(orig. published Aug. 29, 2010)
This is a list of “accidental deaths” I know of in Colorado and elsewhere, just to keep track of people whose demise might not have been that accidental! (Or, as in the case of Ken Lay and Chips Barry, maybe they are not that dead.)
A common denominator in some of these deaths is the acceptance of a gift to be given the victim in Colorado! Dear Reader, if you have any reason to suspect you might be “offed,” don’t take any gifts, and especially don’t come to Colorado to get them. And stay away from mountains and snow.
I will be adding to and updating this list with more facts as time permits. This list so far is very incomplete. Note, however, how many of the victims have been involved in the water biz, including how many have had some association with Jim Lochhead (former Brownstein, Hyatt partner and now head of Denver Water) or David Robbins (probably the most powerful water lawyer in Colorado and my particular nemesis).
Gene Amole–“Geno” was a radio station owner for many years (KVOD in Denver) and also a columnist for the Rocky Mountain News. He’s the one who taught me to look critically at some of the deals going down in this town, notably Denver International Airport. It’s unfortunate that he comes first in this list, because he was 78 when he died. Stuff does happen when you’re old. However, Geno would have been someone the Dark Side would’ve wanted to silence, since he was very knowledgeable, and before he got sick, a very effective critic. He died of cancer in 2002.
A street was named for him, next to the Rocky Mountain News building, which the City named “Gene Amole Way.” That has now been obliterated by the fortress they call the “Justice Building.”
J. David Barba–Mr. Barba was the Colorado state auditor. I did not know him. I know only that he did two critical audits of the State Board of Land Commissioners and the Colorado Water Conservation Board. I have litigated against both rogue agencies, for transferring public property to well-connected persons or entities, in secret and with no legal authority. Barba had criticized some of their doings, and I was able to use his audits. There may be many more pertaining to other agencies. I regarded him as an honest public servant doing his job. He died of some rare disease at age 52.
Barba had also criticized a $70,000 contract Vikki Buckley had entered into with consultant Sam Riddle, right before he died. See the post on Buckley, below.
Chips Barry: Chips (a nickname–he was “Hamlet J. Barry”) was the director of Denver Water, and, before that, Romer’s director of Natural Resources. Not exactly revered by his employees. (“Despised and distrusted” is more like it.) He died in 2010 in an accident on his macadamia nut farm in Hawaii, where he went after he retired. The tractor fell on him. (Sounds a lot like the demise of sculptor Luis Jimenez, don’t you think? A piece of his horse statue supposedly fell on him.)
Gee, how did Chips get a macadamia nut farm in Hawaii? Well, one good source has said he gave away a choice piece of Denver Water’s real property in the mountains. Although retired, right at the time of his death he was scheduled to come back to Denver to shepherd Denver Water through negotiations with the Western Slope over taking the last dribbles of water the city inadvertently left in the streams after its last raids. You can imagine the kind of goodies he might get for doing that.
Terri Brake–Terri was a criminal defense attorney. I know that she had been connected with Larry Pozner, maybe his partner at one point, because she “subbed” for him in a criminal procedure class he taught, which I took, at the DU law school. That was my only contact with her, but I know that she was very sincere, energetic, and capable. The newspaper said she had been given a hot-tub as a gift, which she had installed in her house, and died of electrocution the very first time she used it.
I have evidence Pozner is one of the attorneys who pays off judges in this state. See “On Winking Judges“.
Maybe Terri knew.
Mina Brees: another unfortunate “suicide,” an attorney from Texas who waited until she was visiting some unidentified “friend” in Granby, Colorado, to overdose on unidentified drugs. She happened to be the mother of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, and they were estranged. Wonder if anyone has totted up the unusual deaths of people associated with football players.
Vikki Buckley: Buckley was a Republican African-American woman elected Colorado Secretary of State in 1994. Although the office was a shambles while she ran it, she was re-elected in 1998. She died of a heart attack in July 1999 at age 51. Curiously, a “good friend”–political consultant Sam Riddle–was alone with her when she died. See Aarone Thompson and Shely Lowe, below; and Dave Barba, above.
