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No bond reduction in Rifle child sexual assault case that now involves six victims

A Rifle man now accused of sexually assaulting six minors in his trust over multiple years will remain in the Garfield County Jail on $100,000 bond.

Garfield District Judge Denise Lynch on Thursday denied a request from the man’s defense attorney to reduce bond to $50,000, noting the severity of the case and the growing number of alleged victims who have come forward.

“These are serious allegations … with 19 counts currently filed, and a likely prison sentence (if convicted),” Lynch noted in rejecting the bond reduction.

“From reading the paperwork filed by some of the various victims, he is a safety risk to the community and even to himself,” she said, indicating the defendant has threatened to take his own life.

The 54-year-old man, whose name is not being used in order to protect the identity of the victims, has been in jail since his March arrest after the allegations came to light.

According to Garfield County Sheriff’s Office investigators, the man allegedly sexually abused one child in his care on numerous occasions from the time she was age 4 until 2018 when she was 13.

Several other alleged victims, including friends of the primary victim who were at the home or on overnight outings, also eventually came forward with similar allegations against the man, according to court documents.

That number has now grown to six minors who have alleged varying degrees of victimization, Assistant District Attorney Ben Sollars said during the Thursday hearing.

“This case is extraordinarily aggravated in my opinion,” Sollars told the judge. “It’s certainly the worst child victimization case that I’ve ever prosecuted.”

Sollars said the DA’s Office is still gathering information from those additional victims, which has delayed the case.

Ultimately, he said it will not be a matter of whether a sentence upon conviction would involve prison time, it’s how much time the defendant would be sentenced to serve.

Defense attorney William Palmer argued that, because the defendant has already served 266 days in custody of the county jail, he should be allowed an opportunity to make bail.

“We believe $50,000 is a lot more reasonable given the time he’s been in custody,” Palmer said, noting that the man has family living locally and does not have a prior criminal history.

The matter was continued to Jan. 6, 2022, for an arraignment hearing, during which Sollars indicated there may be a plea offer on the table.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

Victim dies following April shooting in Glenwood Springs

The victim in a domestic violence-related shooting in downtown Glenwood Springs in April died in November, raising the possibility for first-degree murder charges against the shooter.

Whether Thomas James Degrasse Powell, 26, of New Rochelle, N.Y., died as a direct result of gunshot wounds he sustained in the April 26, 2021, shooting at the hands of Padrikea Nichols, 36, of Silt, has not yet been disclosed.

Powell died Nov. 12 in New Rochelle, according to an obituary posted to the Wiseman Funeral Home website. A memorial service was held on Monday, the obituary states.

Padrikea Nichols
Garfield County Detention Center booking photo

Nichols remains in the Garfield County Jail on $250,000 bond, charged with attempted first-degree murder and first-degree assault in connection with the shooting behind a home in the 800 block of Pitkin Avenue.

At the time of an Oct. 21 preliminary hearing for Nichols, Powell was reportedly on a ventilator and paralyzed from the neck down, according to testimony in court before Garfield District Judge John Neiley.

Following the near five-hour-long hearing, Neiley bound the case over for trial next spring on the attempted murder and assault charges.

Whether Powell’s death will result in murder charges remains to be seen.

Deputy 9th District Attorney James Stone confirmed that prosecutors are aware of Powell’s death, and that the “investigation is ongoing” pending more information.

A call by the Post Independent to the Westchester County, N.Y., Medical Examiner inquiring about the exact cause of Powell’s death was not immediately returned.

Nichols has claimed self-defense in the incident in which Glenwood Springs police responded around 8:19 p.m. April 26 to find Powell bleeding from what ended up being two gunshot wounds from a handgun, one to the upper leg and another to his face.

Powell was eventually taken by air ambulance to a Denver trauma center where he was hospitalized for a lengthy period of time and underwent multiple surgeries.

Powell was married to Nichols’ ex-wife, and police investigators said the shooting was the apparent culmination of a dispute between Nichols and Powell involving the woman that had been brewing for some time.

The night before the shooting, according to police testimony, Nichols and his ex-wife were at a downtown bar-restaurant drinking when Powell called the woman’s cell phone.

A loud three-way argument over the speaker phone during which several threats were made, and which could be heard by bystanders, resulted in the police being called.

After police officers arrived, Nichols allegedly said he had the right to carry a firearm, and that if something were to happen between him and Powell he would be acting in self-defense.

His parting words that night were allegedly something akin to “pow, pow, pow,” or “pop, pop, pop,” according to police testimony.

