Basalt police say woman’s death is strange but not suspicious
BASALT, Colo. Basalt police investigators cannot determine all the details in a bizarre accident that killed Barbara Joyce Schey this weekend, but they “definitively” ruled out foul play, Sgt. Mark Langford said Monday.Schey, 69, a real estate agent with Aspen Real Estate Co., died outside her Lakeside townhome in Basalt’s Willits subdivision Friday night or Saturday morning after a strange sequence of events.”We’re pretty comfortable with the fact that she was by herself,” Langford said. “It just boils down to a very tragic accident.”Here’s what police believe happened: Schey stepped out of her house and onto her balcony when she hooked a foot on an extension cord. She fell forward and smacked her head hard enough on a two-by-four wood railing to cut a gash on her forehead and cause internal bleeding.Schey fell to her hands and knees but managed to get back on her feet. She fell over the railing, which the 6-foot tall Langford described as “waist high.” She landed roughly 10 feet below on the lawn then struggled to her feet again. Schey “zig-zagged” to a spot about 20 yards away where she fell in a shallow, rocky drainage ditch that runs from a parking lot to a lake.Preliminary results show she died from blunt-force trauma to her head, according to Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis. Langford said she suffered a head injury, injuries from the fall, and exposure to temperatures in the high 20s and low 30s.”You put those three together, and that would lend itself very well to being the cause of death,” he said.
Basalt police undertook a thorough investigation because they had questions about the accident, Langford said. They found Schey’s fall over the railing particularly mysterious.Langford said investigators don’t have physical evidence to explain how that happened. “Did anybody else do it? Definitively, no,” Langford said.Investigators are certain no one else was involved because the fresh snowfall that fell Friday night assisted the investigation. The balcony was uncovered, so the couple of inches of snow that fell piled up.Schey’s body was discovered near a pedestrian trail at 9:19 a.m. Saturday. While the location is in the open, it is down a slight embankment from the townhouse complex and not easily visible from all the units. The parking lot and front entrances of the units are on the opposite side of the building.When investigators arrived on the scene they easily determined where Schey came from because of the footprints and blood in the snow. However, at that point they didn’t know she lived alone. So they sought a search warrant to enter the townhouse in case they found something suspicious, Langford said.They entered the unit that afternoon. There was no sign of forced entry, and nothing was awry in the townhouse, Langford said.On the balcony, they discovered only Schey’s footprints. They took multiple photographs before the snow melted.”At this point, it doesn’t look like it was [an impact] and then over,” Langford said, hitting his hand on a table to signify the impact. “She did stay for a period of time on the deck. There’s a blood trail and footprints in the snow that indicated that, but then somehow she went over the railing.”
A toxicology report indicated there was no alcohol in Schey’s system. There was a small amount of a prescription drug in her system, but it was not a narcotic, Langford said.The exact time of the accident, and of Schey’s death, are unknown. Investigators found a journal in Schey’s residence which indicates she wrote in it about 7 p.m. Friday. It was also apparent from the stovetop that she was preparing to cook dinner, Langford said. Schey was dressed in sweats and casual clothes.While her body wasn’t reported until 9:19 a.m. Saturday, a neighbor reported he saw a “disturbance” in the snow at around 6 a.m., Langford said. Therefore, the accident is known to have occurred between 7 p.m. Friday and 6 a.m. Saturday, but probably on Friday evening.Langford said there is no evidence anyone was in her residence on Friday night. It was not believed she was in a relationship.Schey’s footprints on the balcony and her footprints while staggering after falling to the lawn weren’t covered by snow. Police have contacted the National Weather Service for help determining when the snow stopped falling to narrow down the time.It is unknown how soon Schey died after falling.
Schey’s death stunned her colleagues at Aspen Real Estate Co., where she worked as a full-time broker for 15 or 16 years, according to office manager Carla Van Alstyne: “We’re deeply saddened,” Van Alstyne said, adding they are trying to comprehend what happened.Schey visited Aspen starting in the late 1960s and lived here full time in 1974. She moved downvalley about a dozen years ago, Van Alstyne said.Schey’s coworkers described her as “vibrant, compassionate, a free spirit, happy, upbeat and positive.” She loved riding horses and cycling, and she was very fond of her cat, they said.The cat was taken to a friend of Schey’s until her family decides how to care for it, Langford said. Her only surviving close relative is a brother in Duluth, Minn. He was working with his family to make arrangements for the service and taking care of her possessions.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com.
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