Garrison sentencing to be held today
BRECKENRIDGE – Chuck Garrison, found guilty last month of killing his wife, will be sentenced today in Summit County Court. He could serve from 10 to 32 years in prison.
An Eagle County jury found Garrison guilty of second-degree murder committed in the heat of passion. Had they found him guilty of first-degree murder, which District Attorney Mike Goodbee asked them to consider, Garrison could have been sentenced to life behind bars.
Garrison was arrested in October 2000 after his wife, Sharon, was reported missing. The couple – both on their fourth marriage – had a history of domestic troubles. Each had filed for divorce, but never followed through.
Garrison, who owned a home security company, was arrested after sheriff’s officers found Sharon’s body wrapped in a tarp and buried under about 10 feet of fill dirt.
Defense attorney Mark Johnson of Boulder told jurors Sharon Garrison’s death was the result of an argument gone awry – and that Garrison had never set out to purposely kill her. Goodbee said Garrison was a controlling man, and that Sharon was unable leave the marriage, for fear of him killing her. Audio tapes and other evidence, he said, showed Garrison planned to kill his wife two years prior to her death.
According to testimony presented during the two weeks of the trial, Garrison said he was hurt that his wife refused to spend the night in his bed. He testified that he followed her to a downstairs bedroom where she planned to sleep, and she struck him. He retreated, he said, but claimed Sharon struck him on the head with a rubber mallet, knocking him to his hands and knees. He said he then grabbed her knees and pulled her down.
Garrison testified that his wife then grabbed a decorative antique pickax, over which the couple struggled. Garrison said he fell on top of his wife, and the pickax handle “stopped up under her throat.”
“This war was over,” Garrison told jurors when asked how he felt when he realized his wife was dead. “Thank goodness it was silent. This constant noise was silent.”
Jurors were instructed to consider first-degree murder and three lesser charges, including second-degree murder, reckless manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.
First-degree murder means a person acted with intent, and after deliberation, to cause death, Goodbee said. “Intent,” he said is defined as “sufficient time for one thought to follow another. Deliberation means the person acted after reflection and judgement.
“In our state, deliberation means a person consciously chose to continue this violent attack with a deadly weapon,” said Summit County Sheriff Joe Morales. “It could be a matter of seconds, minutes, hours or days.”
After the verdict was announced, Morales said, “to my grave, I’ll believe Chuck’s a first-degree murderer.”
A conviction on second-degree murder committed in the heat of passion is a lesser charge than second-degree murder. If District Judge Terry Ruckriegle sentences him to 32 years, there is the chance Garrison, who is 59, could die while in prison.
“The verdict was not the verdict we had asked for,” Goodbee said after the trial. “But the verdict was one that established serious criminal wrong-doing on the part of Mr. Garrison. And it may very well be one, if we succeed at sentencing, that ends up as a life sentence for him, which is what a first-degree verdict would have accomplished.”
Jane Stebbins can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 228 or email@example.com.
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