Attempted murder trial begins in Eagle’s Brush Creek Saloon beating case
June 1, 2018
EAGLE — Dita Richterova is alive because she's faster than the man who allegedly tried to beat her to death with a beer bottle, then his bare hands.
Exhausted, bloody, beaten nearly to death and expending the last ounce of adrenaline from her fight-or-flight response, Richterova squirmed away from Pedro Gonzalez, who was running out of steam from savagely beating her. She bolted through the front door of Eagle's Brush Creek Saloon where she worked as a bartender, and into the middle of Broadway, the dark street outside. She looked south into the darkness, hoping for someone, anyone, to help her. But it was 1:30 a.m. and Eagle was sound asleep.
She turned north, toward U.S. Highway 6 and started to sprint for her life.
In the more than two blocks between the Brush Creek Saloon and Highway 6, Richterova looked back over her shoulder three or four times to see Gonzalez running after her. Each time she turned, he was further behind.
She lived because she was faster.
Richterova recounted all that and more during the first day of Gonzalez' attempted murder trial on Thursday. If Gonzalez is convicted, he faces up to 48 years in prison.
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"This was an attack, unprovoked. A vicious and barbaric attack. It ended when Dita Richterova escaped," Heidi McCollum, Assistant District Attorney said during her opening statement.
Public defender Thea Reiff did not make an opening statement, opting to wait until after the prosecution finishes, so no indication was given during the trial's first day as to Gonzalez's possible motives. The trial went straight to the first witness — Richterova.
The night of the attack
It was July 24, 2017, around 1 a.m. and Richterova was bartending alone, as she had been since her shift started at 5 p.m.
"What immediately pops into your head when you remember that night?" McCollum asked.
"I think, 'That was the day I almost died,'" Richterova said tearfully. "I see the bottle and his face."
Richterova said she remembered Gonzalez walking in around midnight, wearing red shorts, a black T-shirt and a Chicago White Sox baseball cap.
He ordered some drinks, drank them and went to the bathroom two times, Richterova said. Gonzalez, a Texas native, talked with Richterova for a bit, with some other patrons. He bought some cigarettes and moved to a barstool closer to the cigarette machine.
It was a slow Sunday night, so Richterova called last call early, around 1 a.m. By that time, Gonzales was the last patron. He persisted asking for another drink, even after last call, McCollum said. Richterova testified that she had already served Gonzalez four or five drinks in the previous hour.
Gonzalez slapped down a $100 bill on the bar for another bottle of Budweiser.
"I don't know if he was trying to impress me, or something else, but it was too much," Richterova said.
She hesitated, she said, but reached into the cooler and pulled out a bottle.
He asked if he could give her a ride home. She said no, she was waiting for her boyfriend.
"It's normal for male customers to ask something like that," Richterova said.
She said it made her feel uncomfortable, but no more uncomfortable than when other guys in the bar ask.
When the beating began
She walked to the kitchen to get a broom to begin sweeping the floors and started cleaning. Gonzalez was the only patron for several minutes after she announced last call.
Gonzalez followed her into the kitchen. He followed her out to the saloon's pool table room, and into the kitchen a second time. When she turned around, he was on her, and began beating her in the head with the bottom of his beer bottle.
"With no warning and no provocation, he attacked her," McCollum said.
Gonzalez picked up the bottle with his left hand, shifted it to his right, and struck Richterova squarely in the forehead.
"Not once, but six or seven times — until the bottle flew out of his hands. Then he started in on her with his fists," McCollum said.
Richterova stood up and ran out of the kitchen, trying to escape. She didn't make it. He grabbed her by her blonde hair and yanked her back into the corner where she just was and beat her with the bottle.
She said she felt shock and surprise, along with the pain. She tried to defend herself, putting her arms and hands around her head. She thought about being raped … she wasn't … but that thought was pushed aside by thoughts of being killed, she said.