Carlson, Elliott & Land: These men were partners in a water law firm in Denver in the 1980’s. They had just (along with David Robbins) won a big case in the San Luis Valley, against a water speculator called AZT (which had ties to the later water speculator AWDI). To celebrate, partners Elliott & Land, along with some others–can’t remember exactly all, but know that water engineer Harlan Erker was with them–were flying to Alamosa for a victory dinner, but their plane crashed on the way and they were killed. This was sometime between 1983 and 1985, can’t remember. Water lawyer Mary Mead (“Mooey”) Hammond should have been on that flight, but was pregnant so didn’t go. Partner John Undem Carlson, probably the most prominent water lawyer in the state at the time, was already in Alamosa, so was also not on that flight.
But John died a few years later, of “thick blood.” Huh??? He was in his early 50’s and slim and fit.
T. Peter Craven: Craven was a district court judge in Garfield County and replaced Judge Thomas Ossola on our Spring Creek Ranch water cases, when Ossola retired. (After Craven died, Ossola came back on.) Not that I liked Craven, but he did deny our opponents their attorney fees (after denying us a right to be heard on the merits). Not long after he denied their motion for fees, in June 2006, he died–from (you guessed it) a heart attack!–riding his bike. He was not overweight. Water attorney Glenn Porzak and his bud Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs (also a water attorney) gave memorial speeches in his honor. Funny it was they. I wondered if they were shedding crocodile tears. Both of them played key roles in the Spring Creek Ranch water theft which was in the Supreme Court, in front of Hobbs, at the time. Update, July 2022: I requested the autopsy report of Judge Craven, and learned an autopsy was not done. So I must correct my statement that he died of a heart attack. The cause of death is unknown.
Allan Francovich: No Colorado connection, but I feel like putting this down here. Francovich was a moviemaker who had done in-depth interviews and investigation of the crash of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. His movie is online, although hard to find–The Maltese Double Cross–and it is the real deal, real Scots talking angrily about how, as soon as the crash happened, the site was swarming with Americans, FBI and CIA agents who were removing things, handling bodies, and going through luggage. Although Francovich’s theory about Iranians and Syrians and the CIA’s bumbling in letting the bomb get on the plane is supportable, even more supportable is a theory that the CIA and FBI exploded the bomb remotely. He didn’t go far enough. Looking back, the Pan Am crash was the beginning of the sweeping intrusive legislative measures we have seen to “make us safe,” which in reality have stripped us of our freedom. How else could the CIA and FBI have been on the scene so fast? And then Francovich dies of a heart attack in the Houston airport at age 56, on April 17, 1997. Right, that sure looks like a natural occurrence.
James Gardner–James was a rancher and the person in Park County, Colorado, who organized and chaired the Park County Water Preservation Coalition to fight the City of Aurora’s (and Park County Sportsmen’s Ranch’s) applications to suck all the groundwater out of South Park. I represented PCWPC in the water rights litigation, so James was my client. He organized 4,000 well owners so that this grassroots opposition was successful; and along the way, we formed a new water conservancy district which now brings in over $180,000 a year in tax moneys. (Basically, I think we created a monster, but that’s another story.) James became a Park County commissioner, and had enormous influence and credibility in the county. He then suddenly died of cancer at age 54, in 2006.
Samuel Hamilton: This man was the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service. He was 54, fit, and full of plans when he came to Colorado–and died–on Feb. 20, 2010. More here.
George Hickenlooper: He came to Denver–and died–on Oct. 29, 2010. He was a moviemaker and the cousin of Mayor John Hickenlooper, who was shortly afterwards elected governor, having been anointed by Larry Mizel (as all must be if they are to have a political future in this state). Mizel and the Brownstein, Hyatt law firm which represents him are the face of organized crime in this state. See Brewton, The Mafia, CIA, and George Bush (1992).
