DA seeks grand jury in carbon monoxide case near Aspen
April 2, 2009
ASPEN, Colorado ” Ninth Judicial District Attorney Martin Beeson filed a motion Wednesday that sets the stage for a grand jury to investigate the carbon monoxide-related deaths of a family at a home outside Aspen.
The motion requests an order to “call, summon, impanel and convene no less than” 75 people, from which 12 will be chosen to act as a “special grand jury” in Pitkin County for a 12-month period. Four people are also requested as alternates.
The motion was filed in Pitkin County District Court. Chief Judge James Boyd is expected to rule on the request although there is no time certain.
If the request is granted a grand jury would ultimately decide whether criminal charges are filed in the case prompted by the deaths of the Lofgren family on Thanksgiving weekend.
“This was a tragedy. Our hearts go out to their family,” said Beeson at an afternoon press conference at the Pitkin County Courthouse to announce the filing.
He said the request for a grand jury was made, in part, because it would ensure fairness with respect to the process.
Recommended Stories For You
“It is a case of public interest,” Beeson said.
The process in which a grand jury would be selected is somewhat similar to one picked for a court trial. Notices will be sent out to a prospective pool of jurors in Pitkin County with the date to appear in court to be determined by Boyd.
One of the biggest differences is that the jury will most likely be selected behind closed doors, with proceedings closed to the public. Boyd, barring an unforeseen change, will select the jury.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Arnold Mordkin will participate in the jury selection process. He will also oversee the remainder of the proceedings once the jury is seated. Those proceedings will also be closed to the public and media.
A grand jury is also special in the sense that it has subpoena powers, meaning that it can compel witnesses to appear or request documents. It is, essentially, an investigative body.
Attorneys may provide counsel to witnesses at the proceeding although they can’t argue or object to anything.
Should the grand jury choose to return an indictment in the case, also known as a “true bill,” the process would then move forward like a criminal proceeding.
The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office launched an investigation into the deaths of the Lofgren family shortly after their bodies were discovered by friends in a bedroom of the home at 10 Popcorn Lane, one day after Thanksgiving.
An autopsy found Parker Lofgren, 39; his wife, Caroline, 42; and their children, Owen, 10, and Sophie, 8, died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless and colorless gas that is created when fuels, such as gasoline, natural gas and propane, burn incompletely.
It is poisonous and can kill cells of the body. It also replaces oxygen in the bloodstream, which leads to suffocation.
The home was not fitted with a carbon monoxide detector, authorities said. The finding was made during the investigation.
A disconnected exhaust pipe that stretched from a boiler to the chimney flue appears to have been the way the gas was able to infiltrate the home.
The results of the investigation were turned over in February to the District Attorney’s Office in Aspen.