Jury: Woman harbored man who shot trooper
Glenwood Springs Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Nichole Brownell didn’t visibly react Wednesday afternoon when she heard she’d been found guilty of being an accessory to the 2006 shooting of a Colorado state trooper.
On Tuesday, she fell asleep in her chair during her trial. Her attorney, Chip McCrory, said outside the courtroom they had no comment. Brownell, of Silt, later had tears in her eyes. She turns 41 today.
Jurors found her guilty of two counts of being an accessory to first-degree murder after about 11⁄2 hours of deliberation. She could face anything from probation to two to six years for one of the charges alone. Brownell was accused of helping Steven Appl hide and try to escape after he shot former State Trooper Brian Koch on Oct. 24, 2006, during a traffic stop south of Silt. Koch left the State Patrol due to permanent injuries and is now a safety consultant with Conoco Phillips.
“I feel good,” he said when asked about the verdict. “I feel that the deputy DA did an excellent job in this case, and I just feel relieved.”
He said the shooting was the source of a lot of stress, pain and fear in the community and this verdict is a “start of the closure.”
Police believe Appl shot himself to death under blankets in the extended cab of a pickup truck at a police checkpoint the night after he shot Koch. They said Cori Graham, 29, of Debeque, was driving the truck. Graham, also accused as an accomplice, is scheduled to go to trial Dec. 8.
Deputy District Attorney Amy Fitch said she was pleased with the verdict and that it sends a message to the community that people can’t harbor dangerous criminals like Appl.
Appl called Brownell after the shooting and told her he’d shot a cop. A group of people then left from Wayne Hangs’ house on Dry Hollow Road (County Road 331), witnesses said.
They drove around Silt and Rifle and came back but were stopped by police who asked about the shooting and Appl’s vehicle parked near Hangs’ house. No one told police they’d seen Appl and he could be in the house. Police searched the house and Appl avoided detection by burying himself in the dirt somewhere on the property, witnesses said.
The next day, Brownell got rides to Silt, Rifle and Debeque. She drank enough that she passed out and later returned to Hangs’ house with Graham, a witness said.
McCrory maintained in closing arguments that Brownell hadn’t done anything illegal and she would have had to do more than just fail to call police to be an accessory.