The press said immediately afterwards that George Hickenlooper died “of natural causes in his sleep” and the St. Louis Post Dispatch said it was a heart attack. He had no prior history of heart disease. And who can say “natural causes” without an autopsy? See my postings on Sam Hamilton, Robert Mydans, and Allan Francovich in this list. George Hickenlooper was only 47. Forty-seven is not old and people don’t just drop dead without exhibiting some warning signs.
There has just been a report from the Denver medical examiner that he died of a combination of ethanol and oxymorphone. Will anyone look to see if he had a prescription for oxymorphone, since it is a controlled substance, or tell us what the pain was he was having, for which this drug was prescribed?
He was here for the premiere of his movie Casino Jack, which is about the scams of Jack Abramoff–“money, greed, and illegal activities.” The connections between Abramoff’s payoffs and Indian deals–and Colorado–are legion. Some criminal convictions within Gale Norton’s Department of Interior resulted. Our former U.S. Attorney Troy Eid had been in practice with Abramoff at Greenberg, Traurig, in the Indian law division (although he publicly denied it). In the movie, a sign prominently bearing the name “Greenberg Traurig” is displayed. I’m sure the firm didn’t like that.
Maybe this “accidental death” is a message from the mob to cousin John, now Colorado governor. Toe the line, baby.
Anyway, so yeah. If someone wants you to come to Colorado to give you an award, take the next flight somewhere else. Or maybe don’t take a flight.
Scott Lawrence–This was our original judge in the Castle Rock election contests, in 1998 and 1999. He was a good man, one of the district court judges for Douglas County, Colorado (in the 18th Judicial District). He awarded us four temporary restraining orders because of illegal activities of the Castle Rock Town Council and Town Attorney Bob Slentz, in their efforts to thwart my clients’ initiative and recall efforts. The initiative and recall, brought by concerned citizens, were directed at obtaining some control over the go-go development in Castle Rock. A video of me talking about these election contests and the ballot box stuffing conducted by Rick Reiter and his employees is here.
In prehearing proceedings Judge Lawrence had awarded us our attorney fees for Town Clerk Sally Misare’s violation of the Open Records Law. (She sent all the election records to the Town’s attorneys in Glendale, 20 miles away, so my clients could not review them.) But ten days before our hearing was to begin in January 2000, Lawrence was rushed into emergency surgery, where they removed his voicebox and part of his tongue. He never returned to the bench, and died about a year later.
Judge Lawrence had previously been treated for throat cancer. However, he was a nonsmoker. His wife, I was told–also a nonsmoker–had also contracted throat cancer and died before Judge Lawrence did. It is very rare for nonsmokers to get throat cancer. I wonder if they were living in one of the trash houses built by Richmond-American Homes, Mizel’s company.
I want to honor Judge Scott Lawrence here–he was a good man, an honest man, exactly the kind of person who should be on the bench in Colorado but, I fear, no longer is. I often feel like the ancient Greek Diogenes, who went everywhere with a lantern, looking for an honest man. I am looking for an honest judge.
I note that in another election contest I had against attorney Mark Grueskin (who represented the Castle Rock developers in this contest), the judge was also switched at the last minute. That was a campaign finance contest against the City of Arvada. There, no reason was ever given for the switch. In both cases the judge was switched from one who was very good for us, ruling our way, to a political hack who rubberstamped everything the developers wanted.
Grueskin is married to a woman named Lola Farber Grueskin, who, it must be presumed, is related to Steve Farber of the mobbed-up law firm of Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber, Schreck.
Chuck Lile: Chuck had been the division engineer for Water Division 7, in Southwestern Colorado, and then was named to be director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Thus, he held very sensitive and important positions impacting water development in Colorado. Chuck died of a brain tumor at age 54, in 1999.
Parker and Carolyn Lofgren: Please see my post about Denver Public Schools. The Lofgrens won a stay at a house in Aspen through a fundraising auction, where they met their tragic deaths.
