Man convicted of intent to distribute drugs in Eagle County misses sentencing hearing |

Man convicted of intent to distribute drugs in Eagle County misses sentencing hearing

The mother of Curtis Shewfelt came before a judge Wednesday to tell the story of a hard worker and loving father suffering from a serious drug addiction

Local defense attorney Jesse Wiens, left, speaks with client Curtis Shewfelt, middle, and Shewfelt’s mother, Mary Shewfelt, in the halls of the Eagle County Justice Center during his trial on July 21, 2021.
Kelli Duncan/Vail Daily

The sentencing of Curtis Shewfelt, who was convicted on two drug felonies in a July trial in Eagle County District Court, did not quite go as planned Wednesday morning when Shewfelt did not show up for the appearance.

After Shewfelt missed a recent meeting with his probation officer, a warrant was issued for his arrest, but he has yet to be located.

Shewfelt’s mother, Mary Shewfelt, came before the judge Wednesday to tell the story of her son, the elements of a defendant’s story that are often not heard until after their trial is finished and a verdict given.

“I would like to tell Curtis’ story, if I can get through it,” Mary Shewfelt said. “I wrote this down maybe more for me, but I’d like to read it.”

She said she is proud to be Curtis Shewfelt’s mother and hurt that she did not recognize his heroin addiction until the start of 2017, just a few months before his arrest.

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Mary Shewfelt said she had spent “tens of thousands of dollars” and “countless sleepless nights” trying to help him overcome this addiction.

“I once again don’t know where Curtis is or if he’s OK,” she said.

She maintained that she did not believe her son was intending to distribute drugs, despite trial evidence that pointed to the contrary, saying “he never hurt anyone but himself.”

Mary Shewfelt acknowledged that her son may need to spend some time in jail to overcome his addiction and reintegrate into society, and said she recently rescinded her payment of his bond in the hopes that he would be arrested.

“I prayed he’d be here today, I prayed he’d be in jail, but he’s not. And I don’t know where he is,” she said. “…I want to see Curtis arrested, so he doesn’t end up dead.”

Still, she appealed to District Court Judge Paul R. Dunkelman that prison is not the place for him.

“(He) needs help, if he’s alive, not prison,” she said.

“What we do agree on is that Curtis needs help,” Dunkelman said after she had finished. “What punishment comes with that help, we have to figure out, but the important part is that he is safe.”

Heather Shewfelt also attended the hearing virtually to speak about her brother who she said certainly dealt with drug addiction, but that the core issue underlying all of it is mental health.

She and Mary Shewfelt told stories to give Dunkelman context in handing down Curtis Shewfelt’s eventual sentence, stories of someone who made mistakes, multiple times, but who was also a skilled carpenter, a loving father and had started two local businesses.

“I know drugs have been a part of this, but mental health has been a major, major part of this,” she said.

“Usually one goes with the other,” Dunkelman said in response. “I have no reason to doubt that (Curtis Shewfelt) has mental health issues and drug addiction issues and that there’s an overlap.”

Mary Shewfelt said the elongation of her son’s case, which originated from an arrest in summer 2017 and ran through this summer’s trial, had put an immense amount of pressure and stress on him, impacting his ability to heal from his addiction and move on with his life.

“Everybody let him down now,” Heather said at the end of her statement.

After a dismissal of his charges, an appeals process, a refiling of charges and an April mistrial, the four-year process ended with Shewfelt being convicted on both counts brought against him in a July jury trial: conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute, both class 3 drug felonies.

“He lost the trial, and he lost hope,” Mary said.

In response, Dunkelman said he, too, was frustrated with how the legal process had unfolded in Curtis Shewfelt’s case.

“I understand how it happens, doesn’t mean I’m not frustrated with how it happened,” Dunkelman said.

Mary and Heather both said they felt the way that Curtis Shewfelt’s case was handled — by the courts, the arresting officers, the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and the media — did him more harm than good.

Toward the end of the hearing, Mary spoke up again to tell Dunkelman that they were not a family of drug addicts, but that her son had suffered greatly, and they wanted to support him.

“Drug addiction, it hits doctors, lawyers, judges…” Dunkelman said in response. “I’m not judging you or your family.”

“I think you’ve done everything you can,” he continued. “You made decisions based on what you thought was best for your son … doesn’t mean Curtis is a bad person or that he came from a bad family.”

Without Shewfelt present, his sentence could not be handed down. The court will now wait to see if he is picked up by law enforcement and will reassess his case for sentencing at that time, Dunkelman said.

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