Bruner murder trial to stay in Summit County, judge rules
Summit Daily News
BRECKENRIDGE – Former Silverthorne resident Dale Bruner, accused of killing his wife in 2010, will face a jury of his peers in the community he once called home.
Judge Mark Thompson denied a defense motion to move Bruner’s trial out of Summit County at a hearing Friday.
Bruner also declined the district attorney’s latest offer to trade the standing murder charge for a guilty plea to first-degree assault and reckless manslaughter at the hearing.
First-degree assault carries a penalty of 10-24 years in prison.
Bruner is charged with second-degree murder, first-degree assault and tampering with evidence following his wife, Stephanie Roller Bruner’s brutal killing in November of 2010. He was indicted by a grand jury in August 2011.
The defense pushed to have the trial moved out of Summit County, saying both Dale Bruner and Stephanie Roller Bruner were once well known and respected in the community. Lawyers argued the ongoing press coverage of the murder and the ensuing court proceedings would taint the jury pool here.
Thompson ruled Friday the media attention around the case was not extensive or prejudiced enough to jeopardize Bruner’s right to a trial by an impartial jury.
“Murder is a rare crime in Summit County,” Thompson said at the hearing. “Some elevated coverage is expected, but that is not to say that a higher level of coverage mandates a change of venue.”
Case law requires that press coverage of a case be massive, pervasive and prejudicial to warrant a change of venue for trial.
Thompson said the more than 20 stories that have appeared in the Summit Daily News and other regional media sources regarding the Bruner case did not meet that description.
“The articles are generally characterized as fairly straightforward fact reporting, not extensive editorializing by the press,” Thompson said. “The reporting has been just that, reporting without embellishment.”
The results of a random survey of 133 people in Breckenridge, Silverthorne and Frisco conducted by the defense showed only 23 percent of respondents had heard of the Bruners and the pending case against Dale Bruner. Of those who said they knew about the case, all of them said they had formed an opinion as to Dale Bruner’s guilt or innocence.
The trial is set to begin July 16 in Breckenridge with an extended jury selection process from a larger-than-normal pool of jurors to ensure an impartial jury is seated.
Bruner reported Stephanie Roller Bruner, a former county employee, dance instructor and mother of three, missing from the couple’s home in Silverthorne just before Thanksgiving, 2010, saying she went out for a walk the night before and never returned.
Search and rescue teams searched for three days as temperatures dipped below zero at night, before finally finding Roller Bruner’s body in the Blue River near her house.
The cause of death was later ruled a combination of blunt force trauma, strangulation, hypothermia and drowning.
Bruner was identified soon after as the prime suspect.
Court records and family accounts paint a picture of a troubled marriage in the weeks leading up to Roller Bruner’s death.
The couple reportedly fought after Roller Bruner was laid off from her job with the county government. She would later take out a restraining order against her husband and eventually filed for divorce on Nov. 1.
The couple’s three children are now living with Roller Bruner’s brother and his wife in California.
Bruner has since moved to Fort Collins.
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