The next night, Nichols allegedly came to his ex-wife’s Glenwood residence on suspicion that Powell had threatened her during an argument.

Security video from a neighboring residence played during the Oct. 21 preliminary hearing showed a man identified as Powell emerging from the back porch to confront Nichols, who was driving by on the back street in a pickup truck.

Powell is seen tearing his shirt off and aggressively approaching Nichols’ truck. Nichols starts to back away but then stops and gets out to confront Powell.

Nichols is then seen retrieving what police said was a Sccy brand 9mm pistol, taken into evidence when Nichols was arrested and his Silt home searched later that night, and walks back around the vehicle.

After firing two warning shots into the ground, he then allegedly turned the gun on Powell, shooting him twice. Witnesses, including Nichols’ ex, attempted to get him to get back in the truck and leave, but he allegedly fired a fifth shot.

During the preliminary hearing, Stone argued it was that fifth shot, fired in Powell’s direction but missing as he lay helpless and bleeding on the ground, that proves Nichols intended to kill Powell.

Evidence also revealed that Powell was carrying a handgun in his pocket at the time. However, he never took it out of his pocket during the confrontation, and it was later determined that the pistol was not loaded, police said.

Many of the details of the investigation were not revealed in court until the Oct. 21 preliminary hearing, after the judge who initially heard the case last spring ordered the case file sealed due to the ongoing investigation.

As it stands, a two-week trial for the attempted murder and assault charges against Nichols is scheduled for March 28 through April 8, 2022.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

Glenwood Springs’ Cardiff coke oven vandalized

Graffiti found inside one of the 50 Cardiff coke ovens located in south Glenwood Springs near the airport.
Provided/Glenwood Springs Historical Society

One of 50 remaining coke ovens in the Cardiff neighborhood in Glenwood Springs was discovered vandalized Friday morning, a local historian said Friday.

Glenwood Springs Historical Society Executive Director Bill Kight said the interior dome of one of the historical ovens was tagged with a variety of spray paints.

The ovens, used to render coal extracted from nearby mines at Sunlight into a material called coke, go back to the 19th century.

The historic Cardiff coke ovens are located in south Glenwood Springs on Airport Road.
Provided/Glenwood Springs Historical Society

Operated by the former Colorado Fuel and Iron Co. the ovens were producing 65,000 tons of coke annually by 1895, according to historical accounts.

“It’s a shame we’ve got another case of vandalism at the coke ovens,” Kight said.

Kight said the fragile relics were vandalized earlier this year, when an on-site sign was torn out.

But this recent vandalism comes amid a time when the Glenwood Springs Historical Society is currently applying for a major grant intended to stabilize, landscape and install ADA accessible amenities at the ovens, Kight said.

Through a National Park Service Save America’s Treasures Grant, the historical society is eligible to receive up to $500,000 in matching funds. Kight said plans for the city of Glenwood Springs to install a new parking area and lights at the coke ovens could be included for matching funds.

“It couldn’t happen at a worse time, because it could be a few thousand dollars just to get the inside taken care of,” Kight said.

Kight said the historical society has until Dec. 14 to apply for a Save America’s Treasures Grant.

Graffiti found inside one of the 50 Cardiff coke ovens located in south Glenwood Springs near the airport.
Provided/Glenwood Springs Historical Society

“(The ovens) are all that’s left of that period, and we want to save it for the future,” Kight said.

The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the vandalism but declined to provide further details.

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com.

‘Ongoing investigations’ stall plea in Glenwood Springs vehicular homicide case

A plea deal in the case of a man accused of causing the death of a Glenwood Springs woman in a crash on Colorado Highway 82 outside Glenwood last December is on hold pending follow-up investigations by prosecutors.

Juan Escobar Rosales, 23, appeared before Garfield District Judge John Neiley via video from the Garfield County Jail Thursday afternoon expecting to enter a plea.

Escobar Rosales was allegedly high on methamphetamine and driving a stolen vehicle when he caused a rear-end crash around 8 a.m. Dec. 30, 2020 as eastbound motorists were stopped for the traffic light at the CMC Road/County Road 154 intersection.

Diane Olson, 57, of Glenwood Springs, died at the hospital the following day of injuries sustained in the crash.

Juan Escobar Rosales (Colorado State Patrol photo)

Escobar is charged with felony vehicular homicide, aggravated motor vehicle theft, driving while under the influence of drugs, vehicular assault and theft, plus misdemeanor traffic violations.

