SILVERTHORNE - For two weeks of very public testimony in the trial of Dale Bruner, members of the Silverthorne Police Department stayed quiet as the defense took aim at their investigation.
Now that Bruner has been convicted of second-degree murder and five other charges, Silverthorne police chief Mark Hanschmidt is breaking his silence.
"We couldn't defend ourselves," he said. "That was difficult. But when you believe in the system, I knew that all the information would come out."
Bruner's defense attorney Robert Bernhardt built his case on criticism of the police investigation, saying they took too long to secure the Bruners' home as a crime scene and never looked seriously at any other suspects.
Still, the situation is bittersweet.
"We're extremely happy that we did get the verdict that we did," Hanschmidt said. "It's heartbreaking for the family, for any family to have to go through something like that."
The Bruners' have three young children who have been left in the care of their mother's brother and his wife in California.
The Silverthorne Police Department was the first agency involved in investigating Stephanie Roller Bruner's disappearance and, later, her death. But authorities knew they didn't have the resources to handle a major crime on their own. She had been reported missing only the day before when police officers in Silverthorne called for backup from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. Other local agencies, including the Summit County Sheriff's Office and search and rescue groups from around the state, also assisted.
"Right from the very beginning I knew that it was something that my department didn't feel comfortable dealing with," Hanschmidt said. "Working together with (CBI) we were successful. They had other ideas that really helped us."
Though murder is rare in Silverthorne - Stephanie Roller Bruner's death was the first, by anybody's best recollection, in 25 years - domestic violence is not.
"Unfortunately what happens is what we all saw in court," Hanschmidt said. "We have all these victims that don't come forward. ... It's learning to break that cycle of violence."
Summit County residents dealing with domestic abuse or violence can seek help from the Advocates for Victims of Assault by calling their 24-hour crisis hotline at (970) 668-3906.