Police investigate possible homicide at State Bridge | VailDaily.com

Police investigate possible homicide at State Bridge

Veronica Whitney
NWS Statebridge 5-17 CS Vail Daily/Coreen Sapp Eagle County Sheriff's Detective Mike McWilliam helps Coroner Kara Bettis and Debbie Bailey load the body of a man found dead in a campsite above State Bridge Monday morning in to Bailey's van for transport to the Jefferson County Coroner's Office.

A possible homicide near State Bridge has Eagle County authorities questioning one man and searching for clues about the death.

After dispatchers received a phone call at 8:25 a.m. Monday, Eagle County sheriff’s detectives found the body of a man in a tent at an unofficial Bureau of Land Management camp ground near the State Bridge Lodge, said Eagle County sheriff Det. Mike McWilliam.

Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis said she couldn’t identify the dead person until she took fingerprints because he carried no IDs. She said his identity would not be made public until next of kin are notified.

McWilliams said the man, who appeared to be about 30 years old, was from Steamboat.

“It’s a suspicious death we’re treating as a homicide,” said McWilliam, one of the detectives at the scene. He said the sheriff’s office treats every death as a homicide until proven otherwise. Although there were no obvious signs of injury, it appeared the man had been dead for some hours, McWilliam said.

“There were no gunshot nor knife wounds, so we need to wait for the autopsy,” he said. “We’re interrogating somebody who called and said he had some information.”

Maury Handler of Denver, who also stayed at State Bridge Sunday night, said he had heard five different stories of what happened.

“We woke up and people were talking about it,” said Handler. “I heard there was a fight and somebody was strangled.”

No one has been arrested yet. Sheriff’s office spokeswoman Kim Andree said if an arrest is made, it would be after the results of the autopsy were known.

“We talked to several campers who said they heard some arguments late last night, but they said they didn’t see anything,” McWilliam said.

Although the man most likely had been dead since Sunday night, McWilliam said police received a call Monday morning saying there was a dead man in a tent.

“The ambulance came, but they couldn’t do anything,” he said.

By Monday afternoon, the body had been removed from the camping area and taken to the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office for an autopsy. Bettis said she couldn’t speculate on what happened.

“We need the autopsy result to determine cause and manner of death,” Bettis said.

Police spent most of Monday morning interrogating people who had been camping next to the tent were police found the dead man. The camping site is a popular place to overnight for those attending weekend concerts at the State Bridge Lodge.

By noon Monday, all but a handful of campers had left the camping site. The tent where the police found the body had also been removed.

Dave Evans, 21, of Georgia, had been camping 100 feet away from the tent where the body was found. On Monday, he was still hanging out there with his dog listening to music.

“I didn’t hear anything last night,” said Evans, who attended Sunday’s Steve Kimock show at State Bridge Lodge. “There were no incidents there.

“All I heard is that there was a fight,” Evans added. “I was planning to stay another night, but I think I might leave after what happened.”

Greg Conway, the owner of State Bridge Lodge, said he was shocked when he found out about the death.

“What happened is a tragedy,” Conway said. “Our biggest concern at State Bridge is safety. We have been working hard to make it an area where people can enjoy themselves.” Conway collaborates with BLM in maintaining the camping site.

This could be the first homicide in Eagle County since Kathleen Denson shot her former boyfriend Gerald “Cody” Boyd in June 2002, McWilliam said. Denson, who was charged with second degree murder, was acquitted by an Eagle County jury last year.

“We’ve had fights and drug arrests and DUIs at State Bridge before, but this is the first time we had a suspicious death at State Bridge,” said McWilliam, who has been with the Sheriff’s Office for 14 years.

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454 or at vwhitney@vaildaily.com.

At a glance

Those who have more information about the incident are asked to call the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office at 328-8500 or Eagle County Crime Stoppers at 328-7007. There’s a cash reward of up to $1,000.

Support Local Journalism