"In the beginning, I was thinking about why he was doing it. Soon I was thinking about trying to get away. Finally I wondered if I was going to die," Richterova said. "I was in the corner of the kitchen thinking, 'I will die.'"
For about a second and a half, he stopped, pulling up his red shorts and carefully folding his glasses, placing them in a utility sink nearby.
Then he started beating her again, punching and kicking as they tumbled into the poolroom, McCollum said.
She said she remembers being choked, near the cigarette machine.
She said by this time she was exhausted.
"He was using all his energy to hit me. I was exhausted trying to defend myself. I wanted to escape, but I couldn't," she said, her voice breaking with emotion.
Finally at about 1:20 a.m., she got away, running out the saloon's front door and into the dark street outside.
In the middle of Eagle's Broadway Street, she looked around for another human being to help her.
"I was still exhausted, and I put all my energy into running away," Richterova said.
Gonzalez followed her out the front door.
"I was running for my life," Richterova said. "I was faster than he was."
She made it to her apartment where her screaming woke her roommate, who was sleeping on the couch. Her roommate looked "shocked" when he saw her, she said.
She stumbled into the bathroom and looked in the mirror, her beaten and bloody face looking back at her.
"I was horrified," she said.
At 1:25 a.m., seven minutes after the beating began, her roommate called the police. An ambulance sped her to the Vail hospital for emergency treatment. Another ambulance took her to St. Anthony hospital in Frisco, where forensic nurse examiner Mary Skowron examined her and took photos of Richterova's many injuries.
Hours after the attack, she was finally allowed to take a shower and wash the dried blood out of her blonde hair.
"He did not try to rape her. He didn't rob her and he did not rob the bar. The $120 in the tip jar was still there, as was her cellphone. He had no intention of robbing. "This was not an accident. This was intentional," McCollum said.
Eagle Police, Eagle County Sheriff's deputies and Colorado State Patrol troopers canvassed the area and found Gonzalez at 6:38 a.m. in the room he was renting in an Eagle home.
Richterova's blood was found in his apartment, smeared on his door. A Colorado Bureau of Investigation analyst said the chances of it being anyone other than Richterova's were 1 in 8.4 octillion — a number followed by 26 zeroes.
Police found his White Sox cap hanging on a wringer in a mop bucket. His glasses were still in the utility sink where he had placed them, along with the Budweiser beer bottle.
A photo taken in the hospital around 6:30 a.m., five hours later, showed her right eye swollen shut completely and her throat bearing bruises that come from strangulation, Skowron said.
Richterova, a native of the Czech Republic, arrived in the U.S. in October 2016 on a three-month travel visa. She earned a master's degree in physical education and health care. Besides her native Czech, she speaks Spanish, French, Polish and Portuguese. She said she had heard through others from the Czech Republic that she could work at the Brush Creek Saloon. That was her only job in Eagle County until she was injured.
She said she worked for tips, "under the table."
She said she had never seen Gonzalez before July 24, 2017. She'd had nothing to drink that night, she said. She made no derogatory comments to Gonzalez or about him to anyone else, nothing racial or even unkind.
She said she did not say or do anything that would provoke such an attack.
Doctors and dentists looked after her for months afterward. Dr. Randy Viola used screws to put her broken wrist back together. She had originally broken that wrist July 5, 2017, while hiking. Her jaw was damaged so badly that she could not eat, she said.
Psychologists and psychiatrists have helped with the emotional scars, she said, but when people are behind her she still wonders if she'll be attacked again. The horror film of her attack keeps running through her head, she said.
Gonzalez, 35, has a pair of felony burglary convictions in Texas, and a pair of DWAI convictions in Colorado. He could face 48 years in prison for attempted murder, and another 24 years for first degree assault.
Jury selection took two full days. The panel of 14 — 12 jurors and two alternates comprised of 10 women and four men — heard opening argument beginning at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
The trial is schedule to run through Wednesday, June 6.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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