Frank Tucker, former DA dies

Donna Gray
Post Independent Staff

A colorful and historic figure in area law enforcement has died.

Former 9th Judicial District Attorney Frank Tucker died of cancer Monday in Montrose. He was 64.

Tucker was most known after he resigned from his post in June 1978 after he was convicted of two counts of embezzling county funds for his personal use. According to news reports in the Aspen Times in June 1978, Tucker was convicted of double-billing Garfield and Rio Blanco counties for expenses incurred by himself and Deborah McGuern at a Colorado Springs convention in 1975.

He was also convicted of falsely representing $320 in telephone charges between himself and McGuern, who was then living in California.

Tucker was charged with embezzling $680 from Pitkin and Garfield counties. About half of that was allegedly used to pay McGuern’s hotel and food bills when she accompanied Tucker to conventions in Hawaii and Colorado Springs.

On July 14, 1978, then Gov. Richard Lamm appointed Glenwood Springs public defender Charles Leidner to take his place.

Tucker served six months in jail and more than five years of probation. Following his sentence, he opened the Tucker Fairlawn Funeral Home in Glenwood Springs. A few years later he moved to Montrose and opened the Montrose Valley Funeral Home.

He also bought the Moynahan-O’Malia Mortuary in Leadville in 1983 and closed it in 1996.

Even during his tenure in office, Tucker was no stranger to newspaper headlines. In 1976, he prosecuted Claudine Longet, wife of singer Andy Williams, who shot and killed ski racer Spider Sabich in his Aspen home.

Longet was convicted of criminal negligence and sentenced to probation. Tucker came under fire for the conviction in the sensational case for letting Longet off too lightly.

When Leidner took over from Tucker in 1978, he told the Glenwood Post that he disputed Tucker’s claim that he had a 95 percent conviction rate while he was in office. He also said Longet’s conviction showed Tucker gave undue consideration to the rich at the expense of the poor.

It was also during Tucker’s tenure as DA, in June 1977, that serial killer Ted Bundy was captured and in short order escaped from the Pitkin County Jail. He was recaptured a week later and housed in the Glenwood Springs jail where he escaped again and successfully fled until he was finally captured in Florida in February of the following year.

During the recent DA recall involving Colleen Truden, Tucker’s name and troubled past resurfaced.

“I remember him as a very colorful person,” said retired county court judge Steve Carter, who was county court judge in Rifle during and after Tucker’s term as DA.

Tucker grew up in Rifle and graduated from Rifle High School. Before his election as DA, Tucker and his first wife Louise, who was also an attorney, had a private law firm, Tucker and Tucker, in Glenwood Springs, Carter said.

“He was flamboyant, that’s the best way to describe him,” Carter said. “He personally prosecuted cases in Rifle county court, which was really weird but he grew up here and thought it was fun.”

Carter remembered Tucker’s fall from grace and had some colorful stories of his own to tell about Tucker.

“He served (his jail time) in Georgetown. He became a favorite of all the prisoners there because he was a gourmet chef and he was put in charge of cooking for them,” he said.

Carter was also harsh in his assessment of Tucker.

“He was an embarrassment to the legal community,” Carter added. “Flamboyant and colorful don’t begin to describe him.”

Carter recalled an incident just after he was convicted of embezzlement.

“In the midst of his legal troubles, he (was on) a float in the Carbondale Potato Day parade,” Carter said. “He was in a handmade jail with a handmade ball and chain, and someone with donkey pulling him along. He was not the least repentant.”

Retired chief District Court Judge Tom Ossola also knew Tucker. In fact, the two men met in law school at the University of Colorado in the mid-1960s.

Ossola said he was sad to hear about Tucker’s death.

“He was a really complicated person. At same time he was a very compassionate person but he obviously had some significant blind spots,” he said. “Once you met him you never forgot him.”

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