Sheriff still mum on details of dead body found in Canyon Creek
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Garfield County authorities remained tight-lipped on Saturday concerning any and all information about human remains found in an orchard in the Canyon Creek community the day before, June 12.
The remains, which are widely believed to be those of a dismembered young girl, were removed from the orchard and taken to Grand Junction, where an autopsy was scheduled to be performed at 4 p.m. on Saturday by the Mesa County Coroner’s Office.
Mesa County coroner’s representatives referred all calls to the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office.
Holly Hopple, spokeswoman for the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, said that there would “probably not” be any information released immediately following the autopsy, stressing that the investigation into the finding of the body is in its early stages and is continuing.
The body was found by a teenage boy working in the orchard on the morning of June 12, reportedly helping to clear out trash and debris, and has alarmed the community into paroxysms of rumor and tall tales.
But according to one local man with ties to the youth who found the remains, there may be no cause for alarm.
Kent Jolley, who is a friend of the family of the youth who found the body, acknowledged that “people are freaked out. It makes them angry to hear about it.”
But, noting that the body was found near the I-70 Canyon Creek interchange, he theorized, “it may not have been a local crime or a local girl,” but may have been dumped in this area after being brought here from elsewhere.
The youth, who has not been identified by authorities, called the sheriff’s office at 10:54 a.m. on June 12 and reported the find, which has been described as a girl’s body in a bag of some kind, lying on the ground in the orchard.
For the remainder of the day, officers and agents from the sheriff’s office, the coroner’s office, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office Search And Rescue group and other agencies combed the orchard for evidence.
Hopple said the search parties broke off at dusk, leaving the scene to be guarded by deputies until work resumed at 8 a.m. Saturday. She said the Mesa County Search And Rescue organization joined the effort on Saturday.
Hopple and other sheriff’s office officials have said they have no knowledge of outstanding missing persons reports that might be connected with the apparent homicide, and Vallario has been quoted as saying there is no evidence that the body was brought from elsewhere and dumped in the orchard.
As for the rampant rumors in the Glenwood Springs community, such as a story that the girl’s torso was not found, or that the find involved multiple bags of remains, Hopple said, “None of that has been confirmed. All of that has been just hearsay, and we’ve been hearing it, too.”
Despite rumors that the body may have been in pieces in several different bags, officials are not denying or confirming those stories, according to Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario.
The incident is being treated as a homicide, as is any unattended death, Vallario said, but there are no suspects at this time.
Instead, the investigation is still focused on collecting evidence at the scene of the crime.
“We are still searching for evidenciary items such as a cigarette butt or a body part, if that were the case,” Vallario said. “Right now, we’re not even in the ball park of identifying a suspect. We’re still in crime scene mode.”
Vallario said they are still trying to figure out who the victim is.
Regarding whether the community at large should be worried about further incidents, Hopple reiterated the statements of Sheriff Lou Vallario, who said Friday evening that “people should not necessarily be afraid. We do not have any reason to believe we have a maniac running around killing people.”
Neighbors in the area, who asked not to be identified, said they have been told not to be alarmed and believe this is an isolated incident
“We were told not to be worried, but to lock our doors,” one neighbor said. “We recognize this was a person and this person has a family. So far, nobody is telling us anything. But people are not afraid.”
Vallario also said that there was no cause for alarm.
“This is a single crime scene with a single body,” he said. “The suspect was probably known to the victim. But right now, all we have is a dead body thrown in an apple orchard and we’re trying to figure out what’s going on.”
Hopple, speaking Saturday afternoon, added, “There’s no indication to believe that people need to hide behind locked doors. We don’t want people to panic. We don’t want people to change what they’re doing, as part of their daily lives.”
Hopple was unable to predict whether there would be more information available on Sunday concerning the results of the autopsy.
In a prepared statement, she wrote that, as of Saturday, “Further disbursement of information regarding this incident will be relayed to the media via press release only, and no longer on an individual basis.”
She said Sheriff Vallario would not be taking calls from reporters on the matter.
-Heidi Rice contributed to this report
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