At the Thursday plea hearing, attorneys in the case referred to “ongoing investigations” involving phone communications between Escobar and a local business while he was in custody.

Public defender Alex Haynes said the information could potentially help his client’s situation.

“Mr. Escobar is ready to plead, he wants to plead, and he knows what he wants to plead to,” Haynes informed the judge.

Haynes requested that the plea hearing be continued to Dec. 23 so he can fully communicate what’s happening in the case to Escobar.

The anticipated plea should proceed at that time, Haynes said.

“I am genuinely impressed by (Escobar’s) patience at this point, and he wants to do what’s best,” Haynes said.

Deputy Ninth District Attorney James Stone confirmed that the DA’s Office is waiting for cell phone records, including interpretation of 12 phone calls from the jail to a local place of business. Neither Haynes nor Stone revealed the nature of the phone calls, but Stone agreed to the continuance.

According to Colorado State Patrol reports, Escobar’s Chevrolet truck slammed into the rear of Olson’s Buick sedan as she was stopped in traffic at the red light. A passenger in her vehicle was also seriously injured.

Escobar was arrested several weeks later after an extensive State Patrol investigation into the incident.

Escobar is a Salvadoran national, according to court records. He has remained in the Garfield County Jail on an immigration hold since his Jan. 27 arrest.

Following the crash, according to court documents, Escobar said in interviews with the State Patrol that he didn’t see that traffic was stopped because of sun glare, although he said he was going about 5 miles per hour over the posted speed limit.

He was initially released on a summons for careless driving causing injury and no valid driver’s license, but information later came forward that the truck he was driving had been stolen from a Glenwood Springs business.

In follow-up interviews, Escobar allegedly admitted he had taken the truck the night of Dec. 24, 2020, when he found it unlocked and the keys inside, according to court documents.

Escobar also allegedly admitted to using methamphetamine the morning of the crash, and that he had sold tools and ladders that were in the truck for drug money.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

Police raid on Basalt residence allegedly produces guns, drugs and cash

The Basalt Police Department raided a residence in Willits on Monday and allegedly found illegal substances, weapons and a large amount of cash.

Mark Andrew Nelson, 59, was arrested in an accessory dwelling unit of a home on Sopris Circle, according to Basalt Police Chief Greg Knott. The police department had previously received information that Nelson was in possession of illegal narcotics and weapons.

“The Basalt Police Department learned Mr. Nelson is currently on parole and notified the (Colorado Division of Adult Parole) of this information,” the department said in a news release. The parole office along with Basalt officers made an unannounced visit to the home at about 10 a.m. Monday and conducted a search of the residence and two vehicles.

The search allegedly produced 1.6 pounds of suspected cocaine; 0.43 pounds of suspected methamphetamine, 0.35 pounds of suspected marijuana, 4.5 grams of suspected heroine, 693 suspected fentanyl pills, 111 suspected Ritalin pills, multiple drug paraphernalia, a 12-gauge shotgun that was previously reported stolen from Rifle, a .444-caliber rifle and two handguns, a power tool believed to be stolen from Sheridan, and $11,118 in cash.

There was no estimate available on the street value of the drugs.

The parole office arrested Nelson on suspicion of a parole violation. The Basalt Police Department arrested Nelson on suspicion of the following charges:

  • Unlawful possession of a controlled substance, a class 4 felony.
  • Unlawful possession of a control substance with intent to distribute, a class 1 felony.
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia, a petty offense.
  • Possession of weapons by a previous offender, a class 6 felony.
  • Theft, a class 1 misdemeanor.

Nelson was transported to Eagle County Jail, where he is being held on $50,000 bond, according to the police department.

A second person in the residence, Luz Maria Canseco-Escobar, 37, was arrested on suspicion of multiple charges, including: unlawful possession of a controlled substance, a class 4 felony; unlawful possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute, a class 1 felony; and possession of drug paraphernalia, a petty offense. She posted a $15,000 bond and was released from Eagle County Jail.

The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office assisted at the scene. Roaring Fork Fire Rescue was also on site during the incident.

Multiple arrests made, slew of drugs, weapons seized in TRIDENT investigation

Evidence collected by the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team following seven arrests on Nov. 4.
Garfield County Sheriff’s Office/Courtesy photo

Last week, multiple law enforcement agencies executed search and arrest warrants in the Rifle area as part of an investigation of a drug trafficking organization, the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office states in a release Monday.

The Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team, a multi-agency task force, coordinated with the Drug Enforcement Agency to investigate and execute the seizure of six types of drugs, including nearly 4,000 Xanax bars, which the DEA said was an unprecedented number for the area. Law enforcement also took more than 8 pounds of methamphetamine, 13,500 Fentanyl pills, 73 grams of psilocybin mushrooms, 5 pounds of marijuana and nearly three-quarters of a pound of cocaine.

The seizures also included 12 guns ranging from pistols to semi-automatic rifles and more than $45,000.

“It’s not only the amount of weaponry but the types of weapons that you’re seeing,” Denver Drug Enforcement Agency Public Information Officer Steve Kotecki said. “To me, that’s significant in that it’s not just pistols and hunting rifles and stuff like that. These are serious weapons.”

Kotecki said that drug traffickers “deal in violence,” but catching them with weapons is rare.

Local officials also noted that while the Interstate 70 corridor is typically a thoroughfare for drug trade from Denver through Utah and California, the narcotics taken in this operation appeared to be set for local sale.

Seven suspects were tied to the investigation ranging from 28 years old to 49.Tyrell T. Portlock and Cody A. Smith were both already in custody, according to the release. Garrett D. Ford had multiple warrants out. Brittany N. Ferpes, Ruben Chavez III, Christopher L. Richter and Brittany J. N. Eccheverria were also arrested in connection with the case.

The charges include firearm offenses, possession of a controlled substance, distribution of a controlled substance and conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. According to the release, all charges are felonies.

Agencies involved in the monthslong investigation include the Threat Assessment Group, Garfield County All Hazards Response Team, Homeland Security Investigations, Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, Rifle Police Department, Glenwood Springs Police Department and Parachute Police Department.

Aspects of the investigation are ongoing, the release states.

Aspen Skico insurer sues Johnson couple for $5.2 million over ski-selling scam

An insurance company is suing to collect just over $5.2 million from a couple criminally convicted of selling 13,000 pairs of skis belonging to Aspen Skiing Co.

National Union Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh’s civil complaint, which was filed against Derek and Kerri Johnson on Wednesday in Denver federal court, said the pair should be held responsible for the seven-figure sum the carrier paid to Henry Crown and Co. and its subsidiary Skico.

Skico and its parent company were reimbursed for their financial losses stemming from the scam under their “employee dishonesty” coverage with National Union Insurance. The Johnsons’ 12-year-long racket triggered the coverage payment.

“National Union issued a policy of insurance to Crown in which National Union agreed to insure Crown and Aspen for losses sustained due to employee dishonesty,” the suit said.

Reached Thursday, Kerri Johnson declined comment. Derek Johnson, who once ran Skico’s retail division, currently is serving a six-year prison sentence that Pitkin County District Judge Chris Seldin handed him in January 2020.

Though their criminal cases have been adjudicated — in February 2020, Kerri Johnson was sentenced to 90 days in jail and five years of probation for her guilty plea to one count of felony theft — the civil court is the latest venue for the continued fallout from the scam that lasted from 2006 through November 2018.

It was during that time period that the Johnson couple, National Union’s lawsuit says, “engaged in a scheme whereby they misappropriated thousands of skis, snowboards and other related equipment from Aspen and resold them online for personal profit. Mr. Johnson, in his capacity as Managing Director for Aspen (Skico), was able to carry out the theft by purposefully purchasing more inventory than actually was needed by Aspen, so that any inventory misappropriated by the Defendants was more likely to go unnoticed by Aspen. Given his position as Managing Director and his control of Aspen’s ski and snowboard inventory, Mr. Johnson was able to conceal the theft from Aspen during the course of the scheme.”

Kerri Johnson was culpable as well, the lawsuit said, when she “removed any insignia from the inventory that identified it as property of Aspen (Skico), listed the misappropriated inventory for sale online, accepted payment from the sale of misappropriated inventory and shipped the misappropriated inventory to buyers in shipping boxes that also were misappropriated from Aspen (Skico).”

Derek Johnson
Colorado Department of Corrections photo

Skico discovered the theft activity in November 2018 and fired Johnson, who pleaded guilty to Class 3 felony theft in November 2019. Kerri Johnson, who was not a Skico employee, pleaded guilty to Class 4 felony theft in December 2019.

Under the terms of the Johnsons’ plea deals with prosecutors, they agreed to reimburse Skico with $250,000, which was the amount the company said it paid to satisfy its insurance deductible in light of the Johnsons’ ski-selling scam.

National Union’s lawsuit did not specify the amount coverage provided in Skico’s employee-dishonesty insurance policy, yet as “a result of the Defendants’ actions, (Skico), and thus National Union, suffered a loss in the principal amount of $5,212,484.”

