Aspen judge dismisses, reduces charges in hostage incident |

Aspen judge dismisses, reduces charges in hostage incident

A District Court judge Thursday reduced or dismissed three of the most serious charges filed against a Colorado Springs real estate broker accused of taking three men hostage and threatening to kill them last summer.

However, District Judge Chris Seldin confirmed that enough evidence was presented at a preliminary hearing last week to back up 15 other felonies that have been filed against Brolin McConnell, 30.

The changes to the charges faced by McConnell include one of the two counts of attempted first-degree murder he faces, which Seldin reduced to attempted reckless manslaughter. That charge relates to shots McConnell allegedly fired near the head and feet of hostage victim Blake Ramelb.

“If McConnell had wanted to actually shoot Ramelb at this range, he could have simply held the gun up directly to Ramelb’s head and fired,” Seldin wrote in his order. “But there is no indication that, having taken two shots near Ramelb at different times that went into the ground and the air, McConnell realized he had missed his target and fired again.

“Had he wished to do so there was nothing preventing him since Ramelb remained standing right next to him.”

Instead, while the shots McConnell fired near Ramelb were “grossly outrageous,” they were more “consistent with warning shots rather than with an intent or purpose to kill,” Seldin wrote in his order.

Seldin did, however, find probable cause to confirm the second attempted first-degree murder count, which says the crime was committed with “extreme indifference.” McConnell’s repeated threats to “kill multiple people on multiple occasions,” the “random, unprovoked nature of his actions” and the fact that he did fire at least one of the 9mm handguns he brandished were enough to bind over that charge for trial, Seldin said in his order.

Seldin also found probable cause to bind over a charge of first-degree kidnapping in relation to Ramelb because McConnell appeared to ask for $100 million in exchange for Ramelb’s release, according to the order.

However, the judge dismissed two counts of attempted first-degree kidnapping in relation to the two other victims allegedly held at gunpoint because McConnell made no such ransom demand in connection with them, the order states.

The judge also found probable cause to charge McConnell with three counts of second-degree kidnapping, 10 counts of felony menacing as well as violent crime sentence enhancers for the attempted murder and kidnapping counts because he used handguns, according to the order.

McConnell remains incarcerated at the Pitkin County Jail on a $500,000 cash-only bond.

“The danger to the community (in McConnell’s case) is more significant than a murder where the parties knew each other,” Seldin said last week at the end of the preliminary hearing. “Here the victims are wholly random. They just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“So anyone could be at risk if they come across Brolin McConnell at the wrong time. The risk to the public that it suggests is extreme.”

The incident on Lincoln Creek Road took place in the early evening of July 27. The first two victims, Mark Meredith and Brian Buchanan, were traveling together and were the first to be stopped by McConnell, who had parked his truck so it blocked the road and forced the two men out of their car at gunpoint. Ramelb drove up later and also was held at gunpoint.

Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies and an Aspen police officer were able to apprehend McConnell almost immediately after Ramelb ran away.

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