Documents shed light, cast doubt on suspected Vail shooters’ claims
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – Official military records confirm that murder suspect Richard “Rossi” Moreau was a decorated Army soldier who served in Vietnam and earned a Purple Heart.
However, the documents do not indicate that he was an Army Ranger, as he has claimed.
Moreau, 63, of Vail, allegedly shot four people, killing one, at the Sandbar in West Vail on Nov. 7. He faces a charge of first degree murder, two charges of attempted murder, and five other felonies.
He has said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from his service in Vietnam. Prosecutors say Moreau has claimed he shot the victims as a result of the disorder, according to court documents.
Some have questioned the truthfulness of Moreau’s military claims. He told the Vail Daily in 2006 that he served two tours of duty in Vietnam as an Army Ranger, was wounded in the Tet Offensive, and held a dying friend in his arms during combat.
“He called for his mom,” Moreau said then. “I watched him die in my arms. It’s really hard watching someone die in your arms. All you can do is watch them die.”
The Vail Daily obtained the military records from the National Personnel Records Center, a division of the National Archives, through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The records verified some of his claims, left some plausible and rendered some doubtful.
He served as a radio teletype operator with the 371st Radio Research Company of the 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam from May 1967 until November 1968, records show. He also served as a door gunner with the company starting in December 1967, documents show.
The Tet Offensive was in January and February of 1968.
Mary Schantag, a researcher with the POW Network, a Missouri group that investigates military records, said Moreau could have seen combat
as a radio teletype operator. As a door gunner, he would have been firing weapons out of helicopters at the enemy, she said.
But Doug Sterner, of Colorado Springs, a Vietnam veteran and historian who runs the Web site homeofheroes.com, said it was unlikely he would have seen ground combat.
“Their job was intelligence, to intercept radio communications and also put helicopters over the jungle trying to pick up radio transmissions,” Sterner said. “His job would have been to monitor radio transmissions and double as a door gunner on helicopters. There is nothing about the company that was he assigned to that would indicate it was ever involved in any type of ground combat during the entirety of the war.”
Previously, Moreau was also assigned to the 319th Army Security Agency Battalion in Europe from 1966 through 1967. The Army Security Agency was a branch of the Army that gathered intelligence by intercepting signals.
His active-duty military service spanned from 1965 to 1969.
“Let them believe what the hell they want, man,” Moreau said from jail in an interview with Business Briefs Newspaper. “I was in the Army Security Agency and everything was classified top secret, as it still is today. … We were the snoopers. We went out and found the bad guys, and we called them in for air support and artillery assaults and air mobile assaults. “
Moreau’s awards and decorations include an Air Medal, a Purple Heart, an Army Commendation Medal, a Vietnam Service Medal with one Silver Service Star and one Bronze Service Star, a Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, a Meritorious Unit Commendation with one bronze oakleaf cluster, a Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm, a National Defense Service Medal, a Marksman Badge with Rifle and Auto Rifle Bars and three Overseas Bars, records show.
It’s not clear how or when he earned the Purple Heart.
The records indicate that he served in multiple campaigns and multiple tours, Schantag said.
Pete Lemon, of Colorado Springs, who served as an Army Ranger and in the 1st Cavalry Division and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions in Vietnam, said that based the records, it’s unlikely Moreau was a Ranger. Moreau would have had to be a member of H Company, which was the only company assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division in the war. But that company was not created until 1969, after Moreau had left Vietnam, Lemon said.
Also, Moreau’s training record would show either Army Ranger school or “Recondo” school, he said.
“It’s very unlikely that he was a Ranger,” Lemon said. “If he uses his fabrication of his military history as part of his defense in his murder trial, he dishonors all Vietnam veterans.”
Sterner added that it’s “totally implausible” that Moreau served as a Ranger.
Regarding the story about Moreau holding his dying friend in his arms, two men from the 371th Radio Research Company died while Moreau was serving in Vietnam, Sterner said. One was killed when the base camp was shelled, and another was killed when a truck hit a land mine, Sterner said.
On a business card that was posted on Moreau’s Vail apartment door Nov. 8, he was described as a “Sgt., Army Spec. Ops.”
Records show Moreau was discharged as a corporal, a lower rank.
The photo beside the business card showed Moreau wearing a Ranger tab, Jump Wings, a Combat Infantry Badge and a Recondo School patch, Lemon said. Those achievements would have shown up on his record, and they didn’t, Lemon said.
After being transferred back to the U.S. in November 1968, Moreau served with the 63rd Ordnance Company at Fort Lewis in Washington as a radio team chief and was discharged from active duty in November 1969.
He moved in Vail in 1970 and has lived here since.
He told the Vail Daily in 2006 that he has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder since 1979 and takes medicine every day to treat the condition. He also told the paper that, due to the disorder, he cannot work, cannot drive at night, and suffers from nightmares and flashbacks.
Prosecutors have subpoenaed Moreau’s military records, but the defense moved to quash the subpoena, saying the district attorney was conducting a “fishing expedition.”
Moreau will next appear in court Dec. 30 for a preliminary hearing, when prosecutors will try to establish probable cause.
A public defender for Moreau said Tuesday it’s “way too early” to say if post-traumatic stress disorder would be part of a defense.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 970-748-2929 or email@example.com.
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