National Union’s lawsuit consists of counts of conversion, civil conspiracy and unjust enrichment against both Johnsons and separate counts of fraud and breach of fiduciary duty fraud against Derek Johnson.

“Pursuant to the Policy, National Union indemnified Crown and Aspen for the losses that they sustained as a result of the theft by the Defendants,” the suit said.

As a result, National Union is “subrogated to Crown and Aspen,” the suit argued.

“Subrogation is a well-known principle of insurance law. It allows an insurer who has paid a loss to its policyholder to ‘step into the shoes’ of the policyholder and attempt to recover its payment from a tortfeasor who caused or contributed to the loss,” according to Lawyer Monthly.

Victor M. Morales, of the Englewood law firm McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter LLP, filed the lawsuit on behalf of National Union Insurance. He did not respond to a telephone message seeking comment Thursday.

Skico also had no response when contacted about the matter Thursday.

The suit came the same week the Colorado Department of Revenue, in two filings with the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder’s office, said the Johnson couple had unsatisfied judgments of $37,794 and $69,827 for back taxes.

The Aspen Times reported in June that Johnson, a former Aspen City Council member and Skico executive, had been transferred to a halfway house in Jefferson County on the Front Range.

Johnson’s next parole hearing is scheduled for March 2022, and he is eligible for parole in June 2022, according to the Colorado Department of Corrections website. He was not available for comment Thursday, according to Kerri Johnson.

rcarroll@aspentimes.com

Man sentenced to 2 years probation for assaulting student in Carbondale school parking lot

A Carbondale man who pleaded guilty to hitting a male student in the parking lot at Roaring Fork High School last spring in a confrontation over the man’s daughter was sentenced Tuesday to two years of probation.

Jose Castellon-Mejia previously pleaded guilty to third-degree assault, a class 1 misdemeanor, for the April 27 incident. The defendant had claimed he thought the student his daughter was with in the parking lot was an adult.

After Carbondale police were called to the school at around 3:30 p.m., the student told officers that Castellon-Mejia punched him in the face through the driver’s side door of his car, then reached over to pull his daughter out of the car.

Castellon-Mejia’s attorney, Brian Roche, advised Garfield District Judge James Boyd during a sentencing hearing Tuesday afternoon that, rather than hitting the student, his client had slapped the student with an open hand.

Castellon-Mejia had one prior conviction for the same charge. Roche agreed with the probation department’s recommendation but requested that a protection order disallowing him from being on the school grounds be lifted.

The defendant said through an interpreter that he would like to be able to go to the school to see his children and attend events.

However, Boyd, in handing down the probation sentence, decided to leave the protection order in place. Deputy District Attorney Heidi Bower said there is still some concern about ongoing intimidation toward the student.

Bower also requested that Castillon-Mejia be evaluated and required to take an anger management class. The judge agreed.

Boyd said the defendant’s choice to hit the student after apparently “jumping to conclusions” about the student’s intentions involving his daughter “went too far.”

If any terms of the probation are violated, Castillon-Mejia could face a sentence of six months in the Garfield County Jail, Boyd advised. He also advised that Castillon-Mejia could renew his motion to lift the protection order.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

Rifle man sentenced on vehicular homicide, robbery charges


A Rifle man was sentenced to 15 years in prison Friday morning in two cases, one for vehicular homicide and another for burglary, both while under the influence of alcohol.

Chayton Reynolds was found guilty and sentenced on four separate charges — 15 years for vehicular homicide, six years for felony menacing, three years for felony violation of bail bond and eight years for second-degree burglary. The sentences will run concurrently, not consecutively.

Reynolds was sentenced by Garfield County District Judge Denise Lynch.

Reynolds was originally arrested Jan. 22, 2020, for hitting 50-year-old Robert Baumwoll with his car and killing him. Reynolds was found to be under the influence of alcohol, telling officers on scene he had consumed two beers in the previous two hours before the incident around 7:20 a.m.

Reynolds was 19 at the time and on probation following a guilty plea on a juvenile misdemeanor in 2019.

He met his $8,000 bond in late May and was released. On Nov. 19, he was arrested for allegedly breaking into a Rifle home and awakening its residents by pointing a BB gun at them.

Speaking over WebEx, the victims of the robbery said they had to relocate due to ongoing fears for their safety.

The defense said Reynolds was a product of an abusive father that physically injured him and introduced him to methamphetamines. Reynolds has supposedly been impacted by alcohol and drug consumption since he was 10.

