884 or www. vvcf.net. Vail, Colorado