Woman challenges account of her ties to Steven Appl
A woman being investigated in connection with the possible aiding of fugitive Steven Appl this week has taken issue with another woman’s account of what roles they may have played in his attempt to flee the area.”I don’t have anything to hide. I don’t agree with Ms. Graham,” Nichole Brownell said by telephone from the home she lives in up Dry Hollow Road.Cori Graham, 27, of DeBeque was arrested after she drove Appl down Dry Hollow Road in his attempt to escape during a manhunt, police say. She was stopped at a checkpoint, and then Appl shot himself to death while hidden in the back of the truck she was driving, according to authorities. His suicide came a day after he shot and injured Colorado State Patrol trooper Brian Koch near Silt Tuesday night.In a statement to police detailed in an arrest affidavit, Graham indicated she hadn’t known Appl was hiding in the home Brownell lives in. Brownell had her drive them both there, then led her to a bedroom where Appl was hiding, a revelation that caused Graham to ‘freak out,’ she reportedly told police.She said Brownell and Appl then instructed her to drive Appl down to Silt, where she would leave the car with him and Brownell would pick her up later.”It wasn’t like that,” Brownell said. “She wasn’t that freaked out. She’s a big girl. She sort of suggested that she’s not a big girl and can’t make her own decisions about who she drives down a hill.”Brownell hung up before she could be asked for further comment about the incident.Assistant District Attorney Jeff Cheney said prosecutors are continuing to decide whether to charge Brownell and/or others on charges such as harboring a fugitive in the case. Appl was hiding in the home of Wayne Hangs, where Brownell also is a resident. Cheney wouldn’t say whether Hangs also is a subject of the investigation. Hangs could not be reached for comment.Further information on Brownell’s possible role in the incident is detailed in a search warrant that suggests Brownell may have felt threatened by Appl. A witness described to police having entered the home at 11 a.m. Wednesday to use the rest room, and being confronted by a dirt-covered man who said he had come inside to get warm. The witness said the man told her she had better not call the cops, and that he would kill her and anyone else who came into the house, including police.Later Wednesday, the witness changed her story, saying it was her friend, Brownell, who had been confronted by the man. The witness said she had lied at first because she didn’t want anyone to know who told police he was there.The witness also said Brownell had told her that the man had said police had walked right past him without seeing him after he had buried himself in the dirt outside.Police say Appl had wrecked the vehicle he was driving just outside the house where he had holed up.They also say the car, a blue Chevrolet Cobalt with Arizona plates, had been stolen Sunday from Phoenix. Cheney said authorities assume Appl had been in Arizona sometime just before the shooting. The search warrant affidavit said Appl also had been arrested in March in the Phoenix area, but it didn’t say on what charges.Police believe he was driving the stolen car – and had a $25,000 warrant out for him for possession of dangerous drugs in San Juan County, Utah, along with a $500 warrant out of Mesa County for resisting arrest – when Koch pulled him over for speeding Tuesday.According to the search warrant affidavit, Koch said Appl got out of his car and Koch ordered him to get back in, at which point “he opened fire on me.” Koch was shot in the chest but was saved by a bulletproof vest. He suffered serious injury to his left arm.Koch fired back at Appl, and the vehicle Appl was driving had three apparent bullet holes in it, investigators found.Police got a break in the case Wednesday morning when they talked to a man who worked in the oil and gas industry and said he knew Appl. The witness said he saw Appl driving a blue Chevrolet Cobalt with Arizona plates in Rifle Tuesday night around 8:30 p.m., and had ridden in the car with Appl in the past. He said he found it strange that Appl, a local resident, was driving a car with out-of-state plates.Police believe Appl may have used a revolver to shoot Koch. The witness said he previously had seen Appl carrying a .38-caliber revolver. He said Appl also had a Glock .45-caliber pistol.The man also told authorities Appl lived in a cabin outside Battlement Mesa. Police executed a search warrant for the one-room cabin and found an AK-47 apparently fitted with a silencer and converted to be fully automatic, a rifle with a high-magnification scope, detonation cord and blasting caps, and what appeared to be methamphetamine, the affidavit says.Authorities had issued an arrest warrant for Appl with a bond of $750,000, based on charges of attempted first-degree murder of a peace officer, criminal attempt, and first-degree assault of a peace officer, all felonies.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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