Judge Lynch said she understood that he may have been self-medicating due to trauma, but it did not excuse the “two very serious offenses.”

Restitution in the two cases are still unsettled. The prosecution is seeking $1,638.30 to cover the funeral expenses of Baumwoll and $215 to account for the items stolen in the second case.

Reynolds faces trial still in a third case for allegedly making alcohol while in jail. That case is scheduled to begin on Dec. 2.

Defendant in Glenwood Springs shooting to face trial for attempted murder

A Silt man accused of shooting and seriously injuring the husband of his ex-wife in Glenwood Springs in April is headed for trial on attempted first-degree murder and assault charges.

Padrikea Nichols, 36, has claimed self defense in the incident that left Thomas Powell paralyzed from the neck down and on a ventilator, according to testimony from police investigators revealed in a preliminary hearing before Garfield County District Judge John Neiley Thursday.

After the nearly five-hour-long hearing, Neiley said prosecutors met the burden of proof to bind the case over for trial. A two-week trial is scheduled for March 28-April 8, 2022.

Padrikea Nichols
Garfield County Detention Center booking photo

Following the April 26, 2021, shooting behind a residence in the 800 block of Pitkin Avenue in downtown Glenwood Springs, the case file was sealed by another judge who initially presided due to the sensitive nature of video and other evidence in the case.

Thursday’s hearing was the first time many of the details of the incident were publicly aired.

According to questioning of Glenwood Springs Police Department investigators by Deputy District Attorney James Stone and Public Defender Alex Haynes, officers were called to the residence about 8:19 p.m. that night.

Powell was found bleeding from what ended up being two gunshot wounds from a handgun, one to the upper leg and another to his face. Powell was ultimately air-flighted to a Denver trauma center, was hospitalized for a lengthy period of time and underwent multiple surgeries.

Security video from a neighboring residence caught the events of that night, the apparent culmination of a dispute between Nichols and Powell that had been brewing for some time leading up to the shooting, according to testimony at Thursday’s hearing.

A short video clip, less than 2 minutes long, was shown in court. It showed Powell waiting on the back porch as Nichols slowly drove up in a pickup truck.

Powell is seen tearing his shirt off and aggressively approaching as Nichols drives up. Nichols then starts to back away before stopping and getting out to confront Powell.

Nichols eventually retrieved what police said was a Sccy brand 9mm pistol, taken into evidence when his Silt home was searched later that night, and walks back around the vehicle.

After firing two warning shots into the ground, he then allegedly turned the gun on Powell, shooting him twice. As witnesses, including Nichols’ ex, attempt to get him to get back in the truck and leave, a fifth shot is fired.

Stone argued it was that fifth shot, fired in Powell’s direction but missing as he lay helpless and bleeding on the ground, that proves Nichols intended to kill Powell.

Evidence also revealed that Powell was carrying a handgun in his pocket at the time, a Derringer-style two-round .22-caliber pistol later retrieved from the scene, according to testimony.

However, he never took it out of his pocket during the confrontation, and it was later determined that the pistol was not loaded.

According to testimony, the dispute had actually been building between the two for some time, including the night before the shooting when Nichols and his ex-wife were at a downtown bar-restaurant drinking, and apparently had a loud three-way argument with Powell over a speaker phone that resulted in the police being called.

Threats were made by both men during that particular argument, police testified, but it was words uttered by Nichols that Judge Neiley said swayed his ruling, in part, to take the case to trial.

During that argument, and in the presence of police officers who had arrived, Nichols allegedly said he had the right to carry a firearm, and that if something were to happen between him and Powell he would be acting in self defense.

His parting words were allegedly something akin to “pow, pow, pow,” or “pop, pop, pop,” according to testimony at Thursday’s preliminary hearing.

There was also some question whether Nichols intended to shoot Powell when he heard that he had threatened to harm his ex-wife, Powell’s wife, and decided to come over to the house that night.

Haynes attempted through questioning of the police officers to show that Powell was the aggressor, and Nichols was acting in self-defense.

“There is no clear evidence that he planned a killing,” Haynes argued before the judge.

Stone, however, argued there is ample evidence that Nichols acted with deliberation and intent to shoot and kill Powell.

Neiley sided with the prosecution for purposes of taking the case to trial.

The judge also denied a defense request to reduce bond for Nichols ahead of the trial. He remains in the Garfield County Jail on $250,000 bond and has been in jail since his arrest near his home in Silt the night of April 26 following the incident.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.