Rick CarrollThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

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January 4, 2011
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Misdemeanors dropped in Aspen monoxide deaths case

ASPEN - Prosecutors have decided to drop misdemeanor charges against two government building inspectors and a contractor criminally linked to the Thanksgiving 2008 carbon monoxide poisoning deaths of a Denver family of four near Aspen.Chief District Attorney Arnold Mordkin filed three separate motions Saturday indicating he will not pursue misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment against city of Aspen building inspector Brian Pawl, retired Pitkin County building inspector Erik Peltonen and Marlin Brown, owner of Glenwood Springs-based Roaring Fork Plumbing & Heating.But the most severe charges - criminally negligent homicide - are still pending against Brown, 57, of Glenwood Springs, and Peltonen, 68, of Basalt. Pawl, a 46-year-old Basalt resident, was not indicted on felony charges.Mordkin said Monday the decision was made after prosecutors realized the statute of limitations on the misdemeanors - each defendant was charged with four of them - had expired by the time a Pitkin County grand jury indicted the three on July 22, 2010.The statute-of-limitations issue was initially argued by attorneys Gerald Goldstein and James Jenkins, who filed a motion in December saying the indictment against Pawl should be dismissed and quashed. Soon after, lawyers for Brown and Peltonen filed similar motions, arguing that the statute of limitations of 18 months for the class-three misdemeanor charges were expired when the indictments were returned.On Nov. 27, 2008, Caroline Lofgren, 42, her husband, Parker, 39, and their two children, Owen, 10, and Sophie, 8, were found dead at a home at 10 Popcorn Lane, about 3 1/2 miles east of Aspen. They had won a stay at the home, which did not have a carbon monoxide detector at the time of their deaths, at an auction held at their school.Mordkin later called for grand jury proceedings - a rarity in Pitkin County - that began in July 2009. They were closed to the public, so it has been unclear precisely what criminal roles the defendants are alleged to have had in the fatalities.Mordkin said Monday defense attorneys were correct that the statute had run out, and there was no point in fighting it."I wouldn't call it a mistake," Mordkin said, when asked how the district attorney's office seemingly overlooked the statute of limitations. "The grand jury is an autonomous group of people through which we ask for charges. And they chose to indict them."Pitkin County attorney John Ely, who is not representing the defendants in the criminal proceedings, said, "I don't know why [prosecutors] didn't do their homework about the statute of limitations, which is about the most basic element" of pursuing criminal charges.Pawl declined to comment. But Goldstein, who took the Pawl case free of charge along with Jenkins, said the prosecution's decision to not pursue charges against the building inspector is a vindication of his work."I'm so happy for Brian. He's a very nice man and a public servant who has done his job efficiently and to the benefit of the citizens in Aspen," Goldstein said. "And I'm very happy both his reputation and stature will be restored."Massachusetts resident Dr. Frederick Feuerbach, the father of Caroline Lofgren; Oregon resident Jean Rittenour, the mother of Parker Lofgren and grandmother of the two children; and Massachusetts resident Hildy Feuerbach, who is the sister of Caroline Lofgren, issued the following statement Monday night: "Our families appreciate the efforts of the Grand Jurors and Arnold Mordkin. Although we have not yet seen the motions that were filed by the District Attorney's office, it is our understanding that the felony counts against Erik Peltonen and Marlin Brown for criminally negligent homicide in the deaths of Parker, Caroline, Owen and Sophie remain."We are awaiting the outcome of the criminal proceedings so that our civil case can go forward and shed further light on the causes of this preventable tragedy."Meanwhile, Brown and Peltonen have yet to be arraigned on the felony counts. Their next court appearance is set for February. Brown is represented by Grand Junction attorney Colleen B. Scissors; Peltonen has hired Denver lawyer Abraham Hutt.In August, relatives of the victims sued Brown, Pawl and Peltonen, as well as the Pitkin County Community Development Department, the Pitkin County government, Basalt-based Integrity Construction Management Group and its project manager, John Wheeler; Carbondale-based Eagle Air Systems Inc.; Basalt-based Proguard Protection Services Inc.; Heat Transfer Products Inc. of Massachusetts; and Jonathan Thomas and Black Diamond Development Corp., which owned the house at the time of the fatalities.The suit is pending in the U.S. District Court of Denver.rcarroll@aspentimes.com


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The Summit Daily Updated Jan 4, 2011 12:25PM Published Jan 4, 2011 12:24PM Copyright 2011 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.