Aspen carbon monoxide poisoning indictments a campaign issue

The indictments of two building inspectors and the owner of plumbing and heating company for the deaths of a Denver family of four in Aspen in 2008 have quickly become a political issue, according to the online news site Real Aspen.

The website first broke the story of the looming grand jury indictments Friday, and then followed with the political fallout Monday. Felony counts of criminally negligent homicide were handed down late last week to a retired Aspen building inspector and the owner of Roaring Fork Plumbing & Heating. A current Pitkin County building inspector was charged with reckless endangerment.

“It’s overreaching on the part of the DA to come up with criminal charges against our building inspectors for doing their job. It’s bullshit,” Pitkin County Commissioner Michael Owsley told Real Aspen. “It was a great tragedy for that family and all their friends and acquaintances. But this is a worse tragedy as far as I’m concerned.”

Chief Deputy District Attorney Arnold Mordkin declined comment, according to the site. The district attorney for Pitkin County and the entire 9th Judicial District is Republican Martin Beeson, who threw his hat in the ring to take on 3rd Congressional District Rep. John Salazar in November but later withdrew from the race.

In 2009, Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis said he didn’t think the case, which reportedly stemmed from a gas leak caused by faulty piping to the home’s hot water heater and driveway snowmelt system, warranted criminal charges.

Current county sheriff’s candidate Rick Leonard blasted law enforcement’s handling of the probe into the four deaths, which included a 10-year-old, an 8-year-old and their parents.

“It’s unlike any death investigation report I’ve ever read,” Leonard told Real Aspen. “We have a crime scene that comes and goes. We have investigators who think it’s OK to open and close a crime scene like you open and close a business. They begin processing the crime scene, it gets late in the day, they lock the door, leave and come back. The crime scene is unprotected and unsecured.” Braudis did not comment.

The case in 2009 led to the passage by the Colorado State Legislature of a statewide law making carbon monoxide smoke detectors mandatory on every floor in all new construction and existing homes and rental properties when tenants or owners change.

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