Accused Eagle County murderer scheduled to plead and be sentenced in Catherine Kelley case
Jacob White and Leigha Ackerson are accused of strangling Catherine Kelley to death and also planning and conspiring ahead of time to commit the murder. They each face eight felony charges for allegedly murdering Kelley, 74, while they were robbing her Pilgrim Downs home Wednesday, Jan. 24.
If they’re convicted, Colorado law requires them to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
They are both charged with:
1. Murder 1, after deliberation.
2. Murder 1, felony murder.
3. Conspiracy to commit murder 1.
4. Burglary 1, armed with weapons or explosives.
5. Aggravated robbery, with intent to kill, maim or wound.
6. Conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, with intent to kill, maim or wound.
7. Conspiracy to commit burglary 1 and assault.
8. Tampering with physical evidence.
EAGLE — A man accused of murdering an Edwards woman in her home could enter a plea Friday, Sept. 21.
Jacob White is scheduled for a plea and sentencing hearing at 1:30 p.m. Friday, before District Court Judge Paul Dunkelman.
White and his wife, Leigha Ackerson, are charged with first-degree murder and seven other felonies for allegedly murdering Catherine Kelley in her Pilgrim Downs home on Wednesday, Jan. 24, while they were also robbing her.
On Monday, Sept. 17, attorneys for both sides declined to comment — Assistant District Attorney Heidi McCollum for the prosecution and defense attorney Erin Wilson.
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In addition to White’s scheduled plea and sentencing hearing, Ackerson is scheduled to appear in a 9:30 a.m. motions hearing before Dunkelman, where her attorneys, Jennifer Melton and Amber St. Clair, will ask that a jury not see some of the evidence, along with several other motions.
For now, White’s trial remains scheduled to begin Monday, Oct. 29. Ackerson’s trial is scheduled for January 2019.
During a hearing for White earlier this month, Wilson suggested White might have been defending Ackerson, who could have been under attack from Kelley.
McCollum dismissed the notion out of hand, saying neither White nor Ackerson had any right to be in Kelley’s home, and if Kelley had attacked Ackerson, she was well within her rights to do so under Colorado’s Make My Day law.
WHAT IS KNOWN SO FAR
White and Ackerson brought a dog with them that night in January, according to their arrest affidavit.
It also appears that they hired an Uber to get away, according to police reports. A Pilgrim Downs property manager spotted an Uber driver waiting at the locked Pilgrim Downs gate. When the property manager questioned the driver, the driver told the property manager that he had been called to the gate to pick up two passengers, the arrested affidavit said.
The property manager also saw lights on in Kelley’s home at a time of night when they would not normally be, according to the arrest affidavit.
The property manager went to Kelley’s door, but got no response. He decided something was wrong and used the gate intercom to contact his house, asking his wife to call 911, according to the arrest affidavit. There is limited cell service in that area.
Deputies arrived moments after the property manager called 911 and found a window broken on the ground level, along with other signs of forcible entry. They also found two sets of fresh footprints in the snow around the house.
Following those footprints away from Kelley’s home, they spotted articles taken from the home strewn around the property.
After quickly obtaining a search warrant to enter Kelley’s home, deputies found her body inside. Searchers found White and Ackerson, and the dog they brought with them, about 400 yards from Kelley’s home, shivering and cold in single-digit temperatures.
Kelley had told friends and neighbors that she was looking for some help washing windows and other chores around her new home, in preparation for a housewarming party a few days later.
Whether those helpers turned out to be White and Ackerson remains unknown.
Kelley had moved to Pilgrim Downs from Arrowhead to be closer to hiking trails, friends said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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