Sheriff hands off officer probe |

Sheriff hands off officer probe

Greg Masse
Post Independent Staff
with wire reports

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said another agency will take over the investigation of a police officer who is accused of attacking a man who helped rescue a couple from Hubbard Cave Friday.

Vallario was planning to have investigators from his office look into allegations that a Glenwood Springs police detective attacked a 26-year-old Glenwood Springs resident on Friday.

But because Vallario was employed with the Glenwood Springs Police Department for 15 years before he was elected sheriff in November 2002, the sheriff changed his mind Tuesday and decided to refer the investigation to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to avoid any conflict of interest.

“CBI will do the investigation,” he said.

Byron Brown of Glenwood Springs is the rescuer who said he was attacked as he helped John Hadar and Sherry DeCrow from a harrowing 4 1/2 days lost in a cave above Glenwood Canyon.

The name of the accused detective was not released by either the sheriff’s office or Glenwood Springs police, and the two departments declined to release a copy of Brown’s complaint because the matter is under investigation.

Glenwood Springs police chief Terry Wilson also declined to comment on the case.

Tactics debated

Hadar and DeCrow were first reported to the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office as missing on Aug. 26. Early the next day, the sheriff’s office began checking credit-card use, telephone records and airport departures.

Family members told investigators the two might have eloped, Vallario said.

Family and friends say authorities kept them from looking in the cave at least 12 hours before the two were found Friday.

“The sheriff’s department, from the beginning, did nothing to find them,” said Brown.

Instead, he said, the sheriff’s office was looking for clues on who might have killed them.

The sheriff said he would investigate the case the same way if he had to do it again.

“It was a successful rescue,” he said. “I still don’t understand what their motivation is for going after me.”

DeCrow said the two went to explore Hubbard Cave on Aug. 24. Hadar wanted her to show him the entrance to the cave, but the two were enticed inside by the rock formations and became lost when their flashlights went out, she said.

More than 48 hours later, DeCrow’s daughter, who had been out of town, reported her mother missing and the search began.

“They broke the No. 1 rule: They didn’t tell anyone where they were going, and then they blamed the sheriff’s department for rescuing them,” Vallario said.

He also said there are inconsistencies in their story of spending five days in the cave without food and water.

The inconsistencies include their unusually good physical condition after they were found, and the speed with which the pair were found once their family and friends joined last week’s search, he said.

“We’d never considered they might be lost in the mountains because none of the family suggested they ever went into the mountains,” the sheriff said.

Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511

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