AG ‘optimistic’ about catching suspect in Garrett shooting
Post Independent Staff
Chances are good that a man who is suspected in the shooting death of Qwest executive Jeff Garrett and fled to Mexico will be arrested, Colorado’s attorney general said Friday.
“I feel very optimistic that we’re going to locate this individual in Mexico and get him into custody,” Attorney General John Suthers said in an interview in Glenwood Springs.
Because of the nature of the offense ” the fact that the killing doesn’t appear to have been premeditated ” the man may be prosecuted in Mexico rather than being extradited back to Colorado, Suthers said.
Garrett was killed while hunting for turkey near New Castle May 14. Authorities believe two ranch hands, both Mexican nationals, were clearing brush when they heard Garrett’s turkey calls, and that the suspect thought he was shooting at a turkey when he shot Garrett.
Investigators think the shooter fled that day after discovering he’d shot someone.
Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario hasn’t released the suspect’s name because the investigation is ongoing.
Vallario said Friday it doesn’t matter to him whether the man is prosecuted in Mexico or Colorado.
“We’re confident that justice will be served,” he said.
Suthers said the judicial system differs in Mexico in that suspects are presumed guilty unless they prove they are innocent, rather than being presumed innocent. And prisoners there don’t enjoy the best of conditions, said Suthers, who was formerly in charge of Colorado’s state prisons.
“If you’re not a drug lord you don’t want to be in a Mexican prison,” he said.
In addition, there is far less opportunity for parole there, he said.
On the other hand, Mexico doesn’t have a death penalty and won’t allow extradition of citizens who might face capital punishment in the United States. It also blocks extradition when suspects could face life in prison without parole.
Garrett’s killer is expected to face charges that would carry a lesser penalty.
Suthers spoke on a range of issues Friday during a stop in Glenwood Springs. Gov. Bill Owens appointed Suthers in January to be attorney general after former AG Ken Salazar, a Democrat, was elected to the U.S. Senate.
Suthers, who is a Republican, like Owens, said he will run for election to his office next year. He said no one else has joined the race, but he expects the Democrats to field a candidate.
In other attorney general business, Suthers said he’s hopeful that Colorado and other states in the Upper Colorado River Basin will succeed in protecting their interests related to a river compact with Lower Basin states such as California. A multi-year drought is putting extra demand on the river and bringing to the forefront questions such as whether the Upper or Lower Basin states must meet treaty obligations to deliver river water to Mexico.
“All of the sudden those things are issues and subject to negotiation. We hope all those things can be resolved,” Suthers said.
However, California no longer seems to be arguing that the 1922 river compact, which guarantees a certain amount of river water for Upper Basin states, is outdated, he said.
“You don’t hear that much anymore. I think they realize they have to live with the document and we have to fight over the fine print,” Suthers said.
Suthers also spoke of his involvement in efforts to clean up hazardous waste sites in Colorado, fight sexual solicitation of children on the Internet, and combat a growing problem of foreclosure fraud.
He said companies are offering to help people facing foreclosure by paying off loans in exchange for the titles being transferred to them.
The homes are then rented to the occupants, with the promise of them being able to reobtain their titles later when they are on better financial footing.
“The problem is the rent payments are more than the mortgage payments. The essence of the scheme is to steal the equity in the place,” Suthers said.
Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516
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