Shely Lowe and Aarone Thompson: Aarone Thompson was reported missing in Nov. 2005, on the eve of her 7th birthday. The police concluded she had probably been killed at least 2 years earlier; but no body has ever been found. Shely Lowe was the girlfriend of Aarone’s father, Aaron Thompson. She obviously knew what had happened to Aarone and was named as a “person in interest” by the police, then suddenly died of a heart attack at age 34. We next learn her church had taken out a life insurance policy on her!
A “good friend of the family’s” had been black political consultant Sam Riddle. Another famous friend of Riddle’s also died of a heart attack: Vikki Buckley, the Colorado Secretary of State (see above). Riddle was the only one around when she collapsed.
Aaron Thompson, the father, went to prison for 100 years and all their kids were removed from the home. Where are they now, I wonder. Sam Riddle compared Aarone with JonBenet Ramsey, an interesting comparison, particularly if you suspect there is child sex trafficking ring operating in the Denver/Boulder area, in which high public officials are involved, as I do.
Riddle also became the spokesperson for the Shoels family, whose son Isaiah was killed at Columbine. Turns out Riddle actually lives in Detroit and his lover is Michigan State Rep. Mary Waters. (Well, he’s in prison at the moment.)
Jennifer Moulton: She was the Denver Planning Director. I did not know her, but she obviously held a sensitive position in the middle of the go-go development years. I had understood she carried out her duties in a neutral and professional manner. She got a “rare form of cancer” and died at age 53, in 2003.
Robert Mydans: Mydans was an Assistant U.S. Attorney for Colorado who prosecuted economic crimes. (Like Tom Wales; see below.) He went snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park on Feb. 18, 2012–and was “found collapsed” at the trailhead–in other words, before he even got going. No cause of death has ever been given, nor was any autopsy done. Once again (as with Sam Hamilton), the creepy, Ken Salazar-connected Catholic mortuary Horan & McConaty spirited up from Denver and embalmed the body before you could say “boo.”
And Mydans’s new boss was the creepy Catholic Oppenheimer-fund-connected John Walsh.
Only in Colorado will the public accept “snowshoeing” as a cause of death. See what I mean? When it happens in the mountains, in the snow, nobody asks questions!
Sue O’Brien–Sue had been the editorial page editor of the Denver Post back when it was still a mostly functioning newspaper. When I ran for Colorado attorney general in 2002, I was being snubbed and excluded from coverage almost everywhere; however, Sue let me publish a guest column, along with the other two candidates. She had wanted them (Ken Salazar and Marti Allbright) to write about water. Ironically, although I am a water attorney, she would not let me write about water! She told me to write about anything else, so I wrote about how “easy” Colorado is. I compared it to “Hole in the Wall,” the legendary place where killers, bank robbers and other outlaws went to avoid prosecution, since there are never any investigations or prosecutions in this State. In my column, I referred to Qwest as “a criminal enterprise that calls itself a phone company,” and directly linked the law firm of Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber & Strickland (now Schreck) to organized crime. While I have no idea whether Sue’s approval of this article had anything to do with anything connected with her personal health, she died not long afterwards of cancer.
Monte Pascoe: Geez, another heart attack felling a fit guy. Pascoe was in his early 60’s walking to work in Denver in 2007, and dropped dead on the sidewalk. He had been involved in the Spring Creek Ranch water case in front of Judge Ossola, representing (I think!) Paul Tudor Jones, yet another mindbogglingly wealthy guy. In fact, Pascoe had committed misconduct in that case, simply blowing off interrogatories I’d served on him to try and find out why his client was in the case and even who his client was, since it was using the name of a fictitious organization. He simply never responded. So that must’ve been one powerful client. Pascoe was also on the Denver Water Board, one of the most powerful (and corrupt) bodies in the state.
