Man charged with killing aunt, uncle in El Jebel
And Post Independent staff
An El Jebel man was being held on two counts of first-degree murder, accused of fatally shooting his aunt in uncle Saturday night in their home, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said Sunday.
The killing occurred with the couple’s teen sons at home, but they were unhurt.
Williams Anderson Amaya, 33, was being held in Eagle County Jail without bond. He is scheduled to be formally advised of the charges in a court hearing Monday, said Eagle County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Jessie Mosher.
Amaya is accused of shooting Mayra Lorena Lopez, 40, and her husband, Eliseo Lopez, 42, according to authorities. Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis said autopsies on Tuesday will determine if the Lopezes received single or multiple gunshot wounds.
The shooting occurred at about 11:17 p.m. Saturday at the Lopez home at 160 Arapahoe in Sopris Village, a subdivision behind the El Jebel City Market in unincorporated Eagle County.
Amaya fled the scene before an Eagle County deputy sheriff arrived “minutes later,” according to a statement by the sheriff’s office.
One of the Lopezes’ sons, who were reported to be 13 and 14, got out of the house and called 911.
Eagle County deputies, with the assistance of law enforcement agencies throughout the Roaring Fork Valley, started a search for Amaya. They suspected he fled in his 2009 Honda Civic.
Investigators contacted his cell phone service provider to enlist help tracking the suspect. “We pinged his cell phone and found he was at his place of employment,” Mosher said.
She said Amaya worked Colorado Pool and Spa Scape at a facility located at 5308 County Road 154, along Highway 82 about halfway between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale.
Members of the Eagle County Special Operations Unit, with assistance from a special team from Garfield County, surrounded the business, Mosher said. A detective reached Amaya on his telephone and alerted him that authorities were outside.
“He basically surrendered himself,” Mosher said. He was taken into custody without incident at 5:40 a.m. Sunday, she said.
“The gun was recovered,” Mosher said. “It’s my understanding that it was in the car.” The weapon recovered was a .380-caliber handgun, she said.
Amaya had worked at Colorado Pool and Spa Scapes for seven years.
Paula Busk, chief financial officer for the business, where Amaya worked as a service technician, on Monday described him as “a good employee” and “very conscientious.”
Amaya’s position cleaning and balancing water chemistry in the field requires a criminal and driving records check, neither of which turned up anything, Busk said. Although he didn’t work out of the office much, everyone at the company knew him.
“We’re all shocked and surprised,” Busk said. “Our hearts go out to the family.”
Detectives are investigating a motive in the case, according to Mosher. Both the boys were interviewed. No information was available on whether an argument preceded the shooting.
The incident stunned residents of Sopris Village, a mostly working class subdivision of about 130 homes.
“To my knowledge, nothing like that has happened here (before). It’s shocking,” said Michael Meiners, a longtime resident of Sopris Village and president of the Homeowners Association.
The Lopez home is on a street of mostly well-groomed houses next to Crown Mountain Park. Homes in Sopris Village are among the most affordable in the midvalley, so the subdivision attracts a lot of blue-collar workers and young professionals starting families.
“Overall, I think this is a well-respected and well-maintained neighborhood,” Meiners said. He was unaware of any complaints or homeowners’ association actions with the house at 160 Arapahoe.
News of the double homicide caught many residents of the neighborhood off guard Sunday morning. Only immediate neighbors of the Lopez residence were aware of a shooting Saturday night. One resident of Arapahoe, who didn’t want to be nameds, said a deputy knocked on the family’s door shortly after the incident and told them to stay inside and lock their doors. The resident said they didn’t hear gunfire or a disturbance prior to the incident.
Some residents of the immediate area were alerted of the situation with a Reverse 911 call from Eagle County, Mosher said.
People in the area who are registered with the Pitkin Alert system received an email at 12:35 a.m. Sunday warning that a shooting suspect was “unaccounted for.” Recipients were told to keep their doors locked.
Mosher said a victim’s advocate from Eagle County Sheriff’s Office went to the Lopez home Sunday. A grief counselor was also available for the boys, said another authority with direct knowledge of the situation.
Mosher said the sheriff’s office was notified that the boys were placed in the care of an uncle.
Mayra Lopez was employed in the health office of Basalt Elementary School, according to the school’s website. It couldn’t be immediately determined where Eliseo Lopez worked.
Amaya didn’t have an extensive criminal background in the state, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. He was cited for underage drinking by Snowmass Village police in October 2001, according to records.
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