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Local news briefs

Operation Vacation is a program that brings military personnel who have fought overseas to the Roaring Fork Valley.Bob Johnson, a realtor for Vicki Lee Green Realtors in Glenwood Springs, has coordinated with the Army to host six soldiers over a six-month period in Glenwood.Since Aug. 19, Operation Vacation has brought three military families to the city. More than 20 area businesses have donated dinners, entertainment, outdoor activities, lodging and transportation for Operation Vacation participants.Johnson is asking the community to continue to support Operation Vacation by donating funds for spending and gas money and gift certificates for food, lodging and entertainment. “Any kind of funding and any type of donation is welcome,” Johnson said. “We are a nonprofit, so it’s a tax-deductible donation.”Please send donations to: P.O. Box 2371, Glenwood Springs, CO 81602. Call 945-1010 with questions.

Carbondale police asked officials in Carbondale schools to lock down the school buildings around noon Thursday. Police Chief Gene Schilling said police received a report of a man who allegedly threatened a housemate near the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 bus barn at 11:55 a.m. The police asked the district to lock down the schools until it was determined the man was no longer a threat. Schilling said it was a false report, and the person did not have a shotgun. The lockdown was canceled around 1 p.m.In a statement to parents, Crystal River Elementary School Principal Karen Olson wrote, “The police asked us to keep all students inside the buildings until they could clear the situation. After everything was under control, as an extra precaution, the schools kept the students on a regular school routine, but did keep them inside. We kept in communication with the police throughout the afternoon.”

A former astrologer for The Aspen Times pleaded not guilty Thursday to molesting two girls, and a judge set a three-day jury trial for April.Tomas Brown, 53, of Glenwood Springs, sat beside his attorney, John Van Ness, who entered the plea in district court in Glenwood Springs.The suspect is charged with two felony counts of sexual assault on a child. Police say he inappropriately touched the girls, who are sisters, while visiting them at their Carbondale home and told one of them she would be his “slave.” The girls, who testified during a previous preliminary hearing, will likely take the witness stand again at trial.The arrest warrant says Brown kissed and touched the bottom of the older sister’s bra, and touched the buttocks of the younger girl on the outside of her clothing while he was giving her a massage. The girls were 11 and 13 at the time. He told one girl that she was “yummy” and instructed both not to tell anyone about what happened or they would have “bad karma,” the warrant says.Brown had apparently known the girls and their family for several years and visited them often.Under the name Tomas Gregory, he wrote horoscopes for the Times in a column titled “The Aspen Astrologer.” The column was suspended a few days after Brown’s arrest on May 9.Thursday in court, Brown, wearing a dark suit and gold tie, sat quietly with his hands clasped in his lap. He spoke only to thank Judge Dan Petre after the judge extended his $20,000 bond.Petre noted that the trial had to be held before early May to ensure that the suspect’s right to a speedy trial was not violated. Van Ness and deputy district attorney Scott Turner agreed that three days would be needed for the trial, which is scheduled for April 19-21. Petre set a Jan. 13 deadline for pretrial motions.Brown could face up to 18 years in prison if convicted on both counts.



Hearts beat considerably faster Wednesday after reports that the entire fourth grade at Basalt Middle School was vomiting and a student was nearly unconscious.It turned out it was only four students, but the Basalt Fire Department wasn’t taking any chances. Four emergency vehicles, including two fire trucks, responded to the call around 2:30 p.m. The Aspen and Carbondale firefighters were on alert to cover the midvalley as Basalt firefighters descended on the school.It wasn’t clear what made the students sick, Fire Chief Scott Thompson said. It wasn’t because of carbon monoxide or any other potentially toxic gas, he said. No student ever approached unconsciousness.The students were being treated in the office of the school. Firefighters planned to disinfect the area of the school where the kids became ill. Soiled clothing, trash cans and food were placed in hazardous-materials bags.Thompson said the water and air at Basalt Middle School would be tested.


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