Silverthorne’s Dale Bruner released on bond following indictment for murder
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Local photographer Dale Bruner, who was arrested on charges of murder and assault following a grand jury indictment this week, was released from the Summit County Jail Thursday on a $50,000 bond.
Bruner is accused of brutally killing his wife, Stephanie Roller Bruner, in November.
Bruner’s attorney, Rob Bernhardt, indicated he will enter a not guilty plea to the charges, which include one count of murder in the second degree, two counts of first-degree assault and three counts of tampering with physical evidence.
If convicted, Bruner would face 16-48 years in prison and up to a $1 million fine for the murder charge, 10-32 years and up to $750,000 in fines for each of the assault charges and a year to 18 months and up to $100,000 in fines for each count of tampering with physical evidence.
Bruner was indicted by a grand jury Tuesday and arrested Wednesday, but is presumed innocent by the court unless convicted by a jury of 12 community members in normal criminal trial proceedings.
Bernhardt said the defense has not decided whether it will request a change of venue for the case, which has attracted significant publicity since Roller Bruner, a former county employee and local dance instructor, was reported missing Nov. 23.
District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said he felt confident he could prove his case beyond a reasonable doubt, but noted that there is still a long road ahead.
“This is not the end of the process,” he said at a press conference Thursday morning.
Bernhard echoed the point, noting that grand juries only determine probable cause and, citing a law-school adage, that a grand jury, “could indict a ham sandwich,” but the DA still has to convict it.
The arrest did not come as a big surprise to Bruner, Bernhardt said, as he has been a suspect since the very early stages of the investigation. Bernhardt said Silverthorne police failed to look seriously at any other suspects.
“Mr. Bruner was identified as a suspect within an hour of his wife’s disappearance,” he said just before Thursday’s press conference. “Which we consider to be one of the problems with the investigation.”
When asked about the investigation of other suspects, Silverthorne Police Chief Mark Hanschmidt declined to comment, saying only that the grand jury had indicted and the matter would be resolved in court.
At an advisement hearing Thursday morning, Judge Karen Romeo told Bruner that he is not to drink alcohol or use controlled substances while on bond and ordered him to surrender his passport and check in with the court regularly in person. It was noted at the hearing that Bruner might travel to California with the court’s permission to visit his three children who are currently in the care of Roller Bruner’s brother and his wife. Court proceedings alluded to a pending juvenile case as well.
Hanschmidt, whose department has led the investigation into Roller Bruner’s death, said the case has been a difficult one for him and for the community, particularly because of the involvement of children.
“The three children have always been the priority,” Hanschmidt said at the press conference, “(They were) a huge concern of mine throughout this investigation.”
As was the well-being and peace of mind of his community, he said.
“This is a safe community,” Hanschmidt said. “It always has been, and it will continue to be a safe community.”
Hurlbert noted that Roller Bruner’s case was the first homicide the county has seen in approximately a decade.
Roller Bruner was reported missing from her Silverthorne home in late November by her husband. Authorities and rescue crews combed the area near her house for three days as temperatures dropped below zero, finally discovering her body in the Blue River.
She died of drowning, hypothermia, blunt force trauma and strangulation, according to the indictment, and her death was soon ruled a homicide.
Hurlbert filed a motion to impanel a grand jury to investigate the case and the jury was convened in May. All details related to the proceedings of the grand jury are sealed.
Court records and family accounts indicate that Bruner and his wife were having marital problems in the weeks leading up to her death. In October, Roller Bruner took out a restraining order against him that was later revoked, but on Nov. 1 she filed for divorce.
The couple was married for 11 years.
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