Driver arrested in Appl case says she ‘freaked out’ when she found him hiding
Post Independent Staff
A DeBeque woman who said she “freaked out” after discovering a suspected cop shooter hiding out in a Silt-area bedroom has been arrested after allegedly trying to aid in his escape.
Cori Elizabeth Graham, 27, was arrested shortly after 8 p.m. Wednesday and was freed from Garfield County Jail Thursday after posting bonds totaling $8,250. She is charged with felony counts of being an accessory to a crime and tampering with evidence, and a misdemeanor count of obstructing a peace officer.
Police say Graham had been driving a red pickup truck in which Steven Appl shot himself after it was stopped at a checkpoint Wednesday night. Appl had been the subject of a manhunt after being named as the suspect in the shooting Tuesday night of Colorado State Patrol trooper Brian Koch.
Graham voluntarily spoke of her role in the incident at the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office after being arrested Wednesday night, according to an arrest affidavit by sheriff’s deputy Robert Glassmire.
She said she had been contacted by investigation task force members about 3 p.m. Wednesday and asked about Appl’s whereabouts. She said she knew Appl was in trouble for allegedly shooting an officer, but didn’t know where he was.
Graham said she then contacted a longtime friend, identified in the affidavit as Nikki Brownel, at a DeBeque-area bar. Graham told Glassmire that Brownel asked for a ride home, and the two arrived at a residence on County Road 331 in the Silt area.
The road also is known as Dry Hollow Road. Police say Appl had abandoned a vehicle with Arizona license plates about three miles up the road after his encounter with Koch.
Graham said Brownel led her to a bedroom, where Appl was sitting on a bed.
“Cori advised that she started to ‘freak out.’ Cori then told me that Nikki told her that the cops would be coming any minute wanting to search the house,” Glassmire wrote.
District Attorney Martin Beeson said Thursday that Brownel was under investigation but hadn’t been arrested in the case.
Graham told Glassmire that Brownel and Appl wanted her to drive Appl to Silt, where she would leave the car with him and Brownel would pick her up later.
“Cori then explained that Nikki wanted Steven out of the house and that he ended up getting in the back seat area of her vehicle,” the affidavit stated.
It continued, “Cori stated that Steven told her that if the cops questioned her to tell the cops that he had threatened her into driving him out of the area. Cori also advised that Steven told her if anything happened he would probably end up shooting himself.”
Graham told Glassmire that Appl hadn’t threatened her with harm, and she didn’t see any weapons.
“Cori stated that she was ‘freaked out’ and that she just wanted to go home,” Glassmire wrote.
Beeson said authorities had been watching the house up Dry Hollow Road “for most of the day,” but said little about the reasons why because of the ongoing investigation into the case.
“We got some good intel, that’s about all I can say,” he said. But he later added that authorities received “information from individuals in the community.”
Glassmire had joined Colorado Division of Wildlife officers in manning a checkpoint just south of the intersection of Dry Hollow Road and the Rifle-Silt Road Wednesday evening. Koch had been shot west of the intersection on the Rifle-Silt Road.
A member of the county’s new All Hazards Response Team alerted Glassmire that a red pickup truck had just left the house being monitored up Dry Hollow Road, and asked Glassmire to check on it.
When he stopped the 2002 Dodge pickup, a check of its plates found that it was registered to Gordon or Tyler Parks of DeBeque. Beeson didn’t know how Graham ended up driving their vehicle.
Glassmire approached the vehicle, while another officer approached the passenger’s side. Graham gave her name but had no identification, the affidavit said.
“Cori seemed nervous and upset that she had been stopped. I asked Cori where she had been coming from and she could not identify the specific area and told me a friend’s house,” Glassmire wrote.
A member of the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team and federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent approached to provide additional cover to Glassmire. Then officers saw suspicious movement in the back of the truck.
“As I looked in the back seat I noted that the floorboard area was covered up and that the movement was consistent with that of a person,” Glassmire wrote.
He and another officer immediately ordered Graham to tell them about any other people in the vehicle.
“At this time Cori forced her way out of the driver’s side door and it appeared as if she was attempting to get away from the vehicle,” he wrote.
As other officers dealt with her, Glassmire and the Trident officer “focused our attention to the suspicious person and the threat in the back seat,” he wrote.
Glassmire said he identified himself and tried to get a better view, and then “heard a distinctive single gunshot come from inside the vehicle.”
Officers took cover and awaited the arrival of other officers from various agencies. They then pulled a man’s body from the vehicle and determined that he matched the description of Appl.
Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 16609
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