Mary Sylvester--Mary was a classmate of mine at the DU Law School, and had a Ph.D. in sociology. I was not in close touch with her, but we were friendly. I knew she had gone to work in the administration of Wellington Webb when he became mayor of Denver. She had worked enthusiastically on his campaigns, and he named her the head of Denver Excise and Licenses. Mary then died suddenly. She was single; I know her parents were both deceased; and I have not been able to find any of her friends who might be able to tell me what happened, although I looked for the people who had been quoted in her obituary. A couple years before she died, however, I ran into her and we briefly chatted. She gave me to understand that she was fighting corrupt things Webb had done. Because this was consistent with my own experience with the Webb Administration, from litigating over his carve-up of the Chatfield Arboretum and theft of the El Jebel Temple, and investigating how his people carved up Daniels Park, I wanted to know more from her. Unfortunately, I never did. Mary, I’m sorry.
Aarone Thompson: See above, under Shely Lowe.
Ray Wright and Doug Shriver: They were the top two officials with the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, David Robbins’s client. They were killed in March 2010, supposedly by snow sliding off a roof of a cabin in Creede. No autopsy done. Ray Wright was a good guy. I did not know Doug Shriver.
Addition, 4/20/22: Holly Holder and her husband Eric. Holly died at the age of 50, of breast cancer, in June 2002. When I first met her, in around 1989, she was an outgoing, attractive woman with long, gorgeous strawberry blond hair, and a champion golfer. She was an attorney who worked for Saunders, Snyder, Ross & Dickson, which imploded, then went out on her own. I did not know her well–I may not even have seen her in person again until around March 2002, when I ran into her at a moot court we were both judging at DU. She was very changed–gaunt, with hair which looked like a wig–a bubble. She appeared panic-stricken and as if she wanted my help. But we were assigned to different classrooms so nothing came of this. I was shocked, a few months later, to hear she had died. Beginning in early 2003 I then began representing homeowners in Spring Creek Ranch, in Summit County, unaware that Holly had represented their homeowners’ association in the same water case, which had been filed 10 years earlier. My clients Halena and Gerald Lewis told a strange story about demanding answers from Holly at a meeting, when she broke into tears and begged Halena to fire her. Holly was obviously being threatened by someone–and I later found puzzling, irresponsible things she had done in that water case, for the benefit not of her own clients, but of their opponent, Glenn Porzak’s client Nelson Lane.
I have yet to write about the Spring Creek Ranch matter in this blog. In a nutshell, the homeowners’ association was taken over by organized crime, thugs who stole the water and other property interests of my clients, often making “jokes” about killing people, including Holly specifically. I learned that Holly’s husband Eric had died in a small plane crash the year before her. This makes three, maybe four, untimely deaths associated with Glenn Porzak, the cockroach Victor Boog and the Spring Creek Ranch matter. See the entries for Peter Craven and Monte Pascoe, above.
Addition, 11/4/22: Federico “Fred” Cheever: I was shocked and distressed to learn, last May, that Fred died in June 2017. Another sudden death of a fit man, this one during a kayaking trip with his family on the Green River–with, yet again, the Horan and McConaty mortuary of Denver obtaining possession of the body. Did this firm again make a special trip to Utah to pick up the body? See my post about Sam Hamilton, how H & C’s immediate trip to Keystone to retrieve the body made autopsy impossible.
You could not find a nicer guy than Fred. He was an environmental law professor at the University of Denver College of Law. I got to know him from judging moot courts at DU. I learned of his death via a records request I made to the 6th Judicial District for communications to or from Greg Hobbs: the response was a law review article Sociopath Hobbs had written about Fred and emailed to several people, including a judge in that district, coincidentally the very crook who sat on our Animas-La Plata cases, Greg Lyman. A sotto voce celebration by these two, Hobbs and Lyman? I don’t know enough about what Cheever did professionally, but I suspect he threatened Hobbs in some way, as much the more talented legal brain.
I did not know until I read Fred’s obituary that he was the son of the novelist John Cheever. A great loss.
Addition, 1/5/2023: All four members of my family on my mother’s side, including my mother are suspicious deaths. I have concluded, 50 years after the fact, that it was an assassination campaign likely spearheaded by Henry Kissinger. See My Prouty